Product Packaging Trends 2021: 8 Latest Trends for Brand Managers
Last Updated: December 30, 2020
The global pandemic has thrown a massive curveball at CPG brands worldwide. Consumers don’t look at product packaging the same way anymore.
Packaging is now seen as a gateway to reinforce consumers’ trust in a brand.
According to McKinsey’s reports, we can expect these major behavior trends to stick even during the post-pandemic era – price sensitivity, higher digital engagement, a rise in attention to wellness and hygiene, and a redefinition of brand purpose.
At this point, brand managers plan to tailor their approach to cater to the evolved consumer needs, win back their trust, and improve retention. That brings us to the importance of digitalized packaging, which transforms the business model into an omnichannel one.
Let’s analyze the latest product packaging trends for 2021 and explore how CPG brand managers can digitize their packaging to stay relevant.
8 product packaging trends to look out for in 2021
#1. Utilize product packaging to promote sustainability
55% of US consumers are now extremely concerned about the environmental impact of product packaging.
CPG brands should adopt eco-friendly practices as part of their product’s manufacturing and employ reusable or recyclable product packaging. In addition to this, they should market these efforts through the product to assuage customers.
QR Code-powered digital product labels that communicate the sustainability practices are the easiest way to achieve this. The QR Code can also educate consumers about recycling post use.
Unilever, one of the leading CPG brands in the world, promoted sustainability through the launch of their Cif ecorefill. This product allowed consumers to reuse their spray bottles with the use of an ecorefill.
A QR Code on the product demonstrated product activation along with tips on how consumers could recycle the packaging and reuse the bottle.
#2. Share your brand’s story through product packaging
Brand storytelling through product packaging is a great way to reconnect with your consumers.
Sharing your narrative of how the brand has adapted in the face of new challenges and pivoted to accommodate ever-evolving needs along with how employees and customers are being kept safe is crucial to a brand’s reputation.
A brand’s purpose and prospects don’t change during the pandemic, but rather how they tell their story is what changes.
And what better way to do that than through your product packaging?
New Zealand’s Made with Care campaign in the United States is a stellar example of brand storytelling. The campaign intended to raise awareness for New Zealand’s food and beverages industry and highlight how the country is a viable and trusted global food source. The campaign incorporated QR Codes on the packaging of their free-range grass-fed meat to direct consumers to farmers’ stories and the farm of its origin.
While the pandemic prevented consumers from physically traveling to New Zealand, this campaign let them enjoy the food and wine experience virtually.
Böen Wines, a California-based winery, used NFC tags on its bottles as part of its connected packaging program. Customers could tap the cap using their smartphones to access in-store information about the brand, along with its history and food pairings.
#3. Use product packaging to establish supply chain transparency
The World Economic Forum indicates that there’s now a whopping increase in consumer demand to understand the product’s journey; from its manufacturing to point of sale.
A lack of supply chain information cultivates long-term suspicion, and if not handled immediately, can cause major risks to businesses.
On the other hand, establishing supply chain transparency ensures the quality of the product, puts consumers’ minds at ease, and helps them make informed purchase decisions.
For instance, Princes, one of the leading UK-based food and drinks brands, introduced QR Codes on their tinned tomatoes. The QR Code drives consumers to a dedicated landing page where they can view the product’s journey at every stage of the supply chain, from the farm to the supermarket.
David Mcdiarmid, Princes’ corporate relations director, stated that this approach aimed at broadening the transparency of the company’s sourcing decisions for the benefit of the consumers.
INI Farms, India’s leading Ag-Tech fruit company, launched a program called FruitRoute, which enables traceability for all its fruits in the international and domestic markets. Beaconstac’s dynamic QR Codes on fruits under the Kimaye line allows consumers to trace the fruit back to its source of origin and track its journey from farm to table.
#4. Leverage product packaging to drive e-commerce adoption
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of e-commerce. Most customers now prefer to shop online given the convenience and safety.
To broaden their market, adopt omnichannel marketing strategies, and cater to consumers’ mobile-first needs, CPG brands should also hop on the e-commerce bandwagon and make their products available online.
Research by IRI says that e-commerce CPG spending is growing rapidly and will account for more than $60 billion of spending by 2021.
Additionally, an article by OneSpace indicates that more than 50% of adults in the United States now regularly purchase CPG products online. This fuels the need for CPG brands to adopt e-commerce as part of their marketing strategy.
For example, Marina Larroudé, creative director of her brand Larroudé marketed her new line of footwear by adding QR Codes on each shoe style. Consumers passing by that notice someone wearing these shoes can scan the QR Code and purchase the same pair seamlessly.
#5. Use product packaging as a channel to collect feedback
MYcustomer states that consumers’ insights are of paramount importance now more than ever. It is crucial for CPG brands to understand their customers better and prioritize their concerns above all else.
While collecting feedback has always been a priority for CPG brands, the key differentiator is the requirement to digitize the process of collecting customer feedback. The push towards safe, contactless experiences doesn’t accommodate the physical channels of using forms or touch screens to collect feedback.
Smart packaging equipped with QR Codes or NFC stickers can be leveraged to capture customer satisfaction and a change in sentiment post use.
Once a user activates the product by scanning or tapping the QR Code or NFC tag, an automated workflow can be set up that nudges customers to voice their opinion after they’ve had a chance to use the product.
#6. Turn product packaging into a consumer engagement channel
Due to the behavioral shift in consumers worldwide, CPG brands are rethinking their consumer engagement models. An article by McKinsey states that the primary requirement is for businesses to deliver services and experiences with the utmost care and empathy while being mindful of consumers’ needs.
CPG product packaging can be leveraged to gamify the consumer experience. Share exclusive content, games, and quizzes to spike engagement levels among consumers. Make social media handles accessible on the product and have consumers post reviews and tag your brand online, thus augmenting online engagement and brand visibility.
For instance, Pepsi’s ‘Gift it Forward with Pepsi’ holiday campaign printed QR Codes on specially marked Pepsi beverage packages. Upon scanning the code, consumers would be directed to a digital scratch card. If they found three Pepsi globe icons, they would win a cash prize within the range of $5-$25. Consumers could either gift it to their friends, donate it to a charity organization, or keep it for themselves.
LYFT, a Scandinavian nicotine brand, launched their Tap the Can campaign in the Swedish market. The campaign entailed embedding NFC chips on their limited edition cans to drive mobile consumer engagement. Consumers could tap the can to unlock experiences, rewards, and personalized music mixes.
#7. Utilize product packaging to establish authenticity
A report by Frontier states that the value of trade in counterfeit goods could reach a staggering $991 billion by 2022. This largely impacts CPG brands worldwide, affecting their business profits and brand reputation.
Consumers are aware of this growing issue and are looking for concrete information that proves a product’s authenticity during the pre-purchase stage of the buying process. In fact, an online study by Elementum indicates that 34% of respondents believe that it’s the brand’s responsibility to protect them from counterfeited goods.
To safeguard your brand’s reputation and revenue, brands should make essential product information available through digitalized product packaging, coupled with the relevant certifications. This proves the product’s authenticity and improves brand credibility. Not to mention that it provides a stress-free buying experience for consumers.
Ralph Lauren, a luxury retail brand, had its manufacturers sew QR Code tags into their Polo line’s garments. Shoppers could scan the tag to access authenticity information, product details, and styling tips for the same.
These QR Codes also helped the brand’s supply chain managers track and manage inventory through the supply chain, leading to improved product distribution and increased traceability.
PearlCBD, a brand that produces hemp-based CBD oil, used NFC tags on their product labels. Consumers could tap the products to verify authenticity and access batch-specific lab results and educational content.
#8. Transform product packaging into a loyal customer generator
Traditionally, loyalty programs require consumers to carry a physical card, often plastic, that they must swipe to redeem or receive points. In light of the pandemic and the detrimental effect such cards have on the environment, CPG brands should switch to digital loyalty programs.
Use your product packaging as a medium to let consumers join your loyalty program. Enable tier-based or point-based programs to promote repeated purchases. Personalize discounts and deals for specific tiers of customers. This proactively promotes your contactless loyalty program, nudges consumers to make more sales, and refer your brand to their friends and family.
Pret A Manger, a UK-based foodservice chain, launched their YourPret Barista program, a barista coffee subscription service in the UK.
QR Codes were leveraged to promote their loyalty program. Personalized digital vouchers, incentives, and rewards were shared with consumers, which developed stronger relationships, increased the frequency of sales and the customer lifetime value.
Make your packaging ‘smart’ to keep up with the trends
The digitalization of product packaging is what ties all of the above trends together and helps CPG brands stay relevant. Added functionality to your product packaging using technology such as QR Codes and NFC tags makes your packaging ‘smarter’. Mordor Intelligence reports that the smart packaging market is expected to reach $46.26 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 4.19% over the period of 2020-2025.
Through QR Codes and NFC tags on product packaging, CPG brand managers can keep up with the above-mentioned trends and achieve higher ROI for their business. Successful incorporation of these technologies will help companies achieve product transparency and authenticity, supply chain visibility, elevated consumer experience, and many more positive outcomes.