Welcome to the beginner’s guide to connected packaging! Explore the best practices and use cases to help your brand create memorable digital experiences.
Last Updated: April 1, 2021
Giants in the CPG space such as Nestle, Pernod Ricard, Constellation Brands, INI Farms, and Davines have already adopted connected packaging as part of their marketing strategies.
Other CPG brands should also hop on the connected packaging bandwagon and follow suit.
With consumer behavior perpetually changing and evolving, brand managers can’t depend on traditional brand marketing anymore. They need to find ways to create memorable and beneficial experiences for consumers to maintain consumer retention.
And this is where connected packaging enters the limelight. It holds a lot of potential to revolutionize the way consumers interact with your brand while also helping you understand their newfound preferences and behavior.
Connected packaging is packaging activated by technologies such as QR Codes, NFC, and RFID. It helps brands communicate information to consumers and increase engagement.
Connected packaging extends consumer interactions beyond the packaging. Whether it’s to establish product and supply chain transparency, share the brand’s story, or increase consumer engagement, connected packaging acts as the bridge between brands and consumers to build stronger relationships.
Connected packaging vs Smart packaging vs Active packaging vs Intelligent packaging
The terms connected, smart, active, and intelligent packaging might seem similar, but that’s far from the case. Each of these terms has its own definition and purpose.
Connected packaging refers to leveraging technology such as QR Codes and NFC to share exclusive content to consumers through a scan or tap using mobile devices.
Active packaging involves adding additives to packaging to maintain and extend the shelf life of fresh vegetables and livestock products.
Intelligent packaging is used to monitor the condition of packaged foods with the use of sensors. This packaging is usually used during transport and storage to keep track of the products’ temperature and freshness.
Smart packaging refers to packaging with extensive functions that go beyond regular packaging with the use of various technologies. It’s essentially an umbrella term that involves connected, active, and intelligent packaging.
Connected packaging use cases
#1. Brand storytelling
With a multitude of brands existing in today’s market, businesses need to come up with a way to stand out from their competitors.
One of the key differentiators that will do the deed is brand storytelling. According to Headstream’s reports, 79% of consumers preferred brands that told stories.
Instead of repeatedly sharing statistics, facts, and testimonials to consumers, evoke their emotions and allow them to relate to your brand through a compelling story.
Leverage connected packaging as a marketing strategy to share your brand’s story with consumers. Embed QR Codes and NFC on product packaging to link to an engaging video or webpage that communicates your story well and captures your consumers’ attention.
By aligning your brand’s narrative to consumers’ emotions, you’re influencing them to tap into their profitable behavior. This drives more sales, repeated purchases, and brand loyalty.
#2. Augmented reality
Augmented reality is a great way to enhance consumer engagement using a digital environment. Consumers can interact with digital elements while still being present in the physical world.
According to Mindshare’s reports, AR experiences are 200% more engaging since they deliver double the engagement levels compared to non-AR experiences.
More engagement leads to better brand experiences, which therefore leads to a spike in sales and ROI.
In fact, according to Wikitude’s article, 32% of consumers prefer to use augmented reality while shopping and 73% of mobile AR users reported high levels of satisfaction.
Brands like Puma and Ikea have implemented augmented reality QR Codes as part of their marketing strategies. To enhance the in-store shopping experience, brands should link consumers to AR experiences via connected packaging.
I’m excited about Augmented Reality because unlike Virtual Reality, which closes the world out, AR allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently.
Based on Bond’s loyalty report, 77% of consumers have said that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with brands.
With 5.22 billion smartphone users around the world, brands should work towards digitizing their loyalty programs to accommodate this major segment of consumers.
Moreover, digital loyalty programs do away with the traditional plastic loyalty cards that are easy to lose and quick to cause detrimental effects on the environment.
Connected packaging using QR Codes and NFC changes the face of loyalty programs that we’ve gotten used to experiencing.
With a single scan or tap, a consumer can instantly become a loyalty program member. Popular brands like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and McDonald’s use QR Codes to activate loyalty programs for consumers.
Additionally, since these digital loyalty programs are easy to use and activate, consumers will be more willing to become members.
Whether it’s a tier-based or point-based loyalty program, consumers will make more repeated purchases to climb the loyalty ladder and reap more rewards.
Bond’s loyalty report reveals that 37% of consumers are willing to pay more to upgrade their membership to an enhanced tier.
#4. Feedback collection
According to Barclay’s reports, 85% of small and medium-sized enterprises say that online customer feedback has been beneficial to their business.
Traditional paper surveys have grown obsolete since the rise of mobile devices. According to Clear Seas Research’s blog, an estimated 30-40% of online surveys are completed on a mobile device, and this number keeps growing.
The way forward for brands is to digitize their feedback collection process to accommodate the vast majority of consumers who use mobile devices.
According to Statista’s reports, 64% of businesses have said they use mobile surveys as a research method.
Use connected packaging as your feedback collection channel. Add QR Codes and NFC to your product packaging to redirect consumers to online, mobile-first feedback forms.
Consumers can take the survey anytime from the convenience of their mobile devices. Not to mention that this drastically reduces any effort from their end, which leads to higher levels of satisfaction.
Moreover, with the use of dynamic QR Codes, you can acquire first-party data to understand how many consumers have scanned the code, their location, and the mobile device they used.
With this readily available consumer data, you can identify bottlenecks in the feedback collection process and optimize it to achieve higher response rates.
#5. Social media engagement
According to Statista’s reports, over 3.6 billion people worldwide use social media, and this number is expected to reach almost 4.41 billion in 2025.
Social media is a viable channel for consumer engagement. Couple that with a medium that connects the physical and digital worlds; you have a strategy that doesn’t quit.
Leverage connected packaging to get consumers to engage with your brand on social media. QR Codes and NFC on product packaging are a great way to do this.
A single scan or tap will open up your social media profiles, where consumers can view your page, like your posts, and publish a review.
According to Stackla’s reports, 79% of consumers have said that user-generated content on social media highly impacts their purchase decisions.
Additionally, through social media, consumers better understand your online presence and acquire more information about your brand. This leads to stronger relationships with your consumers and fosters brand loyalty.
Best practices for connected packaging
#1. Personalize for higher conversion rates
Personalize your connected packaging to increase consumer delight. According to Adweek’s article, personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%, lift revenues by 5–15%, and increase marketing spend efficiency by 10–30%.
A stellar product with attractive packaging does bring in consumers. But a dedicated and relevant CTA that caters to them personally will help seal the deal. HubSpot’s article reveals that personalized CTAs convert a whopping 202% better.
Add a call-to-action frame to your QR Code or NFC tag on product packaging to prompt consumers to scan or tap it. Add a short but relevant copy to pique their interest, keep them engaged, and drive up the number of conversions.
For example, let’s take a look at what Barboni Hallik, CEO of the sustainable clothing brand Another Tomorrow, does using QR Codes.
She adds QR Codes to the garment labels that link consumers to a website that explains where the clothing item was made, where its materials came from, and the roll of fabric used, essentially sharing the garment’s entire journey from manufacture to point-of-sale.
As you can see from the image above, there’s a highly relevant and actionable call-to-action that establishes curiosity among consumers, hence nudging them to scan and view the journey of the clothing item that interests them.
#2. Reinforce your branding
According to Lucidpress’s report, consistent brand representation has seen to increase revenue by 33%.
The same applies to your connected packaging as well. Customize your QR Codes and NFC stickers to set your brand tone throughout every stage of the consumer buying process – from awareness to fostering brand loyalty.
Add your brand’s logo and use its color scheme to increase brand recall. Consistency is key here. According to Pam Moore’s article, it takes 5-7 impressions before someone will remember your brand.
Take a look at Starbucks, for instance. The brand is so consistent with its brand representation that it extends the same to its QR Codes.
As part of their contactless pickup option, they allow consumers to order and pay at the restaurant by scanning QR Codes.
Each restaurant has a unique QR Code and signage to display in their windows or point-of-sale. Each signage displays helpful instructions and information to consumers for a smooth and hassle-free pickup experience.
#4. Incentivize consumers to scan or tap
Another way to increase the number of scans, taps, and conversions is to incentivize consumers to do so.
The incentive acts as a hook to get consumers to interact with your product and increase the number of scans.
Add a suitable frame text to your QR Codes and NFC tags on the packaging to nudge consumers to scan or tap.
This is also a great way to promote your loyalty program and attain brand advocates.
#5. QR Code placement and size
QR Codes can be used on both primary and secondary packaging, be it for website redirects, social media, video tutorials, and the like.
The placement of your QR Code is very crucial for consumer interactions and influencing purchase decisions. You should place the QR Code on the front side or back side of the product based on which stage the product is in.
For newly launched products, you should place the QR Code on the front side to attain maximum feedback about the product.
For mature products, you should place the QR Code on the backside to increase usage and understand consumers better.
Additionally, the size of your QR Code is equally significant for your connected packaging. QR Codes that are too small in size are rendered unreadable by smartphones.
Your QR Code should be at least 1 cm x 1 cm in size to ensure its readability.
Connected packaging examples: 6 brands that did it right
#1. Tetra Pak leverages connected packaging to promote its sustainability practices
Tetra Pak, a leading packaging company, focused on sustainability and incorporating environmentally friendly practices into its processes. They were on the path to becoming increasingly more sustainable and wanted to share their journey with consumers and educate them on the brand’s sustainability efforts.
To carry this forward, the brand employed connected packaging using QR Codes. It created a gamified experience for consumers that was both highly engaging and educational. On scanning the QR Code, consumers could access games centered around the themes of reduce, renew, and recycle.
All games were accessible via a single URL that showed a different game to each consumer for every visit. Through these fun and educational games, the brand was able to inform consumers about its sustainability.
Tetra Pak achieved 43,397 QR Code scans from packaging, 49,584 users played the games, which led to 513,951 website page views.
#2. Smarty Plants uses connected packaging to link to interesting content
Smarty Plants, a cannabis brand launched by Petalfast Inc., uses QR Codes on its jars. Upon scanning, consumers are directed to the Smarty Plants Knowledge Blog to explore articles on a wide range of topics such as art, maths, history, and social studies.
The GetSmartyPlants website contains specially curated content to engage consumers and enhance their overall experience with the brand.
#3. PearlCBD employs connected packaging to establish authenticity and transparency
PearlCBD, a cannabidiol brand, always aims to provide transparency and authenticity to its consumers. In order to achieve this, the brand launched a line of products that featured NFC tags on the packaging.
Consumers can tap the NFC tags using their smartphones to access three lab tests – the pre-test before the product left the farm, which also contains the Certificate of Analysis (CoA), the post-test after the lab received it, and the post-formulation lab test results that display the list of compounds.
In addition to this, the NFC tag links consumers to exclusive content such as videos of frequently asked questions to educate consumers about the product and its dosage. It’s a convenient way for consumers to access all the information they need without installing an app on their phones.
#4. Ulta Beauty leverages connected packaging for a safe & contactless in-store experience
Ulta Beauty, an American cosmetics brand, has launched its newest store in New York’s Herald Square. In light of the pandemic, the brand aims to help consumers rediscover the fun in beauty in a safe and contactless manner.
The store incorporates QR Codes on select shelf strips to link consumers to the brand’s tool, GLAMlab, in the Ulta Beauty app to virtually try on various makeup products on the go.
We know discovery and play are hallmarks of beauty shopping, and we’re thrilled to see guests embrace GLAMlab, our virtual try-on experience within the Ulta Beauty app as a safe alternative to swatching.
Kecia Steelman, Chief Store Operations Officer, Ulta Beauty
Last year, the brand had achieved a 12x increase in engagement, 171 million shades tried on in 2020 alone, with 88% of users using GLAMlab alone.
#5. Lay’s uses connected packaging to share heartwarming stories
Lay’s, a world-renowned potato chips brand, relaunched its Smiles campaign in September 2020. They’ve been running this campaign for five years in a row with different variations.
Their latest campaign featured the smiles of individuals who helped the community during the pandemic. On scanning the QR Code on the packaging, consumers could learn more about the person featured on each bag.
More than 71,000 people scanned the QR Codes on the bags to uncover heartwarming stories of the “smilers” featured on the bags.
We already know that what’s inside the bag brings joy, but turning the Lay’s bag into a canvas to multiply that happiness factor is what makes the Smiles program so special.
Sadira Furlow, Vice President of Marketing, Frito-Lay North America
#6. Pepsi utilizes connected packaging to provide an AR experience
Pepsi launched its latest global UEFA Champions League football campaign called “Fizz”.
The campaign includes limited-edition packaging that contains a QR Code. Upon scanning, consumers unlock an augmented reality experience to play an interactive game with their favorite football players and share their scores via Instagram stories.
Beaconstac is powering connected packaging solutions for leading consumer brands
#1. White labeling & customization
Create custom-branded QR Codes and NFC tags to set your brand tone across all channels. Add your brand logo and pick a suitable color scheme to increase brand recognition 10-fold.
White label your QR Codes and NFC tags to use your own custom domain, and remove the Beaconstac branding to make it truly yours.
#2. Experiment using dynamic QR Codes
Modify and experiment with different QR Code campaigns using dynamic QR Codes. Minimize printing spend, avoid reprints and redistribution, and reflect new changes to campaigns instantly.
#3. Access first-party data with an in-built analytics module
Beaconstac’s in-built analytics module lets you collect and analyze first-party data from consumers. Details such as the number of scans or taps, locations, and devices used allow you to track and assess your campaigns’ effectiveness.
#4. Upscale your marketing strategies with bulk QR Codes
Create QR Codes in bulk to scale your marketing efforts effectively. All you need to do is upload a CSV file and generate up to 150 QR Codes in one go.
#5. Cater to your global audience with multi-lingual QR Codes
Communicate with your consumers in their preferred language and deliver localized content using multi-lingual QR Codes.
Once a user scans the QR Code, they get redirected to a translated page based on their smartphone’s language setting.
#6. Age-gated QR Codes
Curated specially for alcohol brands, age-gated QR Codes help you comply with the legal age of consent. Set a minimum age requirement, collect the date of birth, and allow users to opt in to remember the settings on their devices.
Frequently Asked Questions
#1. What are the benefits of connected packaging?
The benefits of connected packaging are:
Enhance consumer experiences
Foster long-term brand loyalty
Understand consumer behavior using first-party data
Improve brand image and reputation
#2. What first-party data do I get with connected packaging?
With connected packaging, you acquire data such as the number of QR Code scans or NFC taps, the locations, and the devices used.
#3. What is the purpose of connected packaging?
The purpose of connected packaging is to share relevant and useful information to consumers via technologies such as QR Codes and NFC.
Connected packaging caters to mobile-first individuals who can activate the packaging with a single scan or tap using their smartphones.