Today’s consumer wants to be engaged, informed, and entertained by the brands with which they do business. Paperboard packaging has been able to facilitate these important marketing functions with its flat, printed surfaces that are well suited to deliver cutting-edge interactive product information, in-store sales, and entertaining games, and more.
The most ubiquitous of these technologies is the QR code (“Quick Response Code”). Seen today on packaging, commercial publications, billboards, and even on T-shirts, these codes send consumers to a product or company’s website or social media page once scanned via a mobile app.
Even though the 2013 holiday season saw a 33% increase in QR code triggers over the previous year, as of late, there has been much debate as to whether consumers actually glean value from QR codes. In fact, many pundits suggest that QR codes are a dying technology as they are cumbersome and inconvenient to use. Today, consumers simply aren’t willing to take the time to pull out their phone, open the app, steady the screen over the product, take a photo, and wait for a website to load. Furthermore, many QR codes bring consumers to sites that are not mobile optimized or do not have a direct connection to the scanned product. Nor do brand owners want to eat up valuable brand real estate with both a UPC and QR code.
Although the fate of the QR code remains unclear, several new mobile technologies are poised to overtake the interactive packaging market by streamlining the consumer experience. They include:
New apps such as Ricoh’s Clickable Paper and Google Goggles allow for direct mobile interaction with a package, thereby eliminating the need for a separate scanable code that eats up precious branding space and distracts from a package’s aesthetics. After scanning a package enabled with Clickable Paper technology, the consumer can access links to websites, video, charts, maps, blogs, shopping carts, product reviews, and other important data. Thus, unlike a QR code that only brings the consumer to a single website, these image recognition apps connect consumers to a wider variety of content.
Touchcode has developed an invisible electronic code that is printed directly onto a package. By simply touching the encoded package with one’s smart device, the consumer’s screen comes alive with engaging product content. Again, this technology provides mobile interactivity without affecting package design. Furthermore, it is also currently marketed as a way for consumers to verify the brand authenticity of the products they purchase.
Augmented reality apps allow consumers to train their smartphone or tablet on a package and then view superimposed computer-generated images that provide additional information about the product. For more detailed information, check out our blog that discusses this fascinating new technology.
Near-Field Communication (NFC)
Not as widely used in packaging, NFC is a term for an exchange of information between two devices. With this technology, an NFC chip is embedded into a package so when a consumer with a NFC-enabled smart device approaches, product information is automatically transmitted from the chip to the consumer’s phone. Although large amounts of data cannot be stored in the chip, it can provide simple information such as discount vouchers, website URLs, or email addresses. Most likely, this technology will be used in the future as an easy way to purchase products or to turn on or off TVs, lights, etc.
Although marginal today, the above technologies clearly reveal the direction in which interactive packaging is heading. As QR codes represent a promising yet poorly executed idea, these new technologies aim to simplify and optimize the consumer’s experience. Luckily for our industry, no matter where these technologies move, paperboard will continue to be the packaging medium best suited to engage and delight potential customers with its ability to easily interact with our ubiquitous mobile devices.