Understanding smart packaging

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Although packaging design was introduced with the core purpose of protecting the contents of packaged goods, decades later – and with so many products on the shelves – brands have learnt the importance of effective packaging design in today’s marketplace. One of the ways to achieve this is through smart packaging.

But what is smart packaging?

It refers to the package that links the physical world with the digital world, connecting retailers, manufacturers, customers and digital channels. By utilizing new technologies to become more than just a mere container, it allows packages to be more communicative, individualized and actualized.

Types of smart packaging

Smart packaging is an umbrella term that could be used to describe different types of packaging:

  • Active packaging: Active packaging utilizes advanced materials to provide functionality like thermochromic, temperature, moisture or bacteria control, improving the product’s shelf life or the quality of its contents during storage.

  • Intelligent packaging: Intelligent packaging offers an additional benefit that goes beyond mere packaging, which is communication. It involves indicators and sensors placed inside or outside the packaging that diagnose product conditions, providing information about its status.

  • Design-led packaging: Design-led packaging is a type of packaging design that enriches the function and form of a product, supporting its value perception and enhancing the user’s experience.

  • Connected packaging: Not to be confused with smart packaging, as we have seen before. As its name indicates, it allows brands to ‘connect’ with their consumers through packaging that integrates technology such as tags, QR codes or sensors that can generate and collect third-party data, which would provide them with a deeper understanding of their consumers’ behaviors.

Apart from driving sales and in-store footfall, it is also an essential tool to drive awareness and boost education among consumers on a brand or product’s unique position and messaging through gamification. Some illustrations would include a brand’s new products or its commitment to a specific corporate social responsibility’s program.

Let us illustrate the concept of connected packaging with Tetra Pak.

In order to fulfill its objective to spread awareness of recycling and to promote its sustainability, we generated a mobile quiz about recycling and Tetra Pak’s environmental impact that users could access through QR codes printed on the packages.

For more examples of connected packaging, check out our case study gallery.

Benefits of smart packaging

Now that we have seen what smart packaging is and its different types, let’s take a look at what it can do for your company.

Protects products’ contents and enhances shelf life: Smart packaging designs can adjust themselves in accordance with the ambience outside and inside the package, preventing and repelling moisture or other dangerous agents and avoiding the consumption of potentially unsafe food. It also reduces the need and costs to discard out-of-date or damaged goods.

Quality control: It can monitor the condition of a product and notify whether it is good or compromised by the use of advanced indicators and sensors, offering providers easy access to quality control.

Producing theft, substitution and counterfeit-proof goods: Many manufacturers can be potential victims of counterfeit, product substitution and theft, and given the delay in information and reliance on humans to report back on the status of products, it’s tough for them to keep track of their products and communicate legitimacy to customers.

Predictive planning: Smart packaging solutions allow manufacturers to predict when goods may be running low automatically, and to communicate with users, asking if they would like a replacement.

Empowering consumers: Smart packaging solutions offer an advanced customer interface, providing them with additional information including nutritional values through implemented smart codes such as QR codes that can help them in making informed purchasing decisions.

Let us give you an example. When dairy company Emmi wanted to be one of the first on the market to engage with consumers digitally, while educating its key audience about the nutritional benefits of the product range and its new Emmi Good Day milk drinks, we came up with the best smart packaging for the brand.

We implemented QR codes on the packaging of its products, and once consumers scan them using their smartphones they are able to play any of four interactive games.

Stay relevant: As tech-savvy consumers are now looking for unique and innovative experiences and forms of technology, smart packaging gives brands a higher chance of staying relevant in the users’ lives when they engage with these platforms, avoiding being labeled as technologically outdated.

Brand transparency: Now that more and more consumers are demanding more transparency, better ethics and sustainability from brands, smart packaging offers an innovative solution to meet this need.

Future trends of smart packaging

We believe that smart packaging will keep evolving in the coming years as new technologies continue to be studied and researched. Here are some trends we foresee:

  • Sustainability: Consumers are looking for more eco-friendly purchasing experiences. Thus, more and more brands are turning to more sustainable options from their goods’ production to the way they are packaged.

  • Anti-counterfeiting and authentication: As the Covid-19 pandemic has created new opportunities for counterfeit products to proliferate, smart packaging can act as an authenticator for consumers and supply providers via smartphone.

  • One solution: Since current smart packaging solutions are generally divided into customer engagement, traceability and anti-counterfeit, we foresee that brands would increasingly look for providers who can deliver a complete solution.

  • Big data and data visualization: Considering the rise of big data coming from smart packaging, we believe that there will be a solution to visualize it so providers, manufacturers and brands can easily interpret it.

Here at Appetite Creative, we are experts in creating connected experiences, the most creative and innovative solutions that help brands to step up their packaging game. So if you are interested in taking your packaging to the next level, then don’t hesitate to contact us.

Jenny Stanley is managing director at Appetite Creative.

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