Packaging has always been more than just a means of carrying contents. Since the birth of branding, it’s been used as a tool to build consumer relationships.

From increasing loyalty through visual recognition, to creating opportunities to interact via giveaways and competitions, packaging is a powerful mechanism for growing brand value. But getting consumers to engage beyond the product has always required a certain amount of effort on their part – until now.

Connected packaging is producing new opportunities for FMCG brands to offer a seamless multi-channel experience, nurture stronger relationships and expand the consumer’s understanding of their values and product ranges.

Now could be the moment for your business to explore connected packaging, and to look into developing the best Front of Pack (FoP) strategy for every territory in which you operate…

What is connected packaging?

Connected (or smart) packaging is the next step in FMCG brands’ multi-channel engagement strategies. In fact, the market is forecast to reach $43.6 billion by 2027.

Rather than simply including a link to your website on FoP visuals, connected packaging allows you to use QR codes, barcodes or even image recognition technology to drive digital engagement. Each of these on-pack features are linked to a browser-based app – so a quick scan or tap connects consumers directly to branded content and experiences.

Given the significant growth predicted over the next six years, smart packaging is more than just an interesting area for innovation. FMCG brands that don’t start exploring the potential of connected packaging in the near future risk being left behind.

Boosting the brand experience

Connected packaging is a smart and seamless way to drive traffic to the digital content your brand already has in place. It also enables you to create targeted marketing opportunities that increase loyalty and drive sales. And it does all this without requiring consumers to type in your website address or commit to downloading an app.

Fundamentally, connected packaging is an opportunity to add value to the customer experience. For example, when someone buys a food product, they can access online recipe suggestions – like Yeo Valley Organic did when it launched a FoP QR code in 2020.

It’s not just an opportunity for the food industry either. Beauty, cosmetics and healthcare brands can use smart packaging to help consumers get more from their products; Valmont Cosmetics was one of the early adopters of connected packaging, using it to give customers application advice and complimentary product recommendations.

Connecting packaging is also a clever way to build brand values. Heinz used it for the ‘join the growing movement’ campaign to get consumers adopting more eco-conscious behaviours.

It can serve a practical purpose, driving future revenue – through digital discount codes or vouchers, for example. We may even see a point where smart FoP labelling echoes initiatives like the Amazon Dash button and enables consumers to reorder products direct from the brand.

There are hundreds of potential uses for smart packaging: access to loyalty schemes, links to compliance or legal requirements (like competition T&Cs), providing detailed product information, supply chain and sourcing transparency, or an alternative channel for customer feedback. It’s up to FMCG companies to decide what will deliver the greatest value.

Connected packaging is also a valuable insight tool for your brand. As soon as consumers create a digital footprint, they become known to you – so you can use smart packaging to increase knowledge of customer behaviour, based on the exploration they carry out.

And you can refine both your label design and the digital content you’re developing using these insights, to create more relevant and successful consumer experiences.

What should you consider when creating connected packaging?

To make smart packaging a success, it’s important you approach it from a long-term value perspective. It’s not just a novel way to get consumers to click through to your website.

In order to do this, your connected packaging strategy needs to be embedded in a strong understanding of your target demographic. And there are certain questions you should consider before developing your proposition. For example:

What’s going to interest and excite consumers? If you’re focused solely on promoting your own agenda, you’re unlikely to connect with large customer groups.

How ambitious do you want to be? Connected packaging can be simple – directing  consumers to a web page for them to read, for instance. Or it could be highly sophisticated – like using interactive quizzes or gamification techniques to build a multimedia brand experience.

There are already some really exciting examples of FMCG brands using connected packaging to push the consumer experience. Bacardi is using smart labels on its bottles to offer consumers access to Snapchat lenses and augmented reality interaction.

What data do you want to collect? Clear objectives are key to understanding consumer behaviour better and measuring connected packaging success.

Think beyond what data you want to collect to consider how this information needs to be collected. Metrics like dwell time, location, page traffic and product type can all be gathered passively. However, if you want to capture information like age and gender, consumers will need to actively provide it.

What is your smart label going to look like? Visuals are critical to any type of packaging, but with a connected approach, you need to factor in the digital end destination as well as the label.

Where is your smart label going? If your brand is operating internationally, it’s vital you look at how to localise both the label and the online content that consumers will connect to, for a joined-up experience. There’s no point investing in smart labelling technology if people are clicking through to a website that is linguistically or culturally inappropriate.

Creating a continuous consumer experience

Connected packaging is an effective way for FMCG brands to integrate online and offline activities and make FoP visuals work harder. But to maximise value, it’s important to consider both your target audience and campaign objectives carefully, and to craft consumer content to fit the brief.

You also need to look strategically at your connected packaging rollout, to create cohesive, relevant experiences – particularly if you’re operating across multiple markets. Do you have the expertise and resources in-house to make international smart packaging initiatives a success?

Remember that the power of connected packaging lies in ease of use. And it’s not just the mechanism for getting customers to click through that matters. The content itself needs to form a free-flowing journey, to deepen consumer engagement with the brand in every market you operate.

Hooley Brown provides international labelling solutions for FMCG brands, including packaging translation services and digital content localisation. Follow us on LinkedIn for industry insights, or get in touch to find out more about what we do.

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