“Think of Tiffany & Co. For most people, the iconic robin’s-egg blue box is more recognizable than the jewelry itself.” Inc. magazine gets it right when illustrating that product packaging is as important as the product itself.
Originally purely functional, packaging has evolved to serve a variety of additional functions, including branding like the iconic Tiffany box color. Smart packaging continues that evolution.
What is Smart Packaging?
Smart packaging is packaging with functionality beyond the original and primary uses: to contain, protect and preserve products. Smart packaging is typically divided into two categories:
- Active Packaging: The packaging itself improves the product. For example, food packaging made of materials that reduce the amount of moisture that reaches the food
- Intelligent Packaging: Packaging capable of intelligent functions, sensing that the product or the packaging itself has changed in some way.
“Smart packaging allows [us] to track and trace a product throughout its lifecycle and to analyze and control the environment inside or outside the package to inform its manufacturer, retailer or consumer on the product’s condition at any given time,” according to a recent report on Smart Packaging.
A subset of intelligent packaging, connected packaging integrates NFC tags or QR codes to perform a certain function. Blue Bite provides the platform for brands to leverage this connectivity and present digital experiences directly to consumers.
Because these experiences are contextual, an NFC tag embedded in custom packaging can serve different experiences depending on where a product is in its lifecycle:
Before purchase, these experiences can:
- Convey product information for prospective buyers in the store
- Verify a product is not counterfeit through authentication services
- Reassure buyers by confirming the product has not been opened or otherwise tampered with before purchase
After purchase, they can:
- Provide additional information about the product exclusive to buyers
- Offer incentives for product registration to open a direct line of communication with consumers
- Offer assembly instructions
- Incentivize product registration
Examples of Smart Packaging
Deliver Contextual Content
Malibu Rum partnered with Tesco stores in Britain, using the contextual capabilities of NFC to better engage consumers. When a consumer tapped an NFC-enabled bottle in a store, their phone displayed an experience recommending either a rooftop bar or an indoor venue nearby, depending on the weather.
Use NFC for Tamper Detection
Diageo installed tamper detection NFC chips that tear when a bottle is opened. The prototype allows anyone throughout the supply chain to check the authenticity of the product, bringing transparency by indicating if counterfeiters disrupt that chain.
End consumers are assured they are purchasing an authentic product and, once they open the bottle, receive exclusive content different than what they saw when tapping the bottle in the store.
Transform Beauty and Other CPG Products into Smart Products
Incorporating NFC tags into beauty products empowers brands to deliver advice, tips and more directly to consumers.
Watch how value-add content creates a better consumer experience for beauty brands
NFC tags can add value to other consumer packaged goods (CPGs) using the same concept.
Reach Consumers Directly with NFC, Even in Regulated Industries
Upon the first consumer tap, the NFC tag installed in Astral Tequila activated a video from the man formerly known as “The Most Interesting Man in the World” praising tequila. When the same user tapped again within 48 hours — likely indicating a purchase — a new experience thanked them for purchasing.
Joen Choe, Vice President Marketing for Davos Brands — which owns Astral Tequila — explains why smart packaging is integral to the spirits industry.
“It’s even more important to the spirits industry since we’re so regulated in what we can do to reach the customer,” Choe said.
Other regulated brands can use NFC to directly reach consumers in similar ways.
Send NFC and QR by the U.S. Mail
The U.S. Postal Service encourages use of NFC and QR codes in mailings in a number of ways, including its “Irresistible Mail” campaign. In a featured use case, tapping a direct mailer from a musician activates a live concert video on the users phone, later providing them with an album download code.
Direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate, as opposed to a 0.12% response rate of email, according to a Cornell University article. The same article reports that the average ROI for direct mail campaigns between and 18–20%.
Adding NFC or QR to direct mail can encourage consumers to take your desired action, driving those numbers even higher.
See also, the Postal Service’s suggested use of NFC on shipping boxes:
- NFC can enable customers to confirm product authenticity upon delivery. The recipient would put his NFC-enabled mobile device near the parcel, and the tag would open a website on the device to register the product.
- Placing the tag along the opening of the box would draw attention to the technology and immediately alert a recipient if someone else had tried to open the box
Integrate Interactive Gaming
Adding NFC tags to limited edition Super Mario cereal boxes encouraged users to tap their Nintendo Switch controller to the NFC chip “like you would an Amiibo.” A Nintendo NFC tap unlocked special content in the Super Mario Odyssey game.
Leverage NFC and QR in Hangtags
Not all packaging is well suited to adding NFC tags directly. Some brands instead include NFC on a hangtag of an item. Some perks to this method include:
- No change in the manufacturing processes of the products is required to add NFC tags
- There’s often more space available to explain incentives for tapping to consumers
For more information on encouraging taps, see our article on creating effective call to actions for smart products.