Smart Labels on the Horizon

When packaging innovation or packaging engineering is brought up, most minds flash to new technology like Tide’s dissolvable packaging or McDonald’s new design. But there’s more to packaging then the materials surrounding the product itself.

There’s the label.

Labels are becoming smarter, by which we mean are adding to a product’s functionality. QR codes can easily send consumers to specific landing pages and bar code scanner functionality has been incorporated into children’s games for years. Today labels are beginning to use NFC technology, which is what allows microchips to interact between devices, badges, and electronic stickers.

These smart labels are a way to increase touch points with consumers, inform them about a brand or product, and gather consumer data. They can be used in stores, giving access to a story’s brand like millennials like to see, or back at home to provide quick access to appliance user manuals and trouble shooting. As Mary Greenwood told Flexible Packaging last month, companies are looking for continuous communication with customers.

In addition to that, NFC allows the monitoring of products. Smart, printed NFC labels can track an individual item from creation to consumption. They can report on numerous data points of an item to allow consumers to know what field a jar of honey came from and whether the milk has been sitting on the counter a little too long.

What’s amazing about smart labels is the range of actions they can encourage customer to do – download an app or document, play a video, visit a website, authenticate a product – and the minimal amount of change to packaging required to allow such actions. Barcodes are already on packaging. QR codes are a simple square graphic. NFC doesn’t require an app to use and many smart phones are equipped with it by default.

A simple change to smart labels has the potential to move you to the forefront of the market and gain an advantage over your competitors. It’s a trend we’re keeping our eye on.