In today's competitive market, a package provides the first impression to the product inside. How it looks, functions and feels can make all the difference in delighting or disappointing your customer. 

Advances in technology—like smart phones with native scanning and connectivity technology—are giving brands the ability to deliver a solution that’s much more than “just a package.” With smart packaging, also known as digital packaging, brands are able to form connections with consumers on their devices that increase brand and product engagement well beyond the package. 

Smart packaging uses technology to connect physical products with digital devices to enhance consumer experiences, personalize engagements and provide benefits throughout the supply chain.

Smart, connected packaging offers increased functionality through printed codes, such as QR or watermarks, that allow for 1:1 traceability and matching individual products to the end consumer. It also provides a way to enhance communication of brand messaging. These digital engagements not only enable the brand to communicate with consumers, but they allow consumers to communicate with the brand, opening the door for valuable two-way communication.

Additionally, digital connections increase insights into consumer behaviors while providing detailed analytics on every engagement. Smart packaging connects consumers to brands and food processors to retailers, all while creating transparency through data and analytics and enhancing brand reputation through consumer engagement.

In other words, digital packaging gives companies the ability to garner valuable insights and information directly from consumers in a way they’ve never been able to do before.  Companies can use this information, known as first-party data, to understand and target consumers more effectively with marketing, advertising, content and more. Research from Digimarc shows that 70% of consumer engagements from digital packaging deliver first-party data, helping brands understand what their customers want and how they can influence their path to purchase.

Let’s unpack some of the ways smart packaging can enhance your business

Transform a Simple Package into a Connected Package and Build Brand Loyalty

A connected, smart package is a way to build brand loyalty by giving consumers the personalized information they are looking for. Smart packaging allows you to provide specific information for each product in addition to general information about your brand.

Think of your smart package as an extension of your marketing campaign that can motivate the consumer to choose your product over the competition. It becomes a channel for communicating your brand and product messages both at point of purchase and when the consumer chooses to buy your product again.

This gives you the power to encourage continued engagement—whether that’s inspiring consumers to scan a code to receive a coupon, inviting them to join your brand’s community on social media, directing them to learn more about your product online, or cross selling them with more of your product offering. 

And smart packaging is so much more than a QR code that links to a website. Modern cloud computing enables product and package level information to be easily stored and then delivered to consumers in a personalized format. This isn't one-size-fits-all or one-website-fits-all; smart packaging that leverages the power of cloud computing can deliver more personalized content and 1:1 connections between brands and consumers. 

In today’s digitally driven society, smart packaging delivers the direct and personalized engagement that consumers are looking for. According to research from Accenture, 91% of consumers prefer brands that provide personalized offers and recommendations and 83% are willing to actively share data in exchange for personalized experiences.

Using a food product as an example, the consumer might scan a code on the package to find out where a particular cut of beef or filet of fish is precisely sourced, obtain recipe ideas, read farm to fork stories or receive coupons. Used in this way, smart packaging adds value to your brand by providing specific product information, helping to tell your brand story and building the relationship with your consumers, making you more likely to gain repeat customers. 

Personalize Packages Through Enhanced Digital Printing

Digital printing allows for personalization down to the tiniest detail, whether you want the flexibility of easy updates and multiple designs per run or printing a personalized message on each package.

Traditional printing methods require a time-consuming process that includes mixing special ink colors, creating art separations, building printing plates and requiring experienced specialists to set up and complete the printing process. This might be acceptable for large volume labels that don’t frequently change and lack personalization, but when you want to do seasonal, promotional or shorter runs, a digital process will be more efficient and cost-effective. 

In the past, it was a challenge to digitally print on the various materials and substrates used in food packaging. Now, new technologies in digital printing make it possible to stand out from the crowd with vibrant print quality across a broad range of materials, including rollstock films, shrink bags and other food packaging materials.

Digital printing allows for flexible order quantities, customization, personalization and smart packaging capabilities—all with a low set-up cost.

For example, you might produce a shorter run during the holidays with a bow printed directly on the package or customize the experience for an e-commerce consumer with their name printed on the box with a scannable code that links to a coupon, designed specifically for their location.

Enable Transparency and Ensure Product Integrity Through Track and Traceability

Another benefit of smart packaging is the real-time ability to track and trace exact product locations throughout the supply chain using serialized codes made possible by digital printing.

Imagine you’re sending a food product and you want to leverage traceability technology to show consumers where specific ingredients were sourced, or you discover a quality issue during the production process and need to quickly locate the source. By using a unique tracking code on each package, an issue can be identified quickly down to the machine it was created on or where it may have occurred. This quality and safety check will help keep a defective package from ever leaving the plant and can quickly help determine where recalled products originate.

Additionally, unique tracking codes provide an added security measure when combined with cloud computing technology, ensuring the product is authentic and eliminating fraud before it becomes a problem.

The Future of Packaging Is Smart and Sustainable

Smart packaging can also contribute to your sustainability goals. It gives consumers the ability to dive deeper into your sustainability story through the brand information they receive by scanning the package. And it gives your brand the ability to provide a variety information that’s easy to read and access. Digital media allow you to tell your whole sustainability journey through pictures and video, not just a blurb on a package.  

Digital printing allows you to print unique information directly on each box, eliminating the need to print and apply a separate label which impedes recyclability.

Additionally, scannable codes on each box can inform the end-consumer how to recycle or reuse their package as well as download user manuals or how-to videos and instructions, eliminating the need to print user manuals. 

Ultimately, smart packaging is the future. The benefits go on and on...from improving plant processes, reducing rework and optimizing labor to connecting more personally with consumers, and providing a quality experience that will keep them coming back for more.