The Next Generation of Labels — Telling Your Product Story with One Tap of a Smartphone

Smartphones and Consumers

With the emergence of the smartphone and technologies such as NFC and QR, the opportunity to interact with consumers has never been easier. With one tap of a smartphone, consumers can be told your product story in a depth that has never been capable of traditional packaging and labels.

In this world where we are almost always connected to an internet connection, a great opportunity presents itself to both benefits the business and consumer. In this article, we will look at three unique use cases that can be applied to a ‘Smart label’ and how they both add value to the business and the end consumer. The first is telling your product story and focuses on going further than traditional packaging can go, informing consumers with everything you would want them to know before they purchase your product. The next is authentication, especially with designer brands, and the other aspects that can be added such as sharing an authenticated purchases on social media. The final use case is consumer interaction; using smart labels as a tool for promotions or after sales.

What is a Smart Label?

The next generation of packaging and labels will leverage NFC and QR technology. NFC has been around for over 10 years and is the same technology that is used in Apple Pay and contactless cards. It is one of the most secure forms of connection as it relies on the reader to be within at least a couple of cm. You may be asking if it has been around for so long, why isn’t it used more? The issue has always been NFC requires something to read it. They are passive chips and require a device to interact with it. Around 10 years ago there was only really specialised devices that could do this, however, with the emergence of the smartphone, nearly all Android phones and the latest iPhones have this technology readily available, built in, and do not require a dedicated app. This is important as it removes the friction of having to download an app and open it, consumers can just tap their phone and it directs you straight to a web page. Each chip is as cheap as £0.05 which makes them now widely accessible.

So now we know what NFC chips are what is QR. QR codes rely on your smartphones camera or a dedicated app to direct you to a web page. It is quicker than typing a complicated URL and can take consumers directly to a specific page. However, there has always been a barrier to their use which is the requirements of opening a camera app or a third party QR reader APP that has somewhat stalled their use.

Why combine the two?

The reason is QR and NFC make a perfect pair. Not every phone (for example on iPhone 6 & 7) are yet to be able to access third party NFC chips even though the technology is built into the devices. This is purely software and can be changed by Apple in any of the next updates (iPhone X can use NFC.) Therefore by adding the QR code it means in theory any consumer is only 1 click away from accessing more information about a product.

Three ways the Smart Label can be used

1. Telling your product story

When a consumer taps or scans the smart label they will be directed to a dedicated page set up about the product on the company’s webpage. This can include any information that the company wants potential consumers to know. For example with food, if the item is fair trade or any kind of ethical manufacturing process then this can be shared through images or even a short video. For clothing, it can include the story behind the design but also what sizes and colours are also available. Essentially it can be anything the business would want to tell the customer but can’t fit on traditional labels or packaging. For the business, they would be able to monitor the number of views as it would be through their website and create a more meaningful relationship with customers. This could increase sales and repeat customers

2. Authentication

A lot of businesses have issues with their products being counterfeit or ‘faked’. For example, the Reddit community FashionReps has over 150,000 members buying and reselling counterfeit clothing and trainers. This is just the tip of the iceberg, even giants like Amazon are not immune. Smart labels offer a solution to this problem. Using modern encryption technology, consumers can be sure that what they are buying is real. This has many use cases not just in designer fashion but in food and drinks. The benefits for the business and consumer are huge. Businesses can be sure that the illegal black market for their products cannot be successful as the products will not be authenticated. Consumers can we assured when buying products from third parties that the product is indeed real and not counterfeit. It also offers the business a way to communicate with consumers, for example in the concept below, buyers would be able to share authenticated purchases on social media, again creating to the lure of the brand.

Using NFC enabled labels for smart authentication.

3.Consumer interaction and marketing

Smart labels offer businesses a new, frictionless way of reaching customers. With one tap of their smartphones, consumers can reach new, targeted promotions or offers. It doesn’t have to be anything revolutionary, or anything the business isn’t already doing. For example, businesses can offer discounts if the customers scan the bale and enter their email. Being able to reach customers in such an easy way can open a whole plethora of marketing opportunities. Smart labels can also be used for after-sales support. For example, it can access customer support or returns directly with one tap of your smartphone. Again the options are almost endless for this use case, and it will totally be up to the creativity of the business. The main takeaway is that smart labels offer a frictionless way of interacting with the consumer when you know they have your product in their hand.

Smart labels can also be printed onto stickers which means any products can use them.

To summarise

The next generation of labels and packaging have the potential to revolutionise the consumer experience. From further enhancing the story of a product to authenticating it, and delivering a new frictionless way to market to customers, you know have your product in their hand.

Let me know what you think, do you see Smart labels being used in the future? Would you use them?

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University student from the UK with an interest in Crypto and Blockchain

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