How Smart Packaging Using QR Codes Improves the Customer Experience

Which marketing channels are at the top of your list for your upcoming campaign? Most likely, you’ve thought about social media, email, paid ads, and maybe a little bit of print, right? All these are undoubtedly worthwhile as they can boost brand awareness and customer interactions. 

However, you may be missing out on one very obvious marketing medium—your product packaging. As the one thing that’s guaranteed to reach 100% of your customers, it shouldn’t be an afterthought. 

If you’re looking for ways to spruce up your packaging to get customers’ attention and boost engagement, we know just what you need—smart packaging. Here, we look at smart packaging, why it’s a great investment, and how you can use it for an enhanced customer experience.

What is smart packaging?

Smart packaging is a complex phrase to describe. Like “eco-friendly,” it lacks a clear and concise definition. 

Let’s paint a picture of what it entails. It’s a packaging solution that leverages various technologies, including Quick Response Codes (QR Codes), Barcodes, and digital identifiers—like Near Field Communication (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags—to transform conventional packaging from sources of surface-level data (like ingredient information) to digital tools that carry more information and facilitate seamless consumer engagement. 

If you see the term being used in the context of QR Codes, it essentially means packaging that’s interactive via a QR Code. It’s “smart” because the code connects the user to a lot more than typical packaging could. For example, rather than having to search Instagram for your brand’s page, a QR Code is there to take customers directly to your profile. 

Why are QR Codes the best option for smart packaging?

Packaging QR Codes are codes printed on product packaging to communicate brand or product information with a simple scan. While other smart packaging solutions, like NFC tags, are also suitable options, QR Codes are a top choice for many brands because of their ease of use, versatility, and convenience. They encourage customer interaction because almost all modern smartphones can scan them with a single tap. 

Most customers value convenience—70% of consumers are willing to pay more for convenient experiences—so the simplicity of these nifty innovations positions them as must-have solutions. Here’s a deeper look at why QR Codes are valuable in smart packaging:

Add a Video QR Code on sport shoe packaging to share pro tips.

Boost customer engagement

A QR Code helps keep customers connected to your brand throughout the entire buying cycle. If your packaging is on retail store shelves, then you have the chance to show customers more marketing material using a QR Code when they’re in the “consideration” stage of purchasing.

When they buy your product, you can use the code to promote engagement by directing them to your website, social media pages, or even review pages, facilitating better customer relationships. 

With 99.5 million smartphone users expected to scan QR Codes by 2025 in the U.S. alone, this is definitely a great tool for engaging with customers. 

Improve brand transparency

Transparency is a key foundation for long-lasting brand-customer relationships, as it helps build trust. It’s so important, in fact, that 73% of customers are willing to spend more on products that provide complete transparency

Therefore, this isn’t something you should slack on—QR Codes can ensure you don’t. A QR Code on packaging can quickly take your customer (or would-be customer) to a site that explains the source of your products’ ingredients, how the product is made or assembled, and where that happens.

Get better insights about your audience

Ever heard someone say data is the new oil? They weren’t kidding. Data is the rock on which businesses create better consumer experiences and optimize marketing efforts, making it one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal. According to a report by PwC, companies that use data to inform efforts see a 3-5% growth in profitability!

QR Codes are invaluable in data collection. With QR Code Generator PRO, you get a report on the total number of scans registered by your codes, scans by location, and scans by devices used, giving you a detailed visual of how customers interact with your packaging. 

This can help with continuous marketing campaign optimization. For instance, on retail store shelves, QR Code scan analytics can give you an idea of where your product is most engaged, helping you fine-tune your store layout for sales. 

QR Code Generator provides an easy-to-use QR Code metric tracking interface.

How brands use QR Codes to improve product packaging

Note: The brands discussed below were found during our online research.

It’s normal to be skeptical about introducing new tech into your packaging. But don’t be!

Various brands have already incorporated QR Codes in product marketing and packaging with considerable success. Some of them include:

Coca-Cola introduces customers to new music

The Coca-Cola and Ball QR Code campaign is undoubtedly one of the most exciting use cases of QR Codes in product packaging. The brand printed codes that, when scanned, directed customers to the Coke Music portal for access to music through their mobile devices. Going beyond simply providing the actual product to also give customers additional content (music) helped the brand capture young consumers’ attention. 

You, too, can leverage QR Codes to provide access to gated or exclusive content. For example, you can print your QR Code on the inside of your packaging, an area that only paying customers will ever see. This QR Code can link to unique content like the following:

  • Unique ways to use your product—great for clothing and accessories

  • Serving suggestions and recipe ideas for food products

  • Recycling and disposal information

  • Behind-the-scenes videos about the production and manufacturing process

Nestlé offers transparency into nutritional information

Understanding the value of transparency in building consumer trust, Nestlé regularly includes QR Codes in packaging to offer seamless access to product details. One of its most notable campaigns was the two-finger KitKat chocolate bar QR Code campaign, in which it provided codes to direct customers to information about the bars’ ingredients, how they were produced, and their value in one’s diet. 

You can borrow some inspiration from Nestlé’s campaign to offer more value to your customers. Your QR Code can link to a landing page that shows nutritional information; use-by or best-before dates; as well as information about how the product is made, where it comes from, and any other sustainable or ethical certifications. This information helps your customers learn more about your brand, increasing consumer loyalty and fostering further customer retention.

KitKat makes it easy for consumers to offer feedback

Nestlé has clearly cracked the code (pun intended) when it comes to QR campaigns. Beyond using these pixelated innovations for transparency, the brand has also leveraged them to collect customer feedback. It featured feedback QR Codes on the packaging of over a quarter million KitKat bars to collect customers’ opinions on their new paper packaging solution. Quite innovative, right? They get to promote customer engagement and make their audiences feel valued while also gaining valuable insights to improve the brand. 

For ecommerce, subscription boxes, and D2C brands, the moment a customer receives your product in the mail is important. At this moment, their senses are heightened, and they’re most impressionable to any statement that your brand makes. Use this time to ask for feedback on the customer experience by asking them to scan the QR Codes on your packaging. 

PureOaty shares insight into its sustainability commitment

With more consumers prioritizing sustainability when making purchases, PureOaty has eliminated the need for guesswork by leveraging QR Codes in its packaging. The codes direct customers to an independent sustainability report that showcases the brand’s commitment to creating carbon-neutral processes, thereby positioning itself as a top choice for eco-conscious buyers. 

If you’re making sustainability efforts, like PureOaty, let your target audience know by using sustainability QR Codes. You can link the codes to videos that showcase your processes or a PDF that highlights your initiatives. 

Best practices for designing smart packaging with QR Codes

Itching to get started with packaging QR Codes? There’s no better time than now! Here are some best practices to have in mind to ensure you create effective and efficient QR Codes:

Ensure you meet minimum size requirements

QR Codes allow you to share a plethora of information despite minimal space.

A square and blocky image in the form of a QR Code may not complement your existing packaging design perfectly, but making it so small that it’s unscannable isn’t going to be beneficial at all. Finding the right minimum QR Code size can be tricky, but it is possible—2 cm x 2 cm (0.8 x 0.8 in) is the recommended minimum size for a Dynamic QR Code, and 3 x 3 cm (1.2 x 1.2 in) is the minimum recommended size for Static QR Codes.

Choose the right placement

QR Codes give your customers the chance to toot your product’s horn.

The best place for your QR Code is right in the middle of a surface. This will give you the highest possible scanning rate. However, right in the middle of a surface might not be the most practical for brands that really focus on quality packaging design. Your intuition may say that the bottom corner is best, but this is actually the worst place, as it’s somewhat hidden. If you can’t place your QR Code in the middle of your packaging surface, consider putting it in the center along the bottom or top edge.

With a wondrous palette of design options, easily integrate QR Codes into your packaging design.

Ideally, your code should be somewhere obvious enough to draw customers’ attention and ensure scannability. However, this isn’t to say it should stick out from your overall packaging design—position it somewhere apparent that is also cohesive with the rest of your branding. For example, if your packaging design has a floral motif, make the greenery frame and showcase the QR Code. This makes it look like it’s part of the packaging design and helps draw the eye to the QR Code solution.

Consider the material

It’s always important to consider packaging material when designing your QR Code.

Consider your packaging material to make sure your code is scannable. If your QR Code is printed directly onto kraft cardboard, you’ll have to make it larger than normal, as the slight corrugations under the surface may distort the image as people scan it. If your mailer box has a laminated layer on top of the cardboard, then you’re much safer. 

QR Codes on mailing bags might present a problem, as it can be challenging to get the surface flat and even to scan. It is still possible, but it will require more work from your customers to scan them. Let them know this by adding simple instructions near your codes. For example, you could add, “Keep the surface flat and even when scanning.”

Avoid printing QR Codes on curved surfaces, as they’re least likely to be read by a phone.

Use color

Make your Social Media QR Code pop by giving it a colorful disposition.

We are visual creatures and consume an awful lot with our eyes. It’s a common misconception that your QR Code has to be black—it doesn’t. It’s safest if your QR Code is black, but if the background of your packaging design is navy blue, then black is probably the worst color. 

Consider creating QR Codes with style by adding a bit of color. This can help them stand out and align better with your overall packaging design. 

The one thing to keep in mind here is to use contrasting colors to make sure your codes are visible and scannable. For example, you can use a blue QR Code on a white surface. 

Add a call to action

Make sure to always add a CTA so consumers know what they’re in for and why they should scan your QR Code.

A QR Code on your packaging is good; a QR Code on your packaging with a clear and concise CTA (call to action) is even better and will get a lot more interaction. “Scan me,” “Claim your prize here,” or “Learn more” are simple lines that give your customers an idea of what they’re in for and why they should scan it.

Start adding QR Codes to your product packaging today!

Leverage QR Code Generator PRO to turn your packaging into more than just a box and create a memorable user experience. Well-placed QR Codes can have fantastic outcomes, like more customer engagement, better transparency, and greater insights into your customer base (which you can use to inform future campaigns).

QR Code Generator PRO is a user-friendly tool that can help you not only create but also customize and track QR Codes. You can incorporate your brand colors into the QR Code design, use custom frames, and add your logo to the codes to boost recognizability and enhance your brand identity. You get real-time scan analytics, which can help you optimize your packaging by showing you what resonates with your target audience. 

Sign up for QR Code Generator PRO today to transform your packaging into an interactive tool that connects your audience to endless digital experiences and promotes customer loyalty!

Armanii Glaspie

Armanii is a Product Marketing Manager at Bitly. He received his MBA from the Cox School of Business at SMU, where he concentrated on marketing and strategy. With over four years of marketing experience spanning the SaaS and CPG space, he is passionate about helping companies connect with their customers on a deeper level through the use of tools like Bitly and QR Code Generator. You can find out more about him on his LinkedIn profile.

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