Combining QR Codes and Design for a Smart Packaging Experience

Packaging is something that you forget about until the last minute. That’s unfortunate, as product packaging is the only marketing channel that reaches 100% of your customers. 

And, as a marketing channel, your product packaging can really level up with the use of QR Codes. Whether it’s nutritional information, instructions, or disposal regulations, QR Codes turn the medium of packaging into more of a marketing channel than it already is. 

In this article, you’ll see:

  • What is “smart packaging”
  • How other brands are using QR Codes on their packaging
  • Tips & ideas for designing packaging with a QR Code

Let’s dive in!

What is smart packaging?

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

Should you see it being used in context to QR Codes, it essentially means packaging that’s interactive via a QR Code. It’s “smart” because the QR connects the user to a lot more than typical packaging could. Rather than having to search Instagram for the brand’s profile, a QR Code is there. Rather than including assembly instructions inside the product box, a QR Code can take users to a digital PDF of instructions. 

Smart packaging changes the way your customers interact with packaging and the value that the packaging adds to your brand experience. 

Why add QR Codes on packaging?

You don’t need to be told at length why QR Codes on marketing materials are a great asset for a company. But here are a few reasons that they should be part of your packaging design. 

Video QR Code on a shoe box prompting people to scan and see what their athletes are up to
Add a Video QR Code on sport shoe packaging to share pro-tips.

Customer engagement

A QR Code helps keep your customer connected to your brand during the entire buying cycle. If your packaging is on retail store shelves, then you have the chance to show your customer more marketing material using a QR Code at the moment they’re in the “consideration” stage of purchasing. As an e-commerce brand, a QR Code can help foster customer retention by taking them to an exclusive Code for a repeat purchase or showing precisely how to use a product. 

Improve brand transparency

With 8 in 10 British consumers checking where their food comes from, it’s safe to say that people want to know what they’re holding. A QR Code on your e-commerce packaging can quickly take your customer (or would-be customer) to a site that explains the source of the ingredients of your products, how the product is made or assembled, and where that happens. 

Data collection 

Data is everything for marketers. And while privacy rules can be restrictive, QR Code analytics when a customer scans a Code can be invaluable. On retail store shelves, it can give you an idea of where your product is most engaged, helping you fine-tune your store layout for sales. For an e-commerce brand, this same data can show you how engaged your customers are at the time their product arrives and how customers interact with your packaging. 

The Dynamic QR Code scan metrics available with QR Code Generator PRO — scans by time, country, city, and operating system
QR Code Generator provides an easy-to-use QR Code metric tracking interface.

Monitoring your purchased goods is a quick and efficient way to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty when looking at the numbers under a microscope.

Extra content

A QR Code can give customers access to gated content. For example, 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

Food packaging & QR Codes

From ready-to-eat meals to raw ingredients, food packaging designed with a QR Code creates many opportunities for increased brand engagement. 

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. At both the point of sale and in the consumer’s home, this information helps your customer learn more about your brand, increasing customer loyalty and fostering further retention. 

Foster customer retention

For e-commerce, subscription box, and D2C brands, the moment a customer receives your product in the mail is an important one. At this moment, their senses are heightened, and they’re most impressionable to any statementing that your brand makes. 

This is the ideal time to use those emotions to your advantage. Foster customer retention by using a QR Code that links to a personalized thank you note or a discount for a repeat purchase. A link to an affiliate program will help you speed up registrations immensely!

Designing smart packaging with QR Codes

Right-sizing is vital

Dynamic URL QR Code on a display prompting people to scan and discover new games in an online shop
QR Codes allow you to share a plethora of information on minimal spaces. 

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 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 Codes. 

Correct placement is also vital

Dynamic URL QR Code on a to go coffee cup prompting the buyer to scan and review them on Yelp
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 a 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 but along a bottom or top edge. 

Consider the material

Social Media QR Code on product packing prompting people to scan and follow the company's social media
It’s always important to consider packaging material when designing your QR Code.

Your packaging product is vital here. 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 it’s being scanned. If your mailer box has a laminated layer on top of the cardboard, then you’re much safer. 

QR Codes on mailing bags present a problem, as it can be challenging to get the surface flat and even to scan. It is still possible but will require more work from your user to scan it. Avoid printing QR Codes on curved surfaces, as they’re least likely to be read by a phone. 

Make it integrate with your overall design

Video QR Code on a gin bottle label prompting people to scan for behind the scenes look at ethical company practices
With a wondrous palette of design options, easily integrate QR Codes into your packaging design.

First and foremost, keep your QR Code clear and scannable — nothing over the top of it, nothing underneath it. But you can make it part of your overall design. For example, if your packaging design has a floral motif all over it, 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. 

Use color

Social Media QR Code prompting people to scan and follow the company's social media channels
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. 

Experiment, but make sure you have a thorough understanding of your background color and the texture of your packaging. 

Use a CTA

Feedback QR Code on a video game box prompting people to scan and give feedback about the game
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 customer an idea of what they’re in for and why they should scan it. 


Packaging isn’t always exciting. That’s why it’s so often overlooked. And that, in turn, is a reason you should pay attention to your packaging design. Using a QR Code is a unique way that you can turn your packaging into more than just a box and create a genuine unboxing experience around your product — one that fosters brand loyalty and makes your customer feel that they got a lot more than they bargained for!


Phil is a bearded Australian living and working in Poland. When he’s not taking Packhelp’s custom packaging to the world, he can be found trying not to kill his plants, pretending to be a stormtrooper, or hanging out with his dog.

Become a QR Code pro

Variety of QR Code solutions with full customization, tracking and more