Today, electronics OEMs have a place in just about every type of market—as different products integrate electronics. Now, with smart packaging, these same organizations have an opportunity to help customers develop new markets and services, and even help brands stay relevant in a variety fast moving consumer markets.
Major brands in the food and beverage, consumer packaged goods, consumer health, and industrial/professional sectors are all seeking opportunities to develop deeper relationships with their consumers by gathering data and building loyalty and repeat sales. These organizations are looking to develop greater consumer engagement and smart packaging can provide just that. The consumer is king in these sectors and the consumer experience is being considered more and more in the development of packaging that not only delivers the product, but forms part of a greater customer-centric ecosystem. Smart packaging can provide brands with real product differentiation as well as new and compelling ways to connect to customers, gather data and add loyalty.
Take auto-replenishment, for example. Smart packaging enables the measurement of liquid in a package can deliver benefits like the ability to auto-replenish, or at least highlight, when replenishment is needed. This provides convenience for the consumer – who no longer needs to think about re-purchasing things like laundry detergent or even olive oil.
For the brand, the benefits are equally valuable. Smart solutions share details of. Getting consumers to use an app to access a product ecosystem can also deliver consumer buying habits and provide insights that enable improved customer experiences. They also provide a vehicle to deliver offers, new product information and loyalty rewards. Using these ecosystems to reward loyalty and referral can transform consumers into brand ambassadors and through social media they can become powerful allies of any brand.
According to a survey conducted in August 2016 by Dimensional Research, the adoption of advanced packaging is growing rapidly. Nearly two-thirds of those polled see packaging as an important part of their brand experience and an important strategic investment area for their business. Almost three quarters view packaging as a significant part of the brand experience and over 80% expect significant increase in smart or intelligent packaging.
And it’s no wonder. Smart packaging offers value which goes beyond the consumer experience, adding benefits in logistics, shorter time to market, lower costs and greater agility. That logistics benefit might mean ensuring the delivered product is genuine, or that it hasn’t been tampered with, increasing trust between consumer and brand and avoiding expensive recalls or even lawsuits. Smart packaging with unique IDs can deliver data that tracks the whereabouts of products and temperature, and humidity sensors can reveal whether products are being transported and stored effectively.
The applications and benefits are substantial. But, for brands, recognizing the pivotal role of packaging is one thing, developing a packaging packaging solution is quite another. Startups see the opportunity to use smart packaging to engage consumers and to displace the larger established brands, particularly around social media. Likewise, established brands recognize that if they do not participate in the disruption, they risk being disrupted themselves – or worse becoming irrelevant. However, few have the breadth of internal skills and resources needed to develop the right solutions. And, there are very few companies in the world that can provide everything needed from ideation to digital fulfilment is this fast moving and demanding sector.
The process is complex and starts at the point of recognizing the opportunities smart packaging can offer, as well as the potential dangers of ignoring competitors who are using smart packaging to disrupt established markets. Initial engagement at the ‘blue sky’ phase where the entire ecosystem is explored, considering critical trends and market shifts, the consumers’ needs, habits and the brand’s goals and aspirations for the new package.
Establishing a team that can develop the idea, the product, the packaging and the ecosystem, and then deliver it to a global market is essential. That means employing experience in human factors, user experience, products and packaging design, plastic molding, advanced packaging, advanced manufacturing, electronics manufacturing and integration, supply chain development and global fulfilment. All with a global footprint and the buying power to deliver the best products, quickly and at the most reasonable price through a world-class supply chain.
The electronic supply chain becomes particularly important in the case of smart packaging. These innovative new packaging solutions are made possible through several enabling technologies reaching a compelling level of maturity. Advances in hardware and materials science, the proliferation of smart devices, the reducing cost and abundance of sensors, and emerging communication technologies like 5G or near field communication (NFC) are all contributing to the ability to deliver packaging packaging at a price that does not adversely impact on a product’s competitiveness. Developments in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, data science and information visualization are also large contributors to the trend. Like so many other aspects of markets now, data provides the digital thread that supports product development, deployment and the consumer experience.
Consumers continue to become more sophisticated, more demanding and more vocal about their experiences. Put simply consumers are getting smarter and they expect the same of everything they consume. For that reason, brands and packaging providers need to be smarter about the way we engage with those consumers, designing solutions that build in intelligencethe way we design, manufacture, and deliver smart value for both brands and consumers.