Smart Packaging

Smart Packaging 2

Why brands can't afford to ignore interactive packaging. 

By Jeremy Pounder

Smartphones have proven themselves to be the largest disruptors in shopping this side of the 21st century. In the decade since the launch of the iPhone, as the tech in our smartphones has eclipsed even the desktop computers of the late-2000s, our retail lives have been transformed; with apps, price comparison and more filtering organically into our day-to-day shopping experiences. The augmented reality (AR) technology that could really change the game, however, is just now starting to take a firm grip on the industry.

Smart packaging is revealing itself as a vital tool in the ongoing battle of engaging consumers and decoding shopping habits. The market is expected to witness rapid expansion by the end of 2023 and revolutionize the foods and drinks industry in kind. However, in 2018, it’s a technology largely seen as a means of catching cartoon monsters and putting funny faces on Snapchat messages. That being said, Snap is actually one of the companies pioneering the use of AR, though primarily in a “surprise and delight” capacity. If brands are smart, however, they could look past these fun distractions and leverage AR as a utility that will engage customers and boost brand awareness.

To take a peek into the potential future of AR and how it can be developed from an entertaining fad to a genuine utility, it is worth studying the IKEA Place app. Launched earlier this year, the app allows customers to virtually place furniture in their homes, offering an immediate visualisation that would have seemed like high concept science fiction at the turn of the century.

AR Smart Packaging

Smart Packaging 2There's still a long road ahead before AR can be considered as a truly everyday utility, but if food and drink brands start developing smart packaging with the help of AR technology, it could really help bring the technology into the mainstream. At Mindshare, we recently conducted research for a report titled “Layered: The Future of Augmented Reality,” which revealed that over half (55 percent) of those surveyed believed the concept of AR smart packaging would be useful, and that over a third (36 percent) agreed there are many ways AR could fit positively into their shopping experience. These numbers prove that AR implementation could seriously help a high street in desperate need of a competitive edge against the e-commerce world.

To compete, brands need to offer contextual information and experiences that couldn't be achieved via any other platform. One of the first brand to experiment with the technology was Heinz, who turned their ketchup bottles into recipe books to incentivise further Heinz-branded purchases. AR could also be used in a personalised manner, offering relevant offers and information to consumers based on their previous shopping experiences. Taking things a step further, Snap and Amazon recently pioneered "shoppable" AR ads that allow the customer to buy directly from the actual product by scanning it "in real life" and ordering with one-click.

This is all just functionality though; the real opportunities lie in branding. We recently partnered with neuroscience market research company, Neuro-Insight, and the research we conducted discovered a fascinating link between AR experiences and memory encoding. We found that adding an AR element to a digital experience not only drove almost double the levels of engagement, but increased memory encoding by 70 percent. This means that AR has a proven positive impact on long-term memory storage, which should be very exciting for any brands who are still on the fence about getting involved in AR.

Transformation is at the very heart of what AR can offer the brands who are willing to utilise its true potential: The transformation of a cereal box into a spaceship; a bottle of gin into a blossoming display of botanicals; a poster into a video game. The right experience at the right time could also transform consumer perception about a particular brand. Of course, as these experiences become more commonplace, customers will be less surprised and delighted by these extra layers of content and will instead start to just expect them. So now, when the technology is still so fresh and exciting to so many, is the perfect time to strike.


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Jeremy Pounder is the futures director at Mindshare UK where he oversees the research program, which aims to assess the opportunities around emerging media and technology, and to help invent the future of media for its clients. Pounder joined Y&R Media (now MEC) as a strategist after graduating from Cambridge University. After three years there, he moved into research and joined the Starcom Intelligence Unit. In 2007, Pounder joined Mindshare’s business planning team, specializing in consumer insights around new media behaviors.


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