Digital Label Trends to Engage Consumers

September 8, 2015

Labels provide several important functions from marketing a product and capturing the consumers’ attention to communicating information such as product contents and instructions. Today’s labels are moving beyond these primary functions to integrate digital technology to further connect with and engage consumers.

The widespread use of smartphones is driving this digital label trend. According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of American adults owned smartphones last year. By engaging with consumers, brands have the opportunity to market digital content in the store, online or at home to consumers to extend their marketing efforts.

There are a variety of digital technologies available for labels including: QR codes, digital watermarking, image recognition, and near field communication. We’ll take a look at each of these and provide an overview of the technology and how it’s currently being used for label applications.

digital label trends
Some consumer marketing examples include:

  • Coupons, Promotions
  • Recipes / Meal Planning
  • Product information, allergens, etc
  • Contests or games
  • Video
  • Product Authenticity
  • Augmented Reality
Quick Response (QR) Codes

QR codes are two dimensional bar codes which can be read by a camera enabled smartphone. They are often black and white but can also be embedded with color and even include graphics for added visual appeal. In order to read the QR code, an app is needed (many universal readers are available) to scan and read the code. Web site URLs that are embedded in the code are enabled once scanned to take a user to the link. There are many sites available for generating QR codes for the links which can then contain additional product information, a promotion, video, contest, etc. These codes are highly recognizable and relatively easy to implement.

Digital Watermarking

A digital watermark involves embedding a digital mark into an image or background depending on the process build and complexity of the background. The mark is invisible to the eye but is detectable by capable smartphones and scanners. The watermark is embedded during the prepress stage. For printing, the same substrates, inks and coatings are used allowing a watermark to be used with multiple print methods or label formats. Watermarks are designed for a variety of end use applications similar to QR codes to take a user to a URL for promotions, coupons, videos, etc. The watermark can be applied to a part of the label or the entire label without being visible, allowing them to also be used to streamline the checkout process for increased throughput (Digimarc barcode solution). With enabled retail scanners, bar codes products do not need to be aligned for scanning – the package becomes the barcode. Specific apps are needed depending on the digital watermark technology used and the label will need some type of indication (logo, etc) to allow users to know it uses digital watermarking.

Image Recognition

With image recognition, an image (photo, logo, etc) is used as the trigger for the app on a camera-enabled smartphone. For packaging, these have been typically used for augmented reality (AR) apps and require specific apps to be used. Augmented Reality puts a digital layer of information on top of what’s seen in the physical world allowing a user to interact with a package. These applications have higher user engagement, but are more costly due to the extensive development of digital content (CGI) required. The packaging also needs to have some type of indication (app logo, etc) to inform a consumer that it offers an augmented reality experience.

Near Field Communication (NFC)

Near field communication or NFC uses a chip embedded technology (signal transmitter) that enables communication between a device such as smartphone simply by tapping. NFC enabled smartphones have chips built in so there is no need to download an app to trigger the label with the embedded tag. NFC applications include taking a user to a URL for additional digital content as well as augmented reality apps for a more interactive consumer experience. The big benefit of this technology is that it doesn’t require a user to download an app – Android smartphones are NFC enabled from the factory. Since it is an embedded chip, it is more costly to implement with the cost of the chip and insertion.

In order to ensure successful use and adoption of any of these digital technologies, make sure to:

  • Make is easy for consumers to use
  • Promote the use of the technology
  • Offer unique content or user experience
There are digital solutions available for all of the label formats we provide: cut & stack, pressure sensitive, roll-fed and shrink sleeve. Contact Fort Dearborn Company if you are interested in taking your package to the next level for increased consumer engagement, contact Fort Dearborn Company online or call (847) 357-9500.