QR Codes and Smart Labels on Packaging

QR code on phone

Scan your M&Ms to download a Spotify playlist. Scan the tabletop at your favorite restaurant to see the dinner menu for the evening. Scan a code on the side of your sweet onion bag to be taken to a website for a special giveaway or sweepstakes.

It is likely that within the last several years you have scanned (or at least encountered the option to scan) a QR code or Smart Label. What are these codes exactly? Why are they becoming so prevalent? And how can they be used effectively on flexible packaging to help you achieve your business goals?

QR (Quick Response) codes were invented in the 1990s by a Japanese automotive company. These two-dimensional, matrix barcodes, provided fast readability and greater storage capacity as compared to the standard UPC barcode, but they didn’t gain traction in the US marketplace until almost two decades later. In June 2011, 14 million American mobile users scanned a QR code (or a smart barcode). The UPC barcode quickly became an outdated technology with limits and boundaries, while the QR code was like a magic key the consumer could use to go anywhere. QR codes and Smart Labels have allowed companies to directly engage with the consumer, leading them to websites that offer recipes, videos, coupons, sweepstakes, games, education, discounts, and more. 

One of the biggest catalysts for the proliferation and adoption of Smart Labels has been the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies and brands had to think creatively about how to reach and connect with consumer audiences who were no longer purchasing and interacting with brands the way they were pre-pandemic. Smart Labels were the perfect answer to meet consumers exactly where they were, on their phones. In August 2021, Bitly, a link management service, said it had seen a 750% increase in QR code downloads over the last 18 months. 

As consumers grow more accustomed to seeing and interacting with QR codes and Smart Labels how can you use them on your flexible packaging to reap the most benefit? 

Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Placement: Ensure your code is placed in an obvious location where the consumer can't miss it. Look for smooth surfaces and allow for space around bag seams and edges so that it isn’t at risk of being lost.
  • Color: Adding color to your code can help catch the consumer’s eye. You can even create codes with images or logos incorporated into the design.
  • Sizing/ Resolution: It is important to consider the size of the code so that it is still scannable. If it is too small the code may not scan so consider the layout and what needs to be included on your packaging. You will also want a high-resolution image to ensure the code prints in good quality.
  • Frames: A call to action in the form of a frame can increase the chance of scanning by 80%. Telling the consumer what to do and what is in it for them will increase the chance they will scan your code. 

Using QR codes on your flexible packaging can help increase website traffic, build brand loyalty, and offer new ways to connect with your consumers. Adding a Smart Label to your packaging, simply put, is making a smart choice for your company or brand.   

Topics: Fresh Produce, produce packaging, fox packaging, smart labels