future of packaging

What Will the Future of Packaging Look Like?

What do NFC tags, augmented reality, and Australian convicts-turned-colonists coming back from the dead have to do with packaging?

This is what the future of packaging might look like.

In fact, it’s already happening, and with more consumers having smartphones than ever before, the way we look at packaging – and the way companies use technology to create interactive experiences for their customers – could change dramatically in the years to come.

In a recent video by the publication packagePRINTING entitled “Where Smart Packaging and Technology Intersect,” Corey Francer (the editor-in-chief of packagePRINTING), Rob Stott (Dealerscope), and Thorin McGee (Target Marketing) sat down to discuss the future of packaging and how tech could drive many of these changes.

Scroll below to learn about some of the main trends they discussed in their video about what packaging might evolve into – and some innovations that are currently underway.


1) Packaging will become smart, interactive, and intelligent.

We have smartphones, smart cars, smart homes, and smart shoes (yes, smart shoes really do exist), so you probably won’t be surprised to learn that packaging has become smart, too. (Remember the smart label the UK retailer Sainsbury’s uses on their meat products to show expiration dates that we discussed in our article about 2018 packaging trends? That was smart packaging.)

Alessandri Ruggeri from Swedbrand Group breaks the term “smart packaging” down a little further. She writes: “Smart packaging consists of two distinct areas: active packaging, which provides functions such as moisture control, and intelligent packaging, which communicates product changes and other information.”

In summary, packaging isn’t just labels or corrugated boxes anymore. With smart packaging, tech plays a huge role, offering ways for consumers to interact with brands and learn more about the products themselves.

And when it comes to the types of technology, you’ll find…


2) NFC tags and augmented reality apps could change the way we view (and use) packaging.   

Though the short-lived QR code craze has come and gone with little fanfare, other technology is stepping in to take its place for smart packaging: NFC tags and augmented reality apps.

You’ve probably heard of both of these kinds of technology before, but as a quick review, NFC stands for near field communication and is a modified form of RFID technology that uses radio signals so two items can communicate.

You’ve seen NFC in action when people hold their smartphones up to payment terminals and pay for something with contactless payments apps like Apple Pay.

Augmented reality, or AR, mixes reality and virtual reality together. Think of Pokémon Go as the perfect example of an AR app.

With packaging, some companies have started using NFC tags in their product packaging that can trigger an interactive customer experience or provide more product information with AR apps.

Since Apple released its ARKit tool, most smartphones now come equipped with AR apps, so opportunities for the technology are ripe with possibility.


3) When you combine NFC and AR apps together, you can get video content… and dead Australian convicts-turned-colonists telling their stories on the labels of wine bottles.

Corey Francer points to Living Wine Labels as an example of NFC, AR apps, and smart packaging in action. Living Wine Labels apps provide interactive customer experiences for wine companies like 19 Crimes and Chateau St John.

When you download the Living Wine Labels app, all you need to do is scan a bottle from one of these wine companies to see the power of AR and interactive packaging. For example, if you scan a 19 Crimes wine label (which has an NFC tag embedded in it), one of the murderous convicts who was sent to Australia in its early days will “come alive” and tell you their story.

Living Wine Labels

Source: Living Wine Labels

4) Smart packaging can use simpler technology than NFC tags and AR apps, but still offer consumers valuable information about a product.

Smart packaging isn’t all flashy apps and dead convicts telling you about their lives. Other companies have capitalized on making packaging more interactive without using NFC tags or AR apps by simply harnessing the power of smartphones and labels.

In their smart packaging video, Francer, Stott, and McGee talk about the home improvement retailer Lowe’s, which partnered with a company called Aurora to have “smart” plant tags.

These tags included a phone number you could text to get more information about the proper care instructions of the plant you’d bought. This information would be sent instantaneously to your smartphone. And voila! A simple, enhanced customer experience.

If NFC tags and AR apps don’t rise in popularity and go the way of the QR code, smart packaging could use tactics like the Lowe’s example to reach their consumers.

For more information about this topic, check out packagePRINTING’s full video here.

Let us know in the comments: what do you think the future of packaging will look like?


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