Didier Sourisseau, President of Crown Europe examines how metal packaging is embracing the Internet of Things, bringing new benefits to brands and consumers alike.
Once a term exclusively referred to in the future tense, the Internet of Things (IoT) – essentially a network in which physical objects can exchange data internally or with other connected machines – is quickly becoming reality. For brands, access to reliable, accurate data is imperative for driving marketing activities and managing complex supply chains. Smart packaging, and intelligent packaging in particular, serves as the connection between these two worlds and plays a pivotal role in data capture. As a category, smart packaging is growing at a staggering rate, according to “The Future of Smart Packaging to 2021” report by Smithers Pira, with the sector currently valued at an estimated $5.3bn and expected growth of 8%, taking it beyond $7.8bn by 2021 .
Metal packaging lends itself well to IoT-based activities, offering a number of options for code placement, such as QR or Data Matrix codes, on a variety of formats. Incorporating IoT features further expands the value metal offers as a packaging substrate, with other key attributes including superior sustainability credentials and portability.
IoT Enables ConnectivityOverall, IoT provides a unique way to enhance consumer experiences as well as to provide tangible data to a brand. By introducing a unique code on a product’s packaging, brands can connect directly with consumers. These codes can be used as part of promotions or competitions, or to provide details about a product’s authenticity, nutritional information or allergen information.
So how does it work? First, a brand must create a cloud-based platform to manage the codes and data. This can be either done directly by brands, or can be carried out by a third-party supplier, which is often the case. The brand then orders coded packaging from its supplier, who will request unique codes from the cloud platform and incorporate them into the production run. If the codes are printed in a location from which they can be scanned (e.g. they are visible and not concealed underneath a tab or end), the filling plant will scan them and send the subsequent traceability data to the cloud. Following distribution, the products will reach consumers, where each unique code is read and scanned, usually via a mobile phone application, which must also be developed separately. The code is recorded in the cloud and the corresponding data gets sent back to the consumer. Ultimately, the consumer receives an enhanced and customized experience, while the brand has access to live data, whether from along the supply chain or directly from consumers via their IP address.
Data Capture from ConsumersThe level of data that can be captured adds considerable value to a brand, as it helps tailor approaches for future consumer interactions. The unique code can also capture finer details such as location, the weather at time of scanning and even the time of consumption, which further helps understand consumption habits. The success of individual campaigns can be easily monitored, and marketing teams can then create content based on what works best when incentivizing consumers to scan the codes.
For the greatest levels of data and effectiveness, it is advisable to adopt an ‘always on’ approach. This means that codes must be used all the time across a brand’s offering, rather than a one-off promotion for the summer, for example. To stimulate customer engagement, brands need to ensure content is current and relevant. It is a good idea to include several non-monetized options to ensure consumers do not feel pressured into purchasing products.
Developing proprietary software also means that any data captured will belong to the brand instead of a third party capturing the data and subsequently charging a fee for its use.
Operational DataIf used correctly, IoT technology enables brands to regain full visibility of their supply chains. If stockists and retailers are encouraged to scan the IoT codes, products can be easily traced, and volumes controlled more efficiently. An increase in consumption could be identified, for example, via consumer interaction, meaning retailers can prepare and re-route goods accordingly before the purchasing increases even begin.