The Connected Package seamlessly informs and engages consumers where they are, enabled by an embedded and subtle, full-coverage digital watermark on packaging. And it has benefits for brands and retailers, too.
Product packaging has long played multiple roles for brand owners and retailers. Beyond containing the product, it conveys information about the brand. It helps in tracking products with UPC labels and barcodes that make inventory and point-of-sale scanning easier. And, as a key consumer touchpoint, it engages consumers with eye-catching designs that convey the product’s quality and value to help the brand stand out on the shelf.
That last function has always been key, but in an age of constant interconnection and omnichannel marketing, is it really enough for packaging to offer appeal by simply looking pretty? If not, then what’s next?
That would be the Connected Package, the next generation in packaging. Called Digimarc Barcode and referred to as DWCode by GS1, the solution uses a nearly imperceptible digital watermark embedded within the graphics design that retains the package’s visual aesthetics. It disrupts the status quo and redefines the way in which consumers view, handle and interact with packaging for product scanning, mobile engagement, nutritional information and more.
Schawk, part of the SGK Brand Solutions group of Matthews Intl. Corp., became in late 2015 a provider of the Digimarc Barcode. Bruce Miller, vice president of product development, SGK, explains the ramifications of the Connected Package.
What is a “Connected Package?”
Miller: The connected package has additional functionality beyond normal packaging. It is responsive to smartphone users, triggering a digital connection that provides additional product information. The connected package provides efficiency and reliability that delivers value at every step from manufacturing through sales.
Is such a package a luxury or a necessity?
Miller: Quick access to detailed information has already transformed from a luxury to a necessity. There is increasing demand for product transparency. People want to know where their food comes from and the social impact of the manufacturing processes required. This is happening today.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association’s SmartLabel initiative is a great example of how brand owners are investing in bringing greater transparency to consumers. It provides a standardized presentation of product information to the consumer, regardless of the brand. The GMA expects more than 30,000 products to be SmartLabel-enabled by the end of 2017.
How does a Digimarc Barcode turn an ordinary package into a “Connected Package?”
Miller: Smartphones and enabled point-of-sale (POS) scanners recognize the package artwork’s nearly imperceptible pattern. This code can enhance every side of a package, making it scannable regardless of orientation; and consumers can connect to the pack with their smartphone. Standard packaging that doesn’t connect to the Internet will soon be anachronistic.
What tools or assets enable the Digimarc Barcode through the supply chain?
Miller: Brand owners need a digital destination for the consumer. This could be a mobile-enabled promotional or production information site. The SmartLabel initiative is becoming the most obvious choice for many food and beverage brands.
Retailers need any of the next generation of image-based point-of-sale scanners with Digimarc software.
Consumers need a mobile device with any Digimarc-ready app.
Adoption is increasing now; for instance, the Walmart inventory management app for suppliers can scan Digimarc codes.
How would you characterize the rollout?
Miller: The response has been positive, but our clients are taking a measured approach, as they do with any change. They are naturally protective of their designs and concerned about print quality. Meanwhile, brands need time to develop their pack-based marketing strategy for mobile, and retailers are assessing the savings at the checkout stand. The industry is in a state of discovery but very intrigued.
What’s driving interest in the technology?
Miller: For retailers, the driver is cost savings at checkout. The time savings for scanning Digimarc-enabled packaging at checkout is estimated to be 30%. This can represent a significant operational saving for a retailer.
Brand owners must provide an increasing amount of information on a pack that has limited space. For example, new nutritional labeling regulations are consuming more pack real estate. There is also a general desire by consumers for more product information. Digimarc Barcode represents an opportunity for brands to deliver information consumers are yearning for in a more usable format, yet it’s also a promotional communication channel that the brand owns exclusively.
What’s constraining adoption?
Miller: For retailers, the implementation of image scanners is a throttle on implementation, but we expect that limitation to diminish as new technology replaces older laser-based scanners.
For brand owners, there are a combination of cautions around print quality, costs and a clear business case for mobile communication with consumers. Initiatives such as the SmartLabel program will help drive motivation.
What’s the impact of GS1 US Mobile Scan and the underlying DWCode unveiled at GS1 Connect 2016?
Miller: GS1 US adoption of Digimarc technology is significant because it’s a third-party endorsement by the governing body for barcodes. The same GS1 infrastructure that a brand owner uses for their traditional barcodes can manage the DWCode (Digimarc) code. This makes the process more streamlined and simpler for brand owners. GS1 will bring awareness at an industry level, which should drive usage and consumer interest.
Have there been any process changes to Digimarc implementation since this story from August 2015?
Miller: We’re working with Digimarc to put better production and QA tools in place, and we’re excited to see the updated version of the Digimarc Verify app. Improved tools and GS1’s support will help drive even broader Digimarc Barcode adoption.
As vice president of product development for SGK, Bruce Miller leads the practical application of new technologies to the brand deployment requirements of SGK’s clients. His deep expertise in graphic production and management has helped advance the application and performance of graphic workflows for many of the world’s most prominent brand owners. A champion of innovation at SGK for more than 25 years, Bruce has played a pivotal role in the company’s transition from conventional analog to today’s advanced digital technologies and processes. For company information, visit www.sgkinc.com and http://www.schawk.com/brand-production/digimarc-barcode
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