Understand, Engage Consumers via Label Coding

By Gary Paulin and Mark Lusky

Increasingly, product manufacturers are using such time-tested technology as label QR codes and new Augmented Reality technology to better interact with and understand customers.

These are great marketing tools, helping manufacturers address consumer preferences by gathering information from them, and enabling personalizing messaging and offers on a truly individualized basis. Collectively, gathering of intelligence about overall buying preferences can serve as the basis of marketing campaigns going forward—impacting everything from social media messaging and advertising to direct mail, eblasts and editorial content development.

Following is a short primer about both technologies:

QR code allows users to connect with digital content on the internet, add contact information or activate other functions like obtaining maps and GPS directions. Some firms have even begun linking their QR codes to blockchain databases, which can provide a wide range of supplemental information to shoppers, including details on product ingredients or manufacturing, as well as online videos and other resources—in addition to capturing information from consumers.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a next-generation technology that enables more robust and complete gathering and dissemination of information than QR codes. Think of AR as QR on steroids. This AR description sums it up: “Augmented reality brings interaction and product labeling together, using your smart phone camera or branded device apps to create an enhanced user experience that engage customers to your brand at a much deeper level. When viewers point their camera or custom at the product’s label, they can see an array of different options including videos, 2D/3D content, social media sharing options and marker-less content that lets you see products appear in the real world…by using AR features on product labels, customers are creating a trail of data for you to mine. The information generated from these digital interactions helps you know your customers, analyzing their preferences, buying patterns and willingness to engage with different types of messages. You can then power marketing and outreach efforts with those insights. The data gathered from smartphones may include location tags for extra-specific targeting, and it represents actual, verified interactions.”

Product manufacturers wanting to use coded apps to engage and interact with customers will be wise to invest some time and effort to compare options before making a decision. Three vital steps in this process are:

  1. Assess what you want to accomplish. Entertain? Inform? Engage? Gather buyer preferences? Wow your audience? Set yourself apart from the competition? Schedule one or more discovery sessions to identify and prioritize desired objectives. If needs are sophisticated and complex, AR may provide the most high-torque, satisfying solution. On the other hand, QR codes continue to be relevant in some situations.

Think about your industry and current benchmarks. For example, craft beer and wine product manufacturers thrive on colorful and intriguing labels. Pairing these with AR labels that bring visually impactful imagery alive can be a compelling complement, adding movement and depth and elevating your brand above the competition with an added dimension of “pizzazz.” For many industries, both QR codes and AR can prove capable of “doing the job.”

  1. Compare and contrast capabilities of QR Codes, AR and any other technology thoroughly to see what they can do reliably and completely to meet your needs. Use findings from discovery session(s) to see which solution best fills the bill. This is a valuable and often eye-opening exercise can spur further brainstorming about ways to use versatile code technologies to best advantage.

Also think about the label terrain itself. Typically, QR codes need to be larger than AR digital marks. So, if label space is in short supply, AR may prove the better choice so as not to clutter up the label and necessitate eliminating other verbiage, graphic elements, or non-mandatory disclosures.

Of course, coded labels in and of themselves can open up terrain elsewhere for all types of information. Part of their appeal is being able to expand the amount of information and education provided to consumers.

  1. Do a price comparison to see what truly is the most cost-effective way to go. As a general rule of thumb, QR codes provide an affordable solution for basic information gathering and sharing. AR typically is more expensive initially. But, look at it from a value versus cost standpoint. What are potential paybacks in terms of improved sales using one technology versus the other? What is the “shiny new toy” value of AR to intrigue consumers versus older and therefore less-ebullient choices? What is the projected breakeven point?

Every product has intrinsic “DNA.” Finding the best “genetic code” for labels to generate interest and enhance product appeal is a challenge whose time has come.

About the Authors:

Gary Paulin is vice president, sales and client services at Lightning Labels, a Denver-based custom label printer that uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes. Mark Lusky is president of Lusky Enterprises, Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Contact: sales@lightninglabels.com; 800.544.6323 or 303.481.2304.

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