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Why Smart Labels are more relevant than ever


by Patrick Helskens

Why Smart Labels are more relevant than ever for brands and agencies looking to leverage the Internet of Packaging, by Patrick Helskens

The Smart Label is not just a poster boy for the Internet of Packaging – it is a feature with enormous potential for brands and agencies. Smart Label data will provide marketing departments protection against counterfeit and grey market trading. For the operations team, Smart Label data will deliver supply chain insights. With both benefits high on any business’ agenda, why not kill both birds with one stone?

If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that the ability to adapt gives businesses a huge competitive advantage. As brands continue to digitize themselves, the gap between digital marketing insights and physical marketing assets has shrunk even further; and those organizations that are willing to embrace that shift have found it far easier to adopt technologies from the Internet of Packaging (IoP). Cloud-driven solutions play a huge part in that transition, enabling brands to get a win-win by leveraging their actionable and insightful data in real time through their printers who in turn optimize press times and printer margins with far greater speed for more personalized results.

As a Xeikon Solution Services (XSS) team member, it is my job to identify trends and technologies that will facilitate that shift and understand where they tie into the needs and pain points brands, agencies, and printers are facing today. And to help those frontrunners stay at the forefront, it is my responsibility to alert them to those technologies. The Smart Label is one of these emergent technologies to watch, representing the IoP’s ability to track the lifecycle of a product from its initial manufacture right through to the point of sale. But here is the kicker – Smart Labels offer so much more than simple analytics, connecting businesses with a whole host of forward-thinking capabilities. So, thanks for not joining me in this tech talk, but for peering into the bigger picture alongside.

Why we all need Smart Labels to begin with

Xeikon does not just want to connect customers with the right technology partners and best-in-class innovations; we want to accurately predict where the industry is going and how these innovations can and will benefit brands and their users. From authenticity of identity and track and trace transparency, all the way through to security against counterfeiting and the ‘grey market’, ‘smart’ technologies are making brands and agencies more agile in their marketing.

Authenticity & transparency will be the key differentiators that will make the brands of the future stand out among their peers. Consumers and users can and will hold their chosen brands accountable, and a Smart Label can facilitate that desire, providing access to additional information not available on physical packaging – such as where a product was manufactured, what materials were used and its overall Carbon Footprint. As more brands understand the important of corporate responsibility and ESG values, Smart Labels provide a consistently reliable means of representing that ethical responsibility in the court of public opinion.

How so?

Take the booming growth of legal cannabis production in the pharmaceutical industry. Each individual plant needs to be accounted for. When did it sprout? How long did it take to grow to full bloom? Who processed it and when? How long can the plant be used for? The entire production cycle can be categorized and recorded, from the planting of a seed to purchase by the end user. If implemented correctly and integrated effectively, this data can be revolutionary for brands and their interested customer bases.

But wait, there’s more…

That data goes both ways, too. Digging deeper into the IoP enables brands to leverage the power of consumer insights. The journey of a Smart Label provides the product and brand delivery teams with the raw data they need to calibrate their campaigns, adjusting their marketing to match the buying behaviours at a regional level while considering what has and has not worked so well in the past. That information enhances the overall customer experience, revealing previously unknown pain points in the product’s lifecycle and opportunities to reward loyal customers with benefits and rewards.

The journey of a Smart Label provides the product and brand delivery teams with the raw data they need to calibrate their campaigns, adjusting their marketing to match the buying behaviours at a regional level while considering what has and has not worked so well in the past.

The real-life benefit of Smart Labels for brands

A Smart Label solution leverages the power of the cloud to bring the content and the packaging online. It enables brands to make each package unique (whether it be through an image, a code, a unique number or even a code hidden within a graphical element). These can be scanned by the consumer, who then receives a packet of extra information on the product that could not fit on the physical packaging. Brands can track these products in real time via an integrated workflow and feed this data directly into their marketing and existing packaging strategies.

That label has now bridged the gap between a physical item and a digital source, which only serves to empower customers with further insight and connect them to a brand on a much deeper level that was previously achievable. For brand owners, captured data from the user is uploaded to a central database and used as actionable market intelligence. Our solution has been created in response to a widespread customer desire to produce Smart Labels at a higher volume without sacrificing quality, a natural steppingstone towards a more integrated workflow with the prepress and press printing process.

The real-life benefit of Smart Labels for consumers and supply chains

As I mentioned earlier, the Smart Label offers truly actionable data that will drive the fundamental core of marketing activities. That insight can help organizations evaluate the state of the supply chain, potentially revealing opportunities to reduce that journey and deliver products into the hands of consumers that much faster (and without as much of a Carbon Footprint). It neatly closes the loop on the corporate social responsibility of businesses, enabling consumers to see how their buying habits reflect their own ethical position.

That data has the potential to be (ethically) used in all sorts of ways that benefit the brand and the consumer. Take digital book printing for example. Books are printed with an embedded QR code that links the reader to their latest novel, crowdfunding campaign or simply as a means of contacting them directly through social media. Publishers can use this technology to connect readers to similar authors that share a common genre, or as a means of showcasing authors from a completely different genre that may not have reached that user without such a means of communication. The potential here really is endless.

Brand owners want actionable and useful data to better their marketing and operations. Smart Labels are an ideal way to facilitate that, offering an uncomplicated means of enhancing a label through digital printing and a dynamic, cloud-based workflow. A Smart Label unlocks the door to so much functionality, including the ability to track and trace throughout the supply chain, protection from counterfeit product, improve marketing for better customer retention, and a far more confident line of communication with the customer.

It's not just all about the tech with us, we think along with you on the bigger picture too. Want to make your Labels Smart(er) too?

Here’s where you can (re)watch the recording of the Xeikon Café session we hosted on the topic.

Or contact us today and let us discuss how we can help your marketing activities so your packaging journey can leverage these exciting technologies and use that all important data.