May 26, 2022 

Popular Uses of QR Codes On Packaging

Scanning QR codes on packaging

From TV commercials to restaurant tables, QR codes have become increasingly more visible recently. QR codes are a type of data matrix (i.e. a two-dimensional barcode) that date back to the mid-1990s when they were first developed by the Japanese automotive company, Denso Wave. The company’s goal in developing the QR code was to create a new type of barcode that could hold significantly more information than conventional barcodes (e.g. UPC and GS1-128 codes) can. Denso Wave achieved this goal by adding a second data-containing dimension to the barcode design. This second dimension gives the QR code the ability to communicate far more information to scanners as compared to traditional 1D barcodes. 

Although the QR code itself was created decades ago, it wasn’t until the last ten years or so that this digital technology started to reach its true potential. Thanks to the widespread availability of smartphones, consumers were suddenly able to scan any QR code that came their way. Then, when COVID-19 spread across the globe, businesses and governments at large embraced the QR code as a digital replacement for physical items like:

  • Restaurant menus.
  • Advertising flyers.
  • Health forms.
  • Maps.
  • Instruction guides.

In addition to these purposes, many industries have begun placing QR codes on the packaging of their products, citing reasons such as product authentication and promotional opportunities. 

Below, we take an in-depth look at some of the most popular uses of QR codes on packaging.

Why Do Companies Use QR Codes on Packaging?

Often referred to as “smart packaging,” QR code-branded product packaging offers several unique avenues for companies to communicate with their customers. Read below for some of the most high-profile examples.

Product Authentication 

For as long as there have been specialty, name-brand products, there have been counterfeiters looking to make a profit by selling fraudulent copies. However, counterfeiting has been on the rise over the last few decades and has fully exploded in recent years.

 To quote Dr. Robert Handfield of North Carolina State University:

“Counterfeiting has grown from a $30B trade problem in the 1980s, and now exceeds $600B in trade. Trade data trends suggest that this number could soon rise to over $1.8 trillion, which is more than the gross domestic product of most countries. 

The explosion of e-commerce during COVID has also created a picture-perfect market channel for counterfeit goods, as it is easy to shut down a website selling these products at the request of Amazon or Alibaba, and open up another one the next day.”

From designer handbags, llimited-edition sneakers, vinyl records, consumer electronics, and even condiments such as honey and ketchup, counterfeit products threaten to siphon profits and lower the reputations of companies in all industries.

To thwart counterfeiters and bolster consumer confidence, many companies have begun placing serialized QR codes on their products to prove authenticity. When consumers scan these codes with their smartphones, they are provided with proof that they purchased an authentic product. 

Moreover, if a counterfeiter attempts to copy a unique serialized QR code and place it on a bunk product, the original manufacturer will be alerted to the fact that a unique code has been scanned hundreds of times. This allows brands to pinpoint counterfeit products and effectively “blacklist” the code to signal to distributors and consumers alike that the product is fake. 

Personalized Client Interactions

Beyond brand protection, QR codes also enable a deeper level of communication between companies and consumers. For example, we can look at the business dealings of Markem-Imaje’s latest company acquisition, Blue Bite.

Blue Bite’s mission is to provide its clients with a greater ability to connect with customers via QR code-powered digital experiences. While this may sound complicated or abstract in writing, we can see how this works in practice by looking at two of Blue Bite’s published case studies:

  1. Redken: For years, haircare company Redken has been placing QR codes on product packaging to provide consumers with personalized information on how to use certain products in conjunction with one another for the perfect hair routine. Not only does this content improve the customer experience, but it also ties into Redkin’s larger product line for cross-promotion.
  2. Adidas: When Adidas launched its Speedfactory AM4 sneaker line, the company placed QR code stickers into its shoeboxes. When scanned, these QR codes provided users with information on the specialty process used to manufacture the shoe as well as the reasoning behind the shoe’s unique design. As a result, customers gained a better understanding of the product and were provided with insight into the company’s plans for future releases.

Promotional Opportunities

An example of QR codes on packaging.

One of the biggest reasons why QR codes are so popular is that they provide a convenient way to promote deals to consumers. On TV commercials and flyers, for instance, companies can use QR codes to provide a quick purchase path for their customers or to promote special offers. When placed on product packaging, QR codes can continue to play this role more directly. 

To use another Blue Bite example, coconut water company Vita Coco places QR codes on its beverages to both:

  1. Incentivize in-store purchases with money-back guarantees. 
  2. Provide repeat customers with coupons and trial offers to cement brand loyalty.

This same QR code approach can be used for a variety of products, including food items, electronics, clothing, and more. Further, the continual digital interaction between consumers and products enables companies to gather valuable first-party data and gain a better understanding of customer interest.

Want to learn more about the different ways to use QR codes on packaging? Stay connected to C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter. With information on hardware, formulas, and other important marking topics, our newsletter will keep you updated on the latest industry developments. To get in touch with us about possible collaborations or ideas for coverage, contact us today.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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