James Gray

November 13 2018

QR QR codes vision

I guess it was about a year ago that I noticed that the small print on food packaging was getting a little hard to read. At first squinting and concentrating extra hard solved the problem. I then became "that guy" in restaurants who needed the flashlight on his mobile phone to decipher the menu. More recently, I resorted to taking pictures of small text on medicine bottles and zooming in on the image to figure out dosing instructions and the pharmacy telephone number when I needed to order a refill. It was sometime after I started doing all of these things that I used to laugh at my parents for, that I realized I needed glasses. I mean I had pretty much known I needed glasses for some time, but my ego kept me holding on to the prospect that my difficulties were only temporary and would correct themselves.

Along my path to glasses, I realized just how useful it would be for manufacturers to make the information they provide on their packaging available digitally via a quick scan of a QR Code for those who have trouble reading the labels which contain critical product information. But making content traditionally confined to the product packaging available in a digital format also makes sense for so many other reasons. With over 77% of US citizens now using smartphones and doing more and more with them everyday, it seems the traditional view of product labels is grossly outdated. Connecting a physical product to a digital experience that can include text, image, video, and audio content is a wonderful opportunity to go beyond the legally required or bare necessity of content and to start forming a relationship with consumers. If I am unfamiliar with your product, accessing videos or pictures that show how it works and how people use it might persuade me to buy it. Offer me a coupon or make a service rep available who can answer my questions and I'll be overly impressed. As has been widely reported, retailers are fighting extremely hard to stay relevant if not solvent in the age of e-commerce and have found that using technology to make shopping easier, quicker and themselves more valuable to consumers is the key to success. One could argue that product manufacturers should follow this trend. As discussed here with just a couple of ideas, manufacturers can use technology to drive value and sales regardless of the product's location or sales channel. The trick is, they need to start looking at their packaging as an opportunity rather than just a physical necessity. Steve Jobs led the way with this. He obsessed over the packaging of his products and made the design of each package a critical piece of his overall product development and marketing strategies. In his mind, he wasn't selling products, he was giving customers an experience. But while Apple's packaging is absolutely beautiful and makes the opening and setup of its products a welcoming experience, it doesn't take the extra step we're talking about here, that oddly enough has been made possible by the introduction and extraordinary growth of the iPhone. The ability to link customers to product-specific digital experiences directly from physical items simply by adding a QR Code to the packaging is available for the taking. The only question now is: Who has the vision to take the lead?