What will shape the future in packaging?
As the demand for variable data printing increases and the quality of digital printing improves, the world of packaging will be directly impacted by these changes. Packaging printers and brand owners who attended the Marketing Trends and Packaging Innovation Seminar on February 28 hosted by Xerox discussed the potential opportunities of digital print in packaging. The day featured three speakers with expertise on the topic of digital print packaging: Paul Smith, VP of the Xerox Innovation Group; Barbara Pellow, Group Director at InfoTrends; and Simon Healy, President & CEO of Mediaware Global Services. Expect to see shorter packaging run lengths with an emphasis on personalization as a key marketing tool. Packaging will not only be a form of art to enhance the product on shelf, but also seamlessly integrate with technology to enhance its value to the end user.
Making Personalization Ubiquitous
Paul Smith of Xerox emphasized that making personalization ubiquitous is a key area of research for the future. Xerox has already taken initiatives towards this marketing trend with the Xerox iGen3/iGen4 digital presses, which can easily add on stacker liners, inline coaters and die cutters. As a result, the presses are able to efficiently deliver short-run packages, from a thousand copies to a single, personalized box. There are also solutions to make the technology accessible to smaller shops such as pre-diecut sheets that can be used along with digital templates, requiring only hand finishing. Customization along with reducing run lengths has many potential benefits to the clients, including one most attractive, the reduction of obsolescent packages.
Marketing Trends in Packaging
Barbara Pellow of InfoTrends discussed the top ten market trends that will have a digital impact on the packaging industry. Pellow stated 70% of purchasing decisions are made in-store, 68% of which are made on impulse. Using available technology, consumers will be able to “cut through the clutter” and experience a new level of interaction and engagement with packaging. Below are some fascinating trends expected for the future.
Customization, Personalization and Versioning
The demand for customization to better target markets and personalized packages for events will become increasingly popular as brand owners become familiarized with short-run packaging and variable printing. Pellow used the example of a fully customized chocolate box, allowing the user to choose the size and colour of the box, types of chocolates included, personal message and image used on the box for added personalization. Not only can this product be profitable, but also the package has a whole new meaning to the customer. Versioning of product packaging will also be more evident in stores to maximize marketability and better align with shorter shelf-life expectancies. Likewise, integrating variable data printing with direct mailing campaigns can also further add customer value.
Intelligent Packaging & Printed Electronics
Intelligent packaging is not new to the market, but it will become more prevalent once its use in the pharmaceutical industry is available to the public. The labs at the XRCC have been focusing research and development on printed electronics and integrating it with intelligent packaging. A printing head will produce the thin lines of the antennas, only 60 microns thick, which will be the key to printed electronics and packaging. Imagine being able to electronically track when and how much medication should be consumed, and have this information signaled as a reminder to a phone or trigger a light on the package. The package could even serve as a trigger to order more medication at the pharmacy. There are many applications of smart packaging, some already in use. In future, appliances such as refrigerators will be able to monitor how much content is left inside the package and automatically signal stores to replenish the product and deliver it to the consumer.
QR Codes and NFC
For a brand to increase its multi-channel communications, it would benefit from adding a QR code on the package or embedding a near field communication (NFC) tag into the package. Not only does it instantly become a “smart package”, but further supports any online marketing campaigns the company may have, whether it is a contest, survey, game or promotion. Pellow suggested that all marketing strategies should consider making it interoperable with cell phones, because it is the key tool used in the present and future. According to InfoTrends, nearly 40% of surveyed companies design packages that support online marketing, with 20.6% planning on starting within the next year.
Lastly, augmented reality is a relatively new area being explored in print and packaging. Printed markers are detected by a cell phone camera to “merge the physical and virtual world” said Pellow. A new experience is brought to life between consumer and package. In the future, Pellow predicts, more games using augmented reality will be printed on the back of cereal boxes and other packages. Existing today are kiosks inside Lego stores which allow the consumer to hold a product up to a screen to show a simulation of what is inside the box. The future for packaging and augmented reality is dynamic, different, and the possibilities are endless.
How does this all work in real terms?
To put everything into context, Simon Healy of Mediaware Global Services (MGS) flew in from Ireland and spoke about the value digital packaging has created for his company. “MGS operates the only fully automated digital packaging system in the world, and our process fully embraces zero inventory and just-in-time core principles,” said Healy. MGS operates the Xerox iGen 4 and add-ons including Kama Die Cutter, EPIC Coater, enabling them to create a box in just 45 seconds. After installing the Xerox’s automated packaging solution, a job that took weeks to produce decreased to only days and even hours. Mediaware is well known for printing of the Microsoft Windows 7 packaging in Europe, where versioning due to the many languages and just-in-time are key to success.
Healy remarked about the significant change in packaging software over the years, from printing and packaging a CD inside a box to printing a simple fold-over, similar to self-mailers, with a code inside that activates as a link to the software. Through the use of VDP, MGS has also integrated product versioning, QR codes, and varying promotions to regionalize, personalize or promote weekly specials or events on their packaging and printed advertisements, which have greatly increased marketing opportunities.
The day was filled with many useful facts and ideas for the future applications of digital technology in packaging. Although the market is still new, there is no arguing that this is a niche that is likely to see steady growth.