As consumer retail packaging becomes increasingly sophisticated, retail marketers are leveraging technology to create new ways for consumers to engage with products, their packaging, and retail brands themselves. Smart packaging leverages technology to enhance the functionality of retail packaging. Connected packaging, a sub-category of smart retail packaging, connects products and packaging to exclusive digital content.
How does connected packaging work? There are several ways to create a connected packaging application that connects customers to a digital world. In the case of conductive ink, a conductive ink code is printed on or within the product package, hidden under or in the graphic inks. Customers can activate the conductive ink by touching the pack or product to their mobile device while they’re holding it. This ignites the conductive ink and unlocks digital content on a website or mobile app.
Conductive ink is cost-effective and easy to integrate into the supply chain. It is invisible to consumers, creates zero electronic waste, and is food grade safe. These specific characteristics make conductive ink an ideal choice for smart retail packaging that needs to be reasonably priced, fairly simple to implement, environmentally friendly, and made of safe materials.
Conductive ink is still just an ink, so when printed, it will cost fractions of a cent to apply to products. In cases where the package itself isn’t of value, but the product inside is, using low-cost printed electronics like conductive ink to create additional functionality adds value to the packaging, with no changes to the product itself. And in cases where the product is inexpensive, conductive ink’s low cost and easy implementation makes it an obvious choice for connected packaging.
For example, Gormiti enhanced its trading cards with Touchcode, a type of conductive ink technology designed for connected packaging applications. Customers could scan the code on each trading card with a mobile device to unlock special features, like video trailers, 3D animations, and collectible items.
Using an optical smart packaging technology for that type of project would create exorbitant data processing costs, not to mention the required per-item cost of applying an NFC tag to thousands of characters or trading cards, so conductive ink was an appropriate choice.
Conductive ink can be printed using common mass printing methods, available at most all print facilities today. Only one extra print layer is required to apply Touchcode on a package or insert: The conductive ink needs to be printed on the first layer. After applying that conductive layer, the rest of the standard print process can continue as usual. Touchcode can be printed on the A side of a product and hidden underneath the graphics; printed on the B side of the package and hidden within the package; laminated between substrates; or even applied as a label.
Conductive ink is invisible, or hidden under your graphics, so it doesn’t interfere with your product or package’s graphic design. This also makes it an option for anti-counterfeiting or product authentication use cases.
For example, Smashbox Cosmetics embedded Touchcode’s conductive ink on a card that was included in its eyeshadow packaging. The code was invisible, so it didn’t interfere with the graphic design or copy on the card. Customers could touch their card to the mobile device to watch exclusive video makeup tutorials and get professional makeup tips.
Conductive ink has no electronic components; it’s all ink-based. Therefore, it is fully recyclable, creating no electronic waste. Connected and interactive packaging can be recyclable packaging if conductive ink is used, so retail marketers hoping to associate their product with sustainability, safety, and health often select conductive ink as their smart packaging technology solution.
Software company SAP chose to use Touchcode for an environmental promotion: At a marketing event, SAP handed out 100% fair trade chocolate to clients, with attached cards that were printed with Touchcode conductive ink. When clients touched their mobile devices to the cards, they were taken to a website where they could click to save one square meter of forest in Panama. SAP’s choice to use a sustainable smart packaging technology for its sustainability promotion was important to its brand identity.
Other potential use cases for all-natural or environmentally friendly products could include tear-away packaging embedded with seeds. Consumers could plant the seed-infused packaging and touch their mobile device to a conductive ink code printed on the packaging to visit a website or app for information on the types of seeds they’ve planted, how to care for them, and how the plants benefit the Earth.
Sustainable fashion brands could do something similar with their hangtags. Conductive ink on the hangtags could lead customers to information about the natural materials used in the clothing, the brand’s environmental practices, or the types of trees they plant for every T-shirt purchased. Environmental initiatives like this add value for customers and reinforce brand identity.
Because conductive ink is food grade safe, it can be used in connected food packaging and children’s products.
For example, McDonald’s printed conductive ink as an open circuit on over three million Happy Meal tray liners and Happy Meal boxes. The boxes could be used as board games that interacted with the Happy Meal toys.
Touchcode conductive ink has been used in educational products for children, like Little Musician. Little Musician music cards can be touched to the screen of an iPad or iPad mini to bring the Little Musician music app to life for children.
Conductive ink is an ideal choice for smart retail packaging because of its price point; seamless integration into existing supply chains; invisibility; sustainability; and safety. Brands that want to implement a smart packaging technology easily and at low cost; print conductive ink that can’t be seen by customers or counterfeiters; and who care about sustainability and safety all choose conductive ink solutions like Touchcode for their connected packaging.
Ready to learn more about how Touchcode conductive ink could be the right fit for your smart retail packaging? Contact us today.