How to augment your smart packaging with digital links

How to augment your smart packaging with digital links
The evolution of traditional product packaging into smart packaging is at a tipping point, with businesses looking for the most accurate item tracking to streamline their supply chain and increase traceability and consumers who require transparency and in-depth product visibility to become the norm. This guide explains how to use digital link QR codes to bring smart packaging to the next level, providing brands, retailers, end users, and all stakeholders with the necessary information and interaction opportunities. The easy way.

Table of Contents

What is smart packaging, and what have digital links got to do with it?

Smart packaging (also active packaging or intelligent packaging) is product packaging whose features are enhanced and expanded with the help of technology (from QR codes to sensors, tags, and other innovative systems).

Smart-packaged items can react to the environment, communicate with external devices or other items, and connect with the web to become part of the Internet of Things. The ongoing transition from traditional packaging to smart packaging is part of the broader process of digital transformation.

What is smart packaging and what have digital links got to do with it

As more and more enterprises worldwide and across all sectors are reshaping their supply chain strategies entirely in the aftermath of the disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic to make them more resilient, sustainable, and open (as shown by recent research by Ernst & Young), smart packaging solutions are poised to become the new standard pretty soon.

Because smart packaging allows brands to track items at a granular level “from the cradle to the grave,” monitor and manage inventory and logistics much more efficiently, share product information with stakeholders easily, and collect a wealth of real-time actionable data in the process.

But sensors – not to mention chips with wi-fi capabilities – can be pricey, especially for low-margin product manufacturers. So adding, let’s say, a GPS tracker to a pack of sugar is not precisely cost-effective.

Enter the digital link QR code.

Digital link QR codes are the most affordable and flexible way to bring products online and create digital twins of items. By combining well-established product identifiers (like GTIN) with URLs, digital link QR codes enable two-way communication between the physical product and its virtual version.

This way, any actor in the supply chain – including consumers and end users – can retrieve the info they need and interact with the product with their smartphones, a dedicated app, or a scanning device. At the same time, all events are recorded, and the item status is updated centrally.

All this simply by printing a QR code on the product packaging, making it more intelligent – and more beautiful and tidy. Yes, because a single digital link QR code can redirect visitors to different platforms and types of content (professional, legal, marketing-oriented, etc.) depending on specific criteria set by the brand.

All this simply by printing a QR Code on the product packaging,

So, there’s no need to have multiple QRs, Datamatrix, and other codes on your packaging if you use digital link QR codes. And soon, you’ll be able to get rid of EAN codes, too, since digital link QR codes will be the standard for POS checkouts by the end of 2027. A lot of packaging real estate becomes available for design and branding again.

The potential of smart packaging with digital links is immense, and the applications are countless. Here below are a few examples of to what extent critical business functions can be improved by digital links – but get back here now and then because this guide is constantly updated!

Improve supply chain traceability with digital link-enabled packaging

Smart packaging with digital link QR codes enables real-time, granular tracking of items throughout the whole supply chain. Individual products can be followed from production to handling and distribution, retail, and also in the after-sale stage.

Every new piece of information collected with a scan of the QR code is synced online, adding to a complete, dynamic, and updated view of the item.

Improve supply chain traceability with digital link-enabled packaging

This is crucial to enhance traceability and transparency with several benefits for manufacturers (that can quickly identify issues and take immediate corrective actions), business partners, service providers, and consumers.

  • In addition to that, creating “living” digital twins of products makes it possible to:
  • Radically improve inventory management
  • reduce waste and related costs
  • track order fulfillment better
  • manage product recalls more effectively
  • Implement fraud prevention measures

Simplify compliance with packaging regulations through digital links

New and more demanding requirements for environmental labeling and product information are being enforced globally. The new packaging regulations in France and Italy, the wine label reform in Europe, the FDA Nutrition Facts Label in the U.S., and the upcoming EU Digital Product Passport are just the tip of the iceberg.

Simplify compliance with packaging regulations through digital links

Digital link QR codes provide a safe and ready-to-use solution to comply with multiple laws without additional data carriers. The best thing, actually, is that global compliance can be achieved through the same code that tracks the product’s progress in the supply chain, collects consumers’ insights, and triggers marketing actions.

In a way, it seems that the term “smart packaging” itself was invented for digital link QR codes…

In practice, all you need to do is connect different online resources to the same digital link QR code – something that can be done easily with our product page editor.

When read by consumers with smartphones, the QR will present them with a link-in-bio type of page with basic info and links to quickly access all mandatory information. With our digital link platform, you can also populate these product pages automatically by inserting the product’s GTIN and then editing them for maximum security.

Digital link QR codes can also be instructed to show context-based content according to variables such as location, time of the day, type of device used to scan the QR, and many more.

So, for instance, someone in the UK reading a digital link QR on an olive oil bottle will be shown different info and links than someone else in India or in the U.S.

Engage consumers better through digital link QR codes

QR codes, in general, have been serving next-level customer experiences for at least a decade now. From instant rewards to video tutorials, dematerialized manuals, and the ubiquitous digital menus at restaurants and bars, QRs have become, in so many ways, the norm in brand-consumer interaction and unmediated relations.

So much so that Coca-Cola, to make an example, is deploying a 3-year plan to insert QR codes on all their products. QRs, said the company’s global chief marketing officer Manolo Arroyo, are the most underexploited media vehicle around.

Sumathi Manjunath, VP of Design to Delivery Digital Transformation at Danone, echoes Arroyo, saying that QR technology has rarely been leveraged to its full potential so far. There are plenty of business opportunities that still need to be unlocked through the advanced use of QR codes.

The added value of digital link QR codes is that the same code, always at hand on the product packaging, can provide access to a multitude of marketing-relevant experiences, from joining loyalty programs to connecting on social platforms, participating in competitions, uploading user-generated content, subscribing to automated replenishment services, making direct purchases on brand-owned shopping platforms, and many, many more.

Engage consumers better through digital link QR Codes

What’s particularly exciting for marketers is that information and content influencing shopping behavior can be made available on the fly and directly off the shelves right when the purchase intent is about to turn into an actual transaction: at the point of sale.

Smart packaging with digital link QR codes transforms products into the most effective branded channel.

Unlock real-world analytics and otherworldly marketing with digital links

As we have mentioned above, when discussing the impact of smart packaging on the supply chain, digital links allow brands to follow their products even after an end-user has purchased them.

How many times a product has been interacted with in stores? Which information has been visited? How much time did consumers spend reading this page or watching that video? And where? By what types of buyer personas?

Extended product lifecycle data like these can be collected with the help of digital link QR codes, expanding an item’s story with all sorts of additional dimensions and valuable consumer insights.

Basically, any item on the market becomes a data point for next-gen business intelligence. Big data you say? The future is HUGE data.

And product tracking doesn’t stop at POS. QR code scans that happen at home or, in any case, after the purchase can be captured, provided that effective call-to-actions and engaging content and mechanics are implemented. This knowledge further enriches a brand’s view of its customers’ product usage. And may also inspire new circular business models.

In a scenario like this, it’s easy to imagine several context-based situations where specific content or tailored campaigns are triggered by date, time, location, language, behavior, weather, etc.

Easily authenticate items and fight counterfeiting with digital links

Counterfeit products are a major problem for companies around the world, costing them billions of dollars in lost revenue every year while disrupting brand reputation and customer trust.

While fake items are typically associated with apparel and accessories and luxury items at large, counterfeiting also affects pharmaceutical products, food – and early nutrition in particular – and consumer electronics, to name just a few.

Easily authenticate items and fight counterfeiting with digital links

Digital link QR codes help brands fight counterfeiting by providing a quick and easy way to verify a product’s authenticity by connecting the actual item to its unique digital twin.

Like any other actor in the value chain, consumers can access with a simple scan all the information they need about any given product, including its source of origin, manufacturing date, expiration date, etc., which helps them determine whether or not it is authentic.

If there is ever an authenticity issue with a particular batch of products, companies can quickly and easily pinpoint exactly where those products originated from and who sold them.

This makes it easier for them to identify potential troubles before they become significant problems and helps them take action faster when necessary.

Finally, smart packaging with digital links makes it easier for manufacturers to share product information with their customers to build trust and loyalty. Digital link QR codes can provide detailed product descriptions, images, videos, customer reviews, etc., which gives customers more confidence in their purchases and encourages repeat business.

Make smart packaging more accessible with digital links

There are more and more requests for improving access to product information for blind and visually impaired people. Because accessible packaging nowadays is not just the packaging that is easier to open. It’s packaging that is actually smart.

Disabled persons – but also senior citizens – have the same right as anybody else to access nutrition facts and lists of ingredients, disposal instructions, and any other detail that might help them make more informed purchase decisions. Not to mention product recalls critical warnings for hazardous materials or allergen disclaimers.

Digital link QR codes can provide barrier-free content by implementing audio-narrating labels. When read by devices set for visually impaired users or with dedicated mobile apps, the QRs can directly switch to the audio version of the information.

Make smart packaging more accessible with digital links

Pairing digital link QR codes with tactile markers that help users locate the code on the product might be the more straightforward and sustainable solution to remove barriers and include more people, establish a strong relationship with a key audience (there are around 40 million blind people worldwide, and almost 250 million people with moderate-to-severe visual impairment), and get prepared for accessibility requirements that may soon become mandatory.

Connect products with smart home systems via digital link QR codes

Finally, here are a few words about a use case for smart packaging with digital links that is set to become a real game changer in the near future.

Household penetration of some form of home automation (smart appliances, virtual assistants, enhanced security systems, etc.) is projected to reach almost 30% worldwide by 2027, with global revenues of more than $200 billion.

Tapping into this fast-growing market might be the most promising opportunity for product manufacturers, but how?

Connect products with smart home systems via digital link QR Codes

Imagine that, by simply scanning a digital link QR code on a piece of cheese with the built-in camera of a smart fridge (or with a mobile app), all information about that dairy product was shared with the home automation ecosystem and automagically setting expiration date alerts, suggesting recipes, adding it to the weekly menus, instructing about proper storage, and so on. Well, it’s reality.

And this does not apply only to food. Any item, from printers to pieces of clothing, can be activated and connected to the larger smart home environment with the help of digital link QR codes. The business opportunities are endless.

So, are you eager to use digital links to improve your packaging and make it smart? Get in touch with our experts at to get started fast.


Be a leader in the transition from barcodes to digital links

Be a leader in the transition from barcodes to digital links