The Rise of Smart Labels: Revolutionizing Product Information

nutrition label

Product labels have long been an essential part of a brand’s success for a wide range of different reasons. Depending on the type of product you’re talking about, there are certain pieces of information that a label is required to contain. Medications need to have a list of active ingredients, food products need to have nutrition information, potentially dangerous products need to identify potential hazards, etc.

Product labels are also essential for providing consumers instructions on how to correctly use a product, for the purposes of regulatory compliance, and for marketing and brand recognition as well. Product labels are printed using various methods; flexography, offset lithography, rotogravure, screen printing, LED UV and digital printing.

As the world around us becomes more digitized all the time, it makes sense that this would eventually find its way to something as seemingly straightforward as product labels. But the rise of smart labels has brought with it more than just a new way to convey important product information to consumers. It’s poised to revolutionize the way brands interact with their target audience in a wide range of different ways, all of which are worth a closer look.

How Do Smart Labels Work?

Smart labels operate in a few different ways depending on exactly which kind you’re talking about, barcodes have been around for awhile, but newer smart codes mostly rely on technologies like RFID, NFC and QR codes among other technologies.

RFID is short for “radio frequency identification.” As the term implies, it uses radio waves to identify people or objects. A secondary device reads information on the label from a distance, without the need to make physical contact. Line of sight isn’t even required, which is what makes this more efficient than a traditional barcode. You simply need to be physically near the smart label to read the information contained on it.

NFC is short for “near field communication.” It’s a technology that has been baked into nearly every smartphone and other mobile device for the last decade or more. Here, small amounts of data can be transmitted between two NFC-compatible devices. It’s largely a way to take RFID technology one step further.

One of the more common examples of NFC technology in action has to do with the wireless payment systems that have become commonplace in recent years. If you have an NFC-enabled credit card and are at a point of sale terminal that accepts wireless payments, you don’t have to insert or swipe your card for a transaction. You just have to place your card near the reader and all relevant information will be transmitted instantly and securely.

Quick Response or QR Codes are two-dimensional barcodes that hold a substantial amount of information, including text, contact details, geo data and URLs. QR codes have been around for several years, but after an initial buzz, their popularity declined because users had to have a special app to interact with a QR code. A few years ago, smartphone manufacturers began selling smart phones with QR code software pre-installed in their cameras, making it easy for every smart phone user to easily interact with QR codes. This made QR codes incredibly popular; today, almost every business uses QR codes to connect and communicate with consumers.

QR codes are quickly becoming the most popular type of emerging smart labels, especially since Amazon began using them to protect brands and consumers from counterfeit products with the Amazon Transparency program. QR codes are easy to make, offer various design options for businesses and they are easy to incorporate into labels, especially if you digitally print custom labels.

The Benefits of Smart Labels: An Overview

From the perspective of consumers, smart labels are beneficial because they help them stay more informed than ever before. As stated, a smart label can contain both all the information required based on the product type and supplementary data that people find useful when making a purchasing decision.

It can go into greater detail about a product’s quality, its safety, its origin, and even its environmental impact in ways that traditional labels do not allow for. This level of increased visibility helps to build trust between consumers and brands, which gives way to a great amount of loyalty as well.

From a logistical sense, smart labels help improve both efficiency and profitability in a few distinct ways. For starters, they have the ability to provide real-time visibility into the location of a product anywhere, at any time. From its position on a shelf in a warehouse to its journey to the distribution center to the eventual consumer, you know where something is at any given moment. This can help identify potential weak spots or inefficiencies in your shipping procedures that may have been costing you money. Those funds can then be funneled into other areas of the business where it can do the most good.

Note that this can also help cut down on issues like fraud and theft as well. If you have total visibility into the movement of an item, you also know immediately when that movement is disrupted for whatever reason.

But even going beyond that, more accurate information into the location of a product equates to more accurate delivery estimates for consumers. People don’t have to wonder where an item is in transit or when it is going to be delivered. They’ll know beyond the shadow of a doubt that efficiency will absolutely reflect positively on your larger brand, increasing the likelihood that they’ll make repeat purchases in the future.

The Future of Product Information and Consumer Experiences

According to one recent study, the total global market size of smart labels was valued at $13.47 billion in 2023. That number is expected to climb to an enormous $28.71 billion between now and 2028, representing an impressive annual growth rate of 16.34%. But it isn’t just the benefits outlined above that are making this possible. It’s also the potential that can be unlocked as smart label technology continues to evolve and become more ubiquitous.

Smart labels are increasingly being used in the food and perishable goods industry to meet strict compliance requirements and to guarantee product safety and quality. The labels themselves can now monitor things like humidity, temperature, and other environmental conditions that could pose a challenge. There are even smart labels that are connected to sensors that show a consumer the temperature of the product inside the packaging to let them know definitively whether it is spoiled before they even reach the point of sale.

Right now, there are startups that use smart labels equipped with blockchain technology to track and verify high-value products like diamonds. These innovative applications will also help both product manufacturers and retailers cut down on the amount of waste that is produced in packaging, further increasing efficiency and saving costs at the same time.

In the end, smart labels accomplish a number of critical things, all at the exact same time. At a base level, they operate in much the same way labels always have: they act as a way for people to identify, understand, and differentiate whatever product they have in front of them.

But thanks to technologies like RFID and NFC, they also have the potential to be so much more than that. They’re an invaluable marketing tool, allowing you to pass along more information than physical space will allow. They’re a way to more accurately track products throughout all points of the supply chain, saving businesses a lot of time and money that can be better used elsewhere.

They can even improve the quality of the experience a brand is creating with its customers. Those interactions don’t have to start once someone has purchased the product. They can formally begin while someone is still standing in a store aisle.

Any one of these advantages on their own would be enough for most businesses to consider smart labels as a true revolution in terms of how we prioritize product information. When you consider that you get all of them at once, it becomes clear that this is one technological advancement that has already more than justified its own existence.If you’d like to find out more information about the rise of smart labels or the major implications that they bring with them, or if you just have any additional questions about or label printing capabilities that you’d like to discuss with someone in more detail, please don’t delay – contact the team at Just 1 Label today.

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