Perhaps a strange title for someone who builds a platform for Connected Products, but it is a truth that we need to address. If I buy a chocolate bar, it’s because I want to eat a chocolate bar; if I buy a pair of jeans, it’s because I want a pair of jeans to wear; and the same can be said for any connected product. I’m buying the product for its primary purpose and to satisfy a need – my need – not to scan the product item’s QR code (or whatever connection method is being used).
So why create connected products if no-one really wants them?
Well it is the same as any marketing channel. No-one wants you to send them marketing emails. No-one wants to read your adverts on bus shelters or billboards. No-one wants to see your web adverts. But what if you can flip this scenario? Create a pull for information from your consumers. What if you can use connected packaging to deliver so much added value – on top of the physical product item – that consumers demand connected products from brands?
Connected products allow brands to engage consumers through the thoughtful and imaginative placement of content. With connected products, brands can tip the value exchange in the consumer’s favor. Once engaged, the door is open for a dynamic exchange of content and valuable information that extends well beyond the point-of-purchase.
What value exchange is enough?
This will depend on your customers, your product and your brand, but there will be a number of factors at play: how clear is the call to action; what is the benefit to the consumer; how easy is it for the consumer to engage; how much trust does the customer put in your brand; what is the customer’s previous experience with connected products; and what is the benefit perceived from the effort of scanning?
Let’s break these points down a little:
- Call to action
The call to action on a product must be very clear. Brands can’t assume consumers will know how to interact with a code on a product. In addition to being highly visible, the ‘how to scan’ and ‘why scan’ must be clear. In the case of covert symbology, the importance of clarity is even more critical. Whether covert or overt, consumers must perceive high value and a clear need to scan a product. Time is valuable. People move fast. Without a clear need or benefit attached to the content received, products won’t get scanned.
- Ease of engagement
We are all lazy creatures so brands need to make connecting with their products as obvious and effortless as possible. This is why QR codes are so popular for consumer engagement. Consumers simply scan the QR code on the product’s label/tag with their smartphone (no app required) to receive valuable product information and personalized experiences. Brands receive valuable (and consensual) real-time data intelligence to drive future sales and marketing strategies.
- Trust in your brand and previous experiences
We all know that brands are constantly collecting information from consumers which plays into the decision of whether to scan a product or not. Equally important is previous experiences. If I’ve scanned a brand’s product previously, and simply landed on a generic web page without any added value, then it’s unlikely I’ll scan any of the brand’s products again.
- Perceived benefit
So if the brand passes all of the considerations above, the final qualifier in determining whether a consumer will actually scan a product is in the value of the information or content promised in return for the scan. The content can vary depending upon the target audience and/or type of product. For instance: a chance to win a prize, a giveaway, product provenance/transparency details, proof of authentication, or access to a brand loyalty program. With connected products and a dedicated platform, brands are limited only by the reach of their imagination.
How do we drive connected product engagement?
As you can see from the above, a connected product strategy doesn’t happen in isolation. It isn’t a one time project, it is a strategy that benefits from ongoing consumer engagement; a strategy that will benefit from the cumulative impact of a brand’s full marketing mix.
Thinking about connected products as a new channel rather than an isolated, one-off marketing campaign gives a totally different perspective on both the opportunity and overall value of connected products. This is a direct to consumer channel that doesn’t rely on any intermediaries. Data captured is fully-owned by the brand. There is no need to worry about competing with other brands or paying another company for access to first-party data about customers. And as an added bonus, brands no longer need to worry about ever-changing third-party cookie regulations!
And because connected products create a direct channel to consumers, brands can start to build the type of genuine and rich relationships that just haven’t been possible in the past. This is a channel worthy of investment – time, energy and resources – and as it takes on more capital, you can become less reliant on those third party channels.
How far can I push this?
Investments in engagement campaigns are very high. TV adverts, billboard locations, adwords are all increasingly expensive and crowded – not to mention they are one time costs with little to no recurring benefit. Using connected products as a direct to consumer channel creates an ‘always on’ doorway at no additional cost. Brands that are redirecting marketing dollars to fully embrace product digitization and connected packaging technologies are leading in the market. For example, some brands are investing in digital printers to create packaging in-house, to reduce the time to market and the cost of pack redesigns, while keeping the ‘call to action’ on packaging fresh and engaging. With the right connected product platform, brands can manage increasingly engaging campaigns across multiple products (and brands, where relevant), learning more about customers and what works through tried and true methods like A/B testing.
Is it worth the effort to build a new channel?
Overwhelmingly yes! This could be the richest channel for direct consumer engagement a brand can own, and one where the consumer initiates the contact while holding the product in hand. What more could a brand ask for? Through a connected product channel strategy brands can build a relationship with customers based on a different dynamic – offering unprecedented transparency, delivering dynamic personalized experiences and creating value.
So what’s the takeaway?
No-one wants to scan your connected products, but brands are changing this dynamic by delivering personalized experience and valuable content to consumers using products as a direct-to-consumer marketing channel. As shared throughout this blog, the key to widespread adoption of connected products is doing it right. Brands must leverage technology that removes barriers to consumer engagement; create a cross-channel marketing strategy to drive adoption; make content engaging and valuable; and approach connected products as a business strategy, not a one-off marketing tactic.
What are your thoughts on connected products and the opportunity to create closer customer relationships? I’d love to hear your opinions. Will you be embracing connected products? If not, why?