GS1 Spain is the organisation that specialises in automating and standardising supply chain processes and has more than 30,000 member companies. Its director of standards, Pere Rosell, explained at Hispack the possibilities of the QR code, the second two-dimensional code after the launch of Datamatrix. An easily readable element, even in small size, that can contain a large amount of information. The organisation aims to ensure that within five years all codes on packaging elements will be in QR format.
What does QR bring to the table compared to other identification systems such as barcodes?
“The main advantage is to move from 13 digits – basic information – to a system that expands the amount of data that can be collected and offered to unlock additional consumer applications”. Rosell explained: “For example, if the product is out of date, the point of sale will be able to block that product because the QR will raise the alert”.
Indeed, the capacity of QR codes to activate new forms of customer engagement is opening up a field of study for companies. Having demonstrated their full potential for tracking production traceability, QR codes now promise to revolutionise customer relations.
Álex Brossa, director of the Packaging Cluster, detailed the potential hidden in this technology. While at first they were used only in areas such as the supply chain of automotive components, they quickly proved useful in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and tobacco production – where they are key to preventing counterfeiting – and are now used by fashion multinationals such as Mango, “where QR allows them to streamline their omnichannel strategies”, or food retailers, “as QR can include dynamic information connecting the point of sale with the e-Commerce business”.
“The QR code is a key element of smart packaging in addition to other active packaging technologies,” said Brossa. “It is able to communicate information to the outside world, it allows traceability and can talk to the consumer. It applies mainly to higher value-added products such as health and fashion. On a practical level, he explained, it invites consumers to use their smartphones to access online content and better interact with products and the brand.
Among the advantages of the application of QR codes is, for example, their small size, which allows the graphic image of the product to gain prominence on the packaging without having to sacrifice space to include production data. It can also be an essential element in driving operational improvement processes -quality control or predictive planning-, improving authentication and anti-fraud systems; favouring the relationship with the customer by promoting communication spaces that play in favour of brand transparency; contributing to consumer empowerment through greater information, as well as improving relevance and the shopping experience. Areas such as sustainability, where QR codes can play a key role in reused and recycled material metrics, or their potential to streamline increasingly volatile global supply chains, have yet to be explored.
The value of technology is that it is available to large multinationals, but also to small and medium-sized enterprises. According to the IMF, 74% of consumers say they would switch to a brand that provides more detailed information about the product than what appears on the label. In the same vein, research from consultancy Invesp confirms that companies with omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to a customer retention rate of 33% for companies with weak strategies. QR is a great ally for this objective, and GS1 is already working to ensure that no Spanish company is left behind.
Constanza Saavedra, Hispack partner