Forget barcodes, it’s all about the smart labels now

Smart labels — or QR codes — are a great way for consumers to learn more about a company and an even better way for companies to find out about consumers.

Smart labels are not a new technology, but they are certainly becoming ever more prevalent and relevant than in years past. They are mostly found on consumer products (business-to-consumer or B2C) but are slowly making their way into business-to-business (B2B) industries, including the cleaning industry. This means that very soon, we will likely see smart labels on commercial cleaning equipment and products, such as vacuum cleaners, floor machines, carpet extractors, cleaning solutions and more.

Smart labels are digital disclosure tools that allow consumers to access more detailed product information than can fit on a traditional label. It offers real-time data for various products, such as food or beverages, but there is much more to smart labels than this. 

For instance, if a smart label is on a food item, by scanning it with a smartphone, consumers can access:

  • More information about the ingredients in the food item.
  • Additional nutritional information about the product.
  • Information about companies and manufacturers including voice recordings and videos.
  • Recipes.
  • Real-time updates on regulations and guidelines about the food item.

In other words, they provide much more information about a product than could ever be stored on a traditional packaging label, building trust with customers by demonstrating transparency and, in so doing, helping the manufacturer market the product.

This last point is important — smart labels can be great for market research. By analysing user interactions with smart labels, companies can gather valuable insights into consumer preferences and concerns regarding their products. This data helps the company develop future products and marketing strategies and tailor their offerings to meet evolving demands.

Smart labels are not only a new way to provide information about products but also a way to connect with end customers and adapt to their needs and preferences.

Smart labels also have other features and benefits, including the following:

  • Smart labels do not require light or a direct line of vision for the scanner to read them, unlike barcodes.
  • Scanners can read many smart labels simultaneously, streamlining efficiency.
  • They help track products in transport and provide necessary information for manufacturers and distributors to help avoid stockouts.
  •  They can foster more efficient communication between retailers, distributors, and manufacturers.
  • They allow products to be monitored at each production stage.
  • Smart labels can provide lot tracking back to the product’s origin and date of manufacture.

There are many reasons smart labels may be beneficial for the professional cleaning industry. These include:

  • Market transparency. Shoppers value transparency when buying products online or in-store. This trend will also affect the B2B market, as purchasers expect more information, greater transparency and accountability from cleaning manufacturers and suppliers, enhancing the company’s reputation and trustworthiness.
  • Customer education. Smart labels can educate customers about how to use, maintain, and troubleshoot the products they buy. For example, a cleaning equipment manufacturer can include training and troubleshooting videos, just as you might find on YouTube, as well as use instructions and manuals about the product.
  • Customer engagement. Smart labels can also help foster interactivity between manufacturers and their customers. They can do this by offering “chat” services, offering the user 24/7 help, all included in the smart label.
  • Gather information. As mentioned earlier, manufacturers can use smart labels to collect end-customer behaviour, preferences, and feedback data. This way, they can tailor their future products, services, and marketing strategies. They can also deliver product incentives, promotions, and even rewards for loyalty to their end customers.

We should view smart labels like an app. They store and arrange for different kinds of information, in various formats, to be shared with manufacturers, retailers, and end customers. They can also improve brand loyalty. But smart labels are only as good as the company that makes them. If the label has a flaw in its design or production, it may lose some, if not all, of the features and benefits we have discussed. As with all purchases, due diligence is necessary before selecting a smart label manufacturer.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.

Article by Kevin Florence. Kevin is president and CEO of General Paper Goods Company and GENflex in the US. He and his brother Jeffrey are owners of the 92-year-old family-owned business. You can contact him through his company website at

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