Author: Stephen McSpadden, Product Manager
A chance encounter
It was while sitting poolside at a backpackers’ lodge in Zambia – feet dipped in the water and bucket of beer by my side - that I made the decision to leave the security of my 20-year career in smart cards and take on a new challenge, this time in skincare.
I had met Cutitronics CEO, Dr David Heath, a few times through mutual friends and at various tech conferences, but it was a during an 8,000 mile road-trip that I took the time to decide what I should be doing next professionally. David had previously shared the challenges of the beauty industry and the unequivocal need for tech know-how, I knew that my skills could make a real contribution and it would give me the chance to once more truly “create” something different – something potentially exceptional – and these opportunities are to be seized. The return from my motorcycle adventure seemed the most natural time to make the break, so, while enjoying a new lease of life after a 2-month tour of South Africa & Namibia, I decided to take the plunge.
As Product Manager at Cutitronics, my main goal is to bridge the gap between technical expertise and sales, ensuring that our products meet the need of our clients and that their benefits are described as effectively as possible to our clients. Transferring my knowledge of embedded systems, and embedded security in particular, I consider how we can make our smart packaging even smarter.
An industry in need of a facelift
It only took a few weeks in the role for me to realise just how much the skincare industry was craving a facelift. This is an industry famed for the diversity and sheer volume of options available to the consumer. Despite the rigour of the clinical trials stage, feedback from consumers shows that many do not experience the results promised and “proven” by these trials. I realised how impractical it had been to recreate a clinical setting in consumers’ homes, and how they quickly became disillusioned as they had no way of objectively assessing any improvement in their skin’s condition.
As David had already intimated, it was quickly apparent that the industry was also in desperate need of support for improved regime compliance – and for that, it needed tech. To date, steps taken to innovate in this sector have been driven by chemistry, focusing on formulations and ingredients. Technology has by and large been an afterthought, and not considered central to the development of any skincare organisation. We’ve seen recent advances with the introduction of colour match devices and exfoliation tools, but there is still a long way to go for skincare packaging to become truly smart.
At Cutitronics, we understand the power technology has to revolutionise the industry and are at the frontier of skin-tech innovation. By taking inspiration from pioneers in smart packaging, skincare brands can harness the power of technology to foster new relationships with consumers and build long-term brand loyalty.
Protecting the brand
One of the first pioneers in the field of smart packaging was Nokia. Back in 2004, Nokia implemented hologram technology into the production of its phone batteries to prove the authenticity of its products and combat counterfeit alternatives. This was a revolutionary step forward at the time, adding a new level of brand protection and preventing harm to both brand and consumer.
As an evolution of the hologram, radio-frequency identification (RFID) and, in particular, near-field communication (NFC) technology where nearby devices can connect and authenticate a product is becoming more widely adopted. The drinks industry in particular is starting to awaken to the benefits of such technology to inform consumers and to establish deeper relationships. In some regions, this is due to the negative effects of counterfeit product entering the market with serious health impacts – including deaths.
While these technologies have evolved greatly in recent years, these early examples highlight the extraordinary capabilities of smart packaging to protect the brand and establish authenticity of products. With the introduction of modern sensor systems and related Internet of Things type technology (IoT), smart packaging can create data which is objective, trusted, believed, and ultimately, builds confidence in the consumer.
Protecting the consumer
The most popular smart packaging technique used by brands at present is QR codes. These can be scanned by consumers, connecting them to product details, social media channels and brand information with a click of their smartphone’s camera. This adds an element of interaction between the brand and consumer, providing a more personalised experience and generating loyalty towards the brand.
Importantly, QR codes have become a necessity for many businesses in recent months, as brands quickly diversify to meet the demands of Covid-19. In the hospitality industry in particular, QR codes are being used to connect consumers to menus, payment options and track and trace forms, reducing physical contact and making their venues as Covid-safe as possible.
Bringing smart packaging home
Commercially, Covid-19 has also accelerated the need for brands to find new and innovative ways to communicate with the consumer at home. In the realm of skincare, this has accelerated a shift to considering smart packaging as not only the physical packaging something is delivered in, but as a means to deliver expertise to the consumer at home.
With smart devices incorporating lab-quality sensors, the solution can make tailored decisions based on the information available. This includes assessing the exact amount of product that is needed based on both the surrounding environment and the condition of the skin at that moment. The consumer is informed of exactly the right amount of product for each use and is, therefore, able to achieve better results. They are also provided with an objective, trusted means of assessing their progress.
This adds an entirely new meaning to the application of smart packaging, effectively unburdening the consumer and achieving a superior level of personalisation within the home.
There is a universe of opportunity in smart packaging, and it will only continue to get smarter. By taking inspiration from leaders in the industry and adopting a creative approach, brands can effectively reach their customers in new and innovative ways, building confidence and achieving long-term loyalty.
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