Smart Packaging : From QR codes to invisible watermarks

According to recent studies, 90% of American consumers want faster checkouts, and globally consumers expect more rapid check out systems. Select retailers have rolled out self-checkout kiosks and express lines but at the root of the problem is the amount of time it takes to scan an item. In order to fix this issue, top companies are replacing QR codes with invisible watermarks.

What are QR codes?

Before barcodes, cashiers had to enter the prices of items into the register manually — this process was monotonous, inefficient and prone to error. The introduction of barcodes has helped streamline point of sale operations for stores around the world. However, since the first emergence of the barcode in Japan in 1960, the limits of traditional bar codes have become clear.

The initial codes only were able to hold around 20 alphanumeric characters and many retailers needed codes that would hold more information. To fix this issue, the Japanese company Denso Wave Inc. was given the task to develop a new barcode that would hold more information. As a result of the company’s research and years of testing, the QR Code was born in 1994. The QR code differed from the original barcode because it was 2D —  with 2D codes information is stored in two directions — horizontally and vertically.

The new code was a vast improvement from the original barcode in many ways. According to the official QR website, the new QR code could code 7,000 characters and “could also be read more than ten times faster than other codes.”

QR Code stands for ‘quick responsive code’ as this new code was supposed to be more responsive and scan more rapidly than the traditional bar codes; however, in today’s fast-paced world QR codes no longer meet modern retail needs. That’s why a new generation of universal product code technology is being developed to meet consumers’ needs.

What are invisible digital watermark codes?

Invisible watermarked code is a new wave of UPC code (Universal Product Code) that can be placed all over a product for full coverage and quick scanning. With invisible watermark code packaging the product’s barcode is embedded all across the product’s surface, as opposed to traditional QR codes that feature a small code place on place on the product. The watermark is undetectable, keeping the aesthetic of the product clean and giving you more room to play with when designing your packaging. This invisible watermark can also be scanned using a consumer’s smartphone, allowing the consumer to connect with a company’s mobile content and learn more information.

The top benefits of invisible digital watermark codes

  • These codes cannot be copied easily; they are secure and unique
  • Using an invisible watermark code boosts consumer engagement as they encourage consumers to interact with your product using their smartphone.
  • These codes make checkout quicker and easier because POS systems can identify the object easily and numerous ways because the code is all over the product
  • These codes cannot be detected by the human eye, giving your packaging a clean look
  • These codes can connect your consumers to online coupons and promotions
  • Invisible watermark codes perform all of the same identification, pricing and inventory functions of the traditional UPC more accurately

The bottom line

A 2015 poll by Harris Poll, sponsored by Digimarc found that consumers want to scan product packaging for more information and offers. By shifting to invisible watermark enabled packaging you can meet the new needs of your consumers and in turn improve consumer satisfaction. Invisible watermark codes also help your distributors by making your product’s easier to scan. The time to make a move to the next generation of UPC codes is now.