Unilever’s intelligent packaging lead on how printable electronics can boost sales

In her position with the R&D customer packaging department of consumer goods giant Unilever plc’s innovating retail division, Christina Cvetan is more than happy to offer advice to brands that might be thinking of incorporating intelligent packaging into their marketing mix.

“We really focus around using the senses to drive shopper engagement and customer attention, to improve the visibility of our products within the store environment,” she says. “As you know, it’s a very busy environment, and the challenge for brands and products is how to stand out, how to get the shopper to notice your product and engage with it. The longer you can get them to engage, the more likely you are to drive a sale.”

Three key opportunities

Christina Cvetan
Christina Cvetan develops innovative retail solutions for Unilever.

Intelligent packaging, which uses printable electronics to add eye-catching yet affordable technology to in-store products, is one way that brands can not only increase their chances of catching a customer’s eye, but gather valuable consumer information in the process.

In particular, intelligent packaging provides brands with three key opportunities to reach shoppers at the point of sale, Cvetan says:

  • In-Store Visibility: Intelligent packaging applications such as OLED lighting effects can help a product stand out on a crowded shelf.
  • Shopper Engagement: Printable electronics can be used to communicate with users’ smartphones, inviting them to access content, download apps, or share an experience online. They could also be used to help shoppers locate a particular product in-store.
  • Performance Measurement: Intelligent packaging can measure how well a product is capturing the consumer’s attention, whether it simply catches their gaze or draws them to the shelf, and whether they purchase the product – or, if they purchase the product, whether they buy more.

“A lot of shoppers are looking for additional product and brand information such as social mission goals and impacts, intelligent packaging enables the ability to provide this at the point of sale which can influence their purchase decision,” Cvetan says.

…And three challenges

That said, looking at intelligent packaging from the consumer’s perspective also presents brands with three key challenges they should keep in mind when collaborating with an intelligent packaging company, Cvetan says:

  • Scalability: The technology used needs to be robust, scalable, and reliable for high-volume production, Cvetan says.
  • Support: As intelligent packaging represents a new development, technical support must be in place to educate and support users of the technology, she says.
  • Seamlessness: Intelligent packaging can certainly drive consumer interest and engagement – however, it needs to provide a seamless interface for the user.

“I think of them as opportunities, but they can be considered challenges to overcome,” Cvetan says. “Certainly there’s going to be a stage of development and education that comes with putting new technology out… seamless, reliable, and have the technical support services behind them to ensure a good user experience.”

Cvetan will be giving a presentation on how brands can benefit from smart consumer packaging at this year’s Printable, Flexible, Wearable Electronics Symposium – CPES2016 – which will be held on April 19 and 20 at the Oakville, Ontario campus of Sheridan College. ITBusiness.ca is a media sponsor of the event.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of ITBusiness.ca turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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