Marketing Tips

The resurgence of QR codes. Smart packaging becomes smart marketing.

August 10, 2021
An eCommerce box filled with Seaman Paper's custom branded QR code tissue paper

If you’ve been to a restaurant since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve likely been presented with a QR (quick response) code, displayed somewhere on or near your table. In the world of restaurants, this is the modern way to view a menu. But there’s a lot more to QR codes than just providing patrons with a contactless way to see what their dining options are–they also serve as a valuable and underutilized marketing tool that is quickly gaining traction.


QR codes aren’t anything new; they were developed in 1994 by a Japanese car company to track and streamline the manufacturing process, and they were widely used internationally. Still, due to poor marketing and a lack of consumer understanding, QR codes didn’t gain popularity in the US until 2017, when iOS 11 added the feature for iPhones to scan QR codes directly in the camera app without needing to download a third-party application. Android also offered this feature, allowing almost anyone with a smartphone to scan a QR code natively. However, they still hadn’t reached widespread popularity or found their way into mainstream public consciousness. Fast forward to 2020―a year marked by avoiding physical contact in public spaces―and QR codes finally found their place in modern life, opening the floodgates to a touchless and economical marketing solution for countless industries as consumers grew more comfortable with the not-so-new technology.

QR codes in eCommerce packaging provide unique and innovative marketing opportunities.

You’ve likely scanned a QR code to view a menu, download an app, or board a flight. Maybe you even came across the new Yeezy Gap jacket and QR code projected on buildings in a few major U.S. cities or saw his full spread in the New York Times displaying the same jacket and QR code. These QR codes are a simple and effective way to collect and measure valuable data without being disruptive to consumers, and their emerging usage is facilitating widespread adoption.

New York Times spread showing only the Yeezy Gap jacket and a QR code with no text
Photo Source: Ad Age 


With traditional marketing like billboards or television, you can estimate the reach of your audience, but there isn’t a way to truly tell how many people interacted with that message. With QR codes, you’re able to see exactly how many people have interacted with it, when, where, and more.


On top of the pandemic’s QR code resurgence, there has also been a rise in eCommerce sales, which are expected to hit $4.2 trillion by the end of 2021. With more customers finding it easier and more convenient to shop from the comfort of their home and have their goods delivered right to their door, your eCommerce packaging becomes an essential marketing tool. It’s hard to provide customers with a comparable replacement for the in-store experience consumers attach to traditional retail shopping―friendly associates, branded displays, and all kinds of colors, sounds and fragrances that engage the senses. However, there is one area where extra care and attention during the shipping and fulfillment of online orders can make a real impact: packaging. Your eCommerce unboxing is the only marketing effort with a 100% open rate, and it’s time to use that unboxing to its full potential.


“For eCommerce businesses, shipping and fulfillment represents the most direct touch point and connection with a customer. It also happens to be one of the most underused marketing opportunities.”


In this post, we’re going to talk about six specific ways you can utilize QR codes in your custom packaging as marketing opportunities:

  1. Telling your brand story
  2. Sharing product or packaging recycling information
  3. Gaining insights into your customer activity.
  4. Gathering customer feedback using surveys at the moment of unboxing excitement
  5. Enrolling your customers in a loyalty program or offering discount codes as a thank-you for their purchase
  6. Driving customers to landing pages, social media accounts, your blog, or other destinations


Brand messaging leads to brand loyalty.

Sustainability and transparency are becoming increasingly important to shoppers. From business ethics and manufacturing processes to product ingredients and packaging, consumers are demanding change. In the cosmetics space, 32% of online beauty shoppers said that (after price) ingredients used in products played the most significant role in their decision to make a purchase, a 5% increase from last year, according to Dotcom Distribution’s 2021 eCommerce Consumer Survey.


Using your packaging, you can print your brand messaging and a QR code to direct your customers to your website, where they can learn more about your sustainability initiatives and brand values. UGG® took this approach to reduce excess packaging by printing their Plant Power Collection material directly onto FSC-certified paper. Not only does printing your brand messaging on tissue paper create a unique and memorable unboxing experience, but it allows you to reduce in-the-box marketing collateral, resulting in lower fiber weight.


Pro Tip: Use a dynamic QR code to track user activity and change the source of the QR code in the future.


Share product or packaging recycling information.

Speaking of the importance of sustainability, a recent report shows that 75% of consumers will use their smartphones to connect with products for valuable information, such as how to properly dispose of products. Adding a QR code to your packaging allows you to create an interactive experience for your customers to learn more about recycling their products and packaging, which brings them into the process and makes them feel even more connected with your brand. To make sure your customers are engaging in that experience, we recommend making the QR code a prominent feature within your design. In fact, 77% of consumers agree that they’re likely to scan a QR code if it’s easy for them, making this an excellent opportunity for you to engage customers with your brand. 


Gain greater insight into your customer activity.

As marketing campaigns become more commonplace, accurate tracking is required to evaluate their success. QR codes allow you to track user activity to determine which campaign elements have been successful. Whenever customers scan codes to share their unboxing experiences, unlock sales offers, access product information, etc., the QR code generates data, including scan times and locations, number of scans, the device’s operating system used, and more. This provides businesses with insight into which efforts are more effective for which customers and the specific ROI of each initiative. And as brands learn more about customers’ behavior, initiatives can be optimized accordingly, resulting in more effective use of marketing budgets.


“Out of NFC, AR and QR codes, the research reveals the expected use of connected packaging over the next 12 months to be highest for QR codes with 96% recognition from all smartphone users.”

A man on his smartphone walking past a wall covered in Balenciaga QR codes
Photo Source: Unsplash – Balenciaga advertised their new Fall/winter 2021-2022 collection with a simple QR code that brought customers to an interactive videogame lookbook experience.


Gather customer surveys at the moment of the unboxing excitement. 

Placing a survey call to action directly on the tissue paper surrounding your customers’ order puts it front and center, making the process easier than asking them to visit a website, thereby increasing conversions. With nearly all consumers’ purchase decisions influenced by online reviews, more reviews (if they’re positive, of course) can result in more sales, as well as reduced returns.


QR codes occupy what would otherwise be blank space to amplify short-term brand initiatives and messaging without impacting revenue generation. Besides using branded packaging to impress and excite customers, printing QR codes onto tissue paper can enhance the customer experience without sacrificing fulfillment efficiency or running up costs by using additional packaging slips and other materials.


This strategy is also a natural fit for engaging with customers right when their excitement about your product or brand is at the forefront of their minds during the unboxing experience. QR codes on packaging don’t clutter a customer’s inbox or fill up their mailbox, making them an elegant way to communicate without being intrusive or pushy.


Create an easy way for customers to join a loyalty program or access discount codes.

Along with reaching new shoppers, brands must increase the lifetime value of their current customers. Customer retention is an integral part of growing an eCommerce business; increasing customer retention by just 5% can improve profits by 25%-95%. Implementing loyalty programs is a valuable way to keep customers engaged with your brand and increase sales, as loyal customers are more likely to continue purchasing from brands they trust and enjoy. QR codes present a unique supporting role in this strategy, providing customers with easy access to exclusive deals and promotions after making a purchase.


Use a QR code in your packaging to drive customers to a landing page, your social media accounts, blog, or more.

At Seaman Paper, we genuinely believe in the future of QR code marketing – so much so that we’ve incorporated a QR code on our custom branded tissue paper (printed on our 100% recycled and FSC® certified SatinWrap 100 tissue paper) along with our logo and brand messaging. Using a dynamic QR code on our tissue print, we can update the link at any time – we can even create specific campaigns and track their success using QR code analytics.

A package wrapped with tissue paper printed with a QR code on it
Seaman Paper's QR code tissue paper is printed on 100% recycled tissue paper


Interested in receiving a sample of our custom branded QR code tissue paper?

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