How to Use QR Codes for Smarter Product Packaging (5 Examples)


Smart packaging is changing the way we approach product packaging from both a business and consumer perspective. 

As more businesses realize the potential that quick response (QR) codes bring, particularly when it comes to effectively connecting with a tech-savvy audience, we see a massive uptick in the number of QR codes being created. 

Mid-2023 saw a 43.20% growth in the number of QR codes being generated. Countries that lead the QR code creation market include:

  • US
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • UK
  • UAE
  • Mexico
  • India
  • Singapore

Meanwhile, countries with the highest scanning activity for QR codes include the US, India, France, Spain, Canada, and Brazil. It’s projected that the number of smartphone owners using QR codes will jump to 99.5 million in 2025. And that’s just in the US alone.

Furthermore, it’s estimated that by 2032, the smart packaging market will grow to $52.1 billion. Key growth drivers include the increasing use of smart packaging for products in various industries like healthcare and personal care, the changing lifestyles of consumers, and the convenience and efficiency smart packaging—particularly QR codes—offers to consumers. Other notable factors include:

  • The increase of devices with the capability to recognize or scan QR codes
  • The need for marketers to drive engagement and personalization
  • The need to enhance consumer experiences through interactive media, as well as more traditional channels like print ads

Creating product packaging that stands out goes beyond design. It’s also about providing quick solutions and seamless experiences to your audience. With a QR code, you can do all that and more.

What Is a QR Code and How Does It Work?

What Is a QR Code and How Does It Work

Quick response codes are usually comprised of squares or pixels that devices like smartphones can read. While initially used in the 90s to scan and track components during assembly, they now have wider applications, from downloading apps and accessing Wi-Fi networks to sending payments and accessing more detailed product information. They can be found practically anywhere, from paper menus to product packaging.

The Appeal of QR Codes on Product Packaging

The Appeal of QR Codes on Product Packaging

Why do people scan QR codes?

Primarily out of curiosity (39%). People also scan QR codes to redeem coupons (36%), learn more about the product (30%), and find instructions on how to use a product (28%).

Businesses can take advantage of the versatility that QR codes offer. The simple function of redirecting users to any destination page allows brands to think of various ways to engage with customers. For example, when unboxing a package, brands can include a QR code that directs customers to a survey form, their website, or an app download page.

Benefits of Using QR Codes for Product Packaging

Beyond enriching customer experiences by giving them quick access to the information they need or creating novel brand experiences, QR codes offer a plethora of benefits for brands and their target audience.

Through QR codes, brands can gain marketing insights by analyzing consumer behavior based on their scanning activity. That’s because each scan doubles as a data point. You can then collect these data points to gain more insights about your customers, which you can use to tailor or optimize your marketing efforts.

QR codes also lend themselves well to transparency initiatives. For example, Hershey’s uses QR codes on their product packaging to give customers access to product details, such as nutrition information, ingredients, allergen information, and food disclosure statements.

While QR codes may offer various benefits, they have their fair share of drawbacks. The comparison table below helps to outline the pros and cons of using QR codes on product packaging.



The act of scanning with a mobile phone is easy.

Users may be required to download a scanning app or use phones that can’t scan QR codes.

Provides you with a measurable data point

Not all users know how to use QR codes

Gives you a smarter way to package different products

An internet connection is required  to access your content via QR codes, which may not always be available

A versatile way to provide more information without compromising your packaging design

Customers are not immediately incentivized to scan QR codes.

Complements your digital initiatives

The page destination of your QR codes needs to be display-friendly for mobile users, which requires additional work.

Examples of QR Codes on Product Packaging

Here are some ways you can use QR codes to elevate your packaging. These apply to a wide range of industries, from retail and healthcare to manufacturing.

1. Product Identification and Authentication

For businesses, QR codes are useful tools for inventory management. You can view the information in real time when a QR code is scanned into your inventory tracking system. The data you collect can provide insights, such as stores that are performing well when it comes to selling your products.

QR codes are also widely used to combat counterfeiting. For example, brands can use serialized or unique QR codes to distinguish originals from fakes. Some businesses may also add an embedded security image within their QR codes. When counterfeiters copy these, they lose key information, which any smartphone camera can detect. 

2. Provide Further Information

provide further information on QR codes

Many brands use QR codes to relay product information, from how-to guides and tutorial videos to menus and detailed product descriptions. Businesses can also use QR codes to give a behind-the-scenes look at how they make their products by linking to a dedicated web page or video. 

You can also use QR codes to communicate sustainability information, redirect to your social media pages, or even videos of customer testimonials or product demonstrations.

3. Drive Sales

drive sales with QR codes on custom product packaging

You can use QR codes on custom product packaging to market new products or provide incentives to customers and help drive sales. They’re also a more cost-effective way to promote your offers, like a subscription box that also comes with a sweet deal. 

To take the experience to the next level, you can have your QR codes direct your customers to interactive content or augmented reality experiences that lets them earn product discounts or access limited-time offers.

4. Customer Retention and Engagement

Your business can use QR codes to host competitions or giveaways to increase customer engagement. Just make sure that you include a catchy headline that highlights the prizes they can potentially win.

Aside from engagement, QR codes can help you make a good first impression on customers. By scanning your QR code, customers can immediately access product information that doubles as a gateway page to other areas of your business, such as brand history, product story, or product catalog.

Coca-Cola nailed this with their QR codes, which were designed to help them stay connected with their target audience throughout their customer journey. By scanning their QR codes, customers can access information about the product’s origin, participate in loyalty programs, get coupons or discounts, and get product alerts.

5. Make Customer Support More Accessible

Using QR codes on your product packaging and linking these to your customer support channels is a great way to streamline your support process and make them more accessible. 

For example, you can include a QR code with calls to action (CTA) like “Talk to Us” or “Scan to Send Us Your Questions or Concerns.” With QR codes for customer support on your packaging, customers no longer need to manually look for your contact details online, making it easier for them to get the help they need.

Actionable Tips for Using QR Codes on Product Packaging

QR codes are great at piquing people’s interest, but with more businesses using QR codes on their product packaging, you may quickly find that it’s getting more challenging to cut through the noise. Here are some practical tips to keep in mind to create product packaging that stands out.

1. Personalize Your QR Codes

personalize your qr codes

Personalizing QR codes may seem like an extra step but it’s worth it, given that customized QR codes are 80% more effective compared to their generic counterparts. Something as simple as adding a compelling CTA like “Scan Me” or “Discover More” can encourage your audience to take immediate action. Aside from CTAs, consider including visual cues to draw their attention.

2. Focus on Creating Clear and Functional QR Codes

Focus on Creating Clear and Functional QR Codes

An effective QR code should be printed clearly. A high resolution ensures that users can scan these codes with little issue and at farther distances. Consider using negative space around the QR code to help it stand out. 

Also, think about the size of the QR code. If it’s too small, it can be easily missed. Too large, and it may take up an unnecessarily large amount of space on your packaging. Ideally, the size of your QR code should make it easily visible and equally easy to scan.

To ensure that your QR code is functional regardless of the device used by your target audience, test it using a variety of devices and scanning apps.

3. Incorporate Branding

This allows you to maintain your brand identity while allowing customers to access more information about your product. When incorporating branding elements, such as your brand colors, into your QR code, make sure that the code’s functionality isn’t compromised.

4. Place Your QR Codes Strategically

Where you place your QR code matters a lot. When using QR codes for product packaging, it’s crucial that you place them in a location that easily catches people’s attention without getting in the way of your overall packaging design.

5. Keep Legal Considerations in Mind

When using QR codes for product packaging, make sure that you follow your area’s standards and regulations. In the case of food labels, for example, the FDA has rolled out several initiatives for QR codes to ensure traceability and transparency. 

While QR codes bring plenty of benefits to both businesses and users, concerns over cybersecurity and data protection indicate the need for brands to take proactive measures to protect their audience. Such cybersecurity measures should at least help protect your customers’ personal information.

Smarter Custom Product Packaging Made More Accessible

Smarter Custom Product Packaging Made More Accessible

QR codes may be small, but they’re cost-effective ways to spread awareness, educate your customers, highlight unique offers, and promote new products. Plus, they can be great tools for creating engaging experiences for your target audience.

At Refine Packaging, we can help you come up with out-of-the-box packaging ideas that are 100% on-brand and incorporate your unique QR codes. From retail boxes and cosmetic packaging boxes to customizable mailer and shipping boxes, we offer comprehensive and personalized packaging solutions to fit every need. Each packaging is carefully crafted, so they’re durable and visually appealing. 

Open up a whole new world of custom product packaging and discover endless customization options with Refine Packaging. Contact us and a dedicated packaging specialist will guide you through every step of the custom packaging process without breaking a sweat.  

Ready to think outside the box? Let's get started!

Get in touch with a custom packaging specialist now for a free consultation and instant price quote.

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