Augmented Reality & The Internet Of Everything

Interview: EVRYTHNG’s Senior Vice President Ryan McManus & Zappar CEO Caspar Thykier

Talking about a revolution for brands, consumers & products. . .

As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one. Businesses are increasingly seeing the value in strategic partnerships and are merging to improve products and services. EVRYTHNG, a New York based platform for smart products, has partnered with Augmented Reality app Zappar to create interactive, connected scan codes for everyday items.

How smart is your pasta?
One day, every physical product we encounter could be fitted with an interactive bar code. Unsurprisingly, this is something that Ryan McManus and Caspar Thykier both agree on. By combining EVRYTHNG’s IoT and Big Data expertise with Zappar’s immersive content creation, the companies want to disrupt the creation, tracking, distribution and sale of branded products.

“We’re very excited about our partnership with Zappar,” says Ryan. “This is an opportunity for us to bring more capabilities out of products in a really exciting and diverging domain. Augmented Reality provides an entirely new way of engaging with consumers, driving loyalty, personalisation, and new experiences. Depending on the product, it can provide training and usage guidance.”

So, how does the packaging work? If you were buying ingredients for dinner, for instance, you could use your smartphone to scan a zapcode on a bag of pasta. You could then view information about its provenance and ingredients, and receive offers on other products to make a meal. Zappar and EVRYTHNG envisage this as being part of every physical item, creating a constant exchange between brands and buyers to improve products and services. But what’s the point? From a business perspective, it’s geared towards building powerful, emotional connections with consumer audiences. For consumers, it’s about the quality of the experience they are offered.

According to Ryan, the introduction of connected, interactive packaging will improve the relationship between brand and user based on the exchange of relevant information.

“There’s a universe of data out there in terms of consumer engagement with digital marketing campaigns and ecommerce sites. Being able to drive similar experiences from products is a new channel for bringing together data. In many cases, brands’ data about consumers stop when the product arrives at a retailer or is purchased. This brings an entirely new level of richness to consumer data based on the experiences the brand wants to offer.”

Benefitting brands. . . and also their buyers
In addition to creating a direct point of contact between brands and their audiences, smart packaging is about giving consumers a richer product experience through understanding exactly what they want to consume. Marketers may already be using increasingly sophisticated techniques, but Caspar remains unimpressed.

“It still makes me laugh that we talk about how we’re getting programmatically brilliant at targeting individuals with the right suggestions. But if I go onto Amazon and buy some green flashing shoes for my son, for the next month or so all I get from Amazon is suggestions for green flashing shoes. Why don’t they show me something different?”

The aim, then, is to open up a dialogue between the buyer and the brand that avoids bombarding them with irrelevant suggestions. As well as a seriously powerful marketing tool, connected packaging could solve a number of supply chain problems like product recall, which is time-consuming and resource-draining.

“If brands do have a product recall issue, they won’t have to recall absolutely everything. Because they will know the digital identities of everything that was on that pallet or in that box, they can be much more focused about what the problems were. That could result in massive savings,” explains Caspar.

Barriers to adoption
Of course, there will be various challenges to overcome – not least of all in transforming mentalities.

“One of the hardest things to get off the ground is something that doesn’t have a single leader or stakeholder,” says Caspar. “Organisations need to be structured so that they are not just good at getting around the table and talking, but that they actually put that talk into action. The leading brands who can move quickly will get a massive head start.”

Another potential issue surrounds data exchange. Will consumers want to hand over data about how often they eat cereal, for example? While neither Zappar or EVRYTHNG use or store personal data, brands rely on these insights. Luckily, Caspar explains that businesses will need to navigate upcoming legislation that enforces respectful data practices.

“There’s a hell of a load of new legislation coming up the track, and I’m all for that. Basically, you shouldn’t be capturing data that you don’t need about individuals. I think it has to be opt in – from a Zappar perspective, we don’t take anyone’s personal information.”

As of yet, it’s uncertain as to how consumers will react. Either way, the development of smarter packaging is something that brands increasingly need to be aware of. For Ryan, the quality of the content offered by scannable codes will shape business competition.

“There’s a long list of things that consumers are demanding from brands that brands want to provide for them. We see this evolving to become a core part of how brands compete,” he says.

By continuing to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds, Zappar and EVRYTHNG are enabling brands to understand product journeys with much closer focus. Establishing a direct link between companies and consumers is bound to improve the understanding that brands have of their own products, reflecting positively on the supply chain from planning to purchase.

If Zappar and EVRYTHNG can convince brands to experiment with immersive, product-embedded content, they could bring about a complete reimagination of customer experience. In light of the rise of v-commerce, they’ll need to act fast.