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Dan Wilkinson

Walk down any grocery or convenience store aisle and you’ll notice most customers partaking in a shopping ritual. They’re pulling products off shelves and turning them around to view ingredients and nutritional information.

Why? Because consumers have become more aware of what’s inside the products they purchase — they want to know detailed information that spans ingredients, nutrition, usage, warnings, storage, preparation, instruction and more.

To address these rising interests, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) introduced SmartLabel in 2015. A consumer information transparency initiative, SmartLabel aims to deliver comprehensive product information in a simple and accessible digital format. Since its inception, the initiative has grown to include more than 14,000 products from 37 companies, including Tyson, P&G and Nestle, and is projected to reach 34,000 products by the end of 2017.

How SmartLabel Meets the Transparency Demand

Shifts toward brand transparency are largely in reaction to consumer efforts to be more socially, environmentally and nutritionally conscious of their purchases. A Cohn & Wolfe study revealed the number one quality consumers demand from large brands is honesty about products and services. With product information transparency acting as a key factor behind buying behavior, access to in-depth product data facilitates more informed decision making.

SmartLabel has made accessing this information seamless, leveraging the ubiquity of smartphones to deliver information directly to consumers in the store. There are several ways for shoppers to access SmartLabel information. Brands that use SmartLabel can place a QR code on the packaging of participating products, and shoppers then scan the code and are redirected to a web page with product specifics — everything from ingredient origins to allergens is listed. Brands can also link to their SmartLabel page on their website; consumers can use a Google search to find this information; and consumers can also visit SmartLabel.org.

Getting Started With SmartLabel

Like any new-to-market technology, SmartLabel presents a series of early challenges for manufacturers and CPG brands. Some of the most common hurdles include:

  • Poor product information management
  • Delays in time-to-market
  • An overwhelming number of products

While these obstacles may cause companies to rethink leveraging SmartLabel, the initial struggles of adoption are minor compared to the repercussions of not investing in transparency. As global and national mandates increase food label requirements, failing to provide total product transparency could lead to audits and fines.

The good news? There are steps brands can take to ease their SmartLabel transition, ensuring complete success with the technology while delivering product transparency to consumers:

1. Step up your product information management strategy. Getting started with SmartLabel is difficult when product information is scattered, inaccurate or missing altogether. A crucial step in successfully implementing SmartLabel is to ensure your brand keeps up-to-date, accurate product content.

Explore options for different Product Information Management (PIM) and Master Data Management (MDM) solutions. These systems act as a centralized product information database and single source of truth for SmartLabel. Brands will find that building SmartLabel web pages is much simpler when product information is effectively managed and validated in a centralized solution.

2. Simplify SmartLabel implementation. It can be difficult for brands to consolidate and distribute product information on their own. Leading software solutions enable brands to provide comprehensive product information while also meeting industry and regulatory requirements. This technology helps brands:

  • Prepare their entire suite of products for SmartLabel distribution
  • Aggregate product content, ensuring it meets SmartLabel information requirements
  • Manage product content in a centralized data repository to ensure information is consistently accurate and up-to-date
  • Distribute product information via SmartLabel web pages, available to consumers after they’ve scanned product QR codes

What do Brands Stand to Gain From Using SmartLabel?

Think consumers are the only ones to benefit from SmartLabel? Think again.

Yes, it’s true that buyers are gaining access to unparalleled product insights, but manufacturers and CPG brands can also experience positive business results. These  include:

  • Increased customer trust and loyalty — When brands use SmartLabel, they’re delivering truthful, uncompromised product information. By giving customers complete access to this data, brands are building trust and brand loyalty, increasing the likelihood that buyers turn into repeat customers. And in the age of delivery services and other at-home meal solutions, traditional brick-and-mortar grocery stores should be more focused on loyalty than ever.
  • Access to buyer behaviors and insights — One of the first major brands to leverage SmartLabel, Coca-Cola discovered that using the technology meant gaining in-depth insights regarding customer shopping habits.

How? Digitally available product information allows brands to track data like what consumers are shopping for and how often they shop for certain products. Armed with this information, brands can begin to delight shoppers with more personalized commerce experience and less friction from initial research to final purchase.

On the long list of evolving consumer demands, product transparency consistently sits near the top. Shoppers have become increasingly active participants in product attribution, often basing their purchasing decisions on how much information is made available to them.

Manufacturers, CPGs and brands that are committed to building consumer trust and loyalty must make robust product information available in an easily accessible format — or risk losing customers to the competitors who have this data ready to share.

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