A look at updated connected product stats and how NFC and QR technology are being used today.
September 25, 2023
Connected Products and the technology that enables them — including near-field communication (NFC) tags and quick-response (QR) codes — have exploded in popularity in recent years. When both technologies emerged in the mid-2000s, they were limited in their capabilities, and QR technology, especially, struggled to take off. However, that’s no longer the case.
Unlike many previous smartphones, today’s phones natively interact with connected technologies — with no additional hardware or apps required. NFC tapping is easy by placing your phone near an object, and scanning a QR code is as simple as using the camera.
Since 2022, NFC has become an industry standard with approximately 3.4 billion smartphones in use — accounting for a sizable percentage of the global population, according to a survey from ABI research sponsored by the NFC Forum.
Both NFC and QR technology enable connected products with unique uses — and often may be used for similar purposes. Here’s a look at the powerful world of connected products in 2023.
Connected product interactions have increased 723% since 2018, according to Blue Bite’s data.
In 2022 alone, Blue Bite saw over 3.33 million interactions through our connected products platforms — and this figure is only expected to increase over the coming years as more brands adopt a connected product strategy.
On the whole, Blue Bite’s industry data revealed that connected technology usage rose over 1,000% between 2018 and 2022.
More and more brands and consumers are using NFC and QR technology as they see its potential. With over 95% of adults ages 18 to 49 in the U.S. owning a smartphone (compared to just 20% of people of all ages in 2010), the potential for brands to use connecting technology is near-limitless.
As of 2022, the NFC market was valued at $23.1 billion, according to a report from Emergen Research. At a compound annual growth rate of 14.2%, the NFC market is slated to be worth $87.53 billion by 2032.
In 2022, 95% of respondents indicated they had used NFC contactless technology (including an NFC card or mobile payment wallet) to pay for something in the past year, according to ABI. Across the board, contactless payment card usage jumped 30% from 2020 to 2022.
More than a third of respondents in a survey from S&P Global indicated they were using their contactless cards more often because of tap-to-pay technology. The data makes it clear that consumers are increasingly familiar with and using NFC, which makes it easy for brands to adopt the technology and enable their products.
NFC technology was and is largely associated with tap-to-pay — but is used for much more. With a simple tap of a phone, brands can draw in consumers with brand stories, product authentication, and more.
QR codes have historically been used to link to static webpages (seen largely in recent years with homepages and menus). However, brands are now leveraging QR codes to create dynamic, connected experiences that inform, inspire, and delight consumers while keeping them continually engaged — pre-, mid- and post-purchase.
A Blue Bite case study found that across four categories — wine and spirits, beverages and energy drinks, apparel and health supplements — brands are using QR codes for many reasons:
What if there was a way to make consumers nearly 60% more likely to make a purchase?
Connected products do just that.
A staggering 57% of consumers said they are more likely to purchase a product if they learned more by connecting with its packaging, according to Blue Bite’s Connected Products U.S. Consumer Trend Report: QR Code and NFC Consumer Usage and Attitudes.
Connected products serve as a way for brands to dynamically engage consumers through interactive experiences, from authenticating products to telling them everything they could want to know about an item all with a single tap.
Giving consumers the information they want and need to know is critical for brands to create lasting relationships with consumers.
Blue Bite’s 2022 Connected Products U.S. Consumer Trend Report revealed consumers want to learn more about brands through connected technology:
Connected products empower brands to go beyond the confines of the physical product or label to dynamically share information, using videos, pictures, text and other elements to share their brand vision and product stories with consumers.
However, consumers don’t want to be handed this information in a way that feels disingenuous or gimmicky.
Traditional marketing approaches no longer appeal to consumers. In fact, 62% of consumers have more trust with brands that serve “well-timed, personal content,” and 71% want brands to “demonstrate empathy by seeing things from their perspective, acknowledging their frustrations, and understanding what is important to them,” an Adobe report found.
Connected products empower brands to create personalized experiences based on:
*With each product and consumer interaction, brands can create and personalize a dynamic experience with automated intelligence.
Consumers are increasingly demanding for brands to be more sustainable — and they are willing to pay more for brands that are. A Blue Bite consumer survey found that roughly 20% of all QR codes are used to convey sustainability information across all product categories.
Connected products empower brands to easily share sustainability information, including:
A recent survey from First Insight found that nearly 90% of Gen X and Millenial consumers would be willing to spend 10% or more for sustainable product options — up roughly 50% across both age groups from just two years before. Consumers across all age groups are increasingly willing to pay more for sustainable products, data shows — and approximately 75% of consumers expect brands to become more sustainable.
Connected products empower brands to easily and transparently convey sustainability information to consumers — from sourcing and materials to how consumers can recycle, reuse or resell products.
Brands often encourage consumers to scan connected products with the incentive of a coupon, discount or another promotional perk.
The global coupons market is steadily and rapidly growing. In 2022, the mobile coupons market was valued at an estimated $509 billion, according to a Research and Markets report. By 2030, this figure is expected to grow to $1.6 trillion at a CAGR of 15%.
It was estimated that in 2022, 5.3 billion coupons would be redeemed via QR code, according to Juniper Research. Across the US, 45% of shoppers said they had scanned a marketing-related QR code in the past three months, according to data from a 2021 Statista survey published this year.
Especially amid economic uncertainty, consumers are searching for deals more than ever. A recent Morning Consult survey revealed that 79% of consumers have searched for discounts, as reported by Retail Dive.
Blue Bite’s case study, however, found that less than 5% of QR codes in the apparel and wine and spirits sectors are used for promotions.
Brands are empowered to get ahead of the competition by incentivizing consumers to interact with their Connected Products via promotions, all happening on their phones in-store. With a simple tap or scan, consumers can access a deal on the product they hold in their hands — encouraging them to make a purchase and build a relationship with the brand.
Thanks to item-level tracking with Digital Product IDs— similar to SKUs, but at the individual item-level — brands are empowered to track and trace products throughout their lifecycle. This extends from materials sourcing until after the consumer has purchased the product.
With a tap or scan, you (and consumers) can access data like:
This is especially helpful for staying compliant with upcoming changing label requirements in the EU and across the globe.
Here’s a look at some of the most innovative connected product uses in 2023.
Laundry detergent brand Persil is adding QR codes to create an inclusive experience for those who are blind and partially sighted. The project was designed in collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
Once scanned, the QR code gives information in a way specifically designed for those who are blind and partially sighted, including:
The accessible QR “also interacts with the device’s configured accessibility features to display information in larger text or in audio-described and voice-guided formats,” parent company Unilever notes.
Apple watches have had built-in NFC technology since 2017. However, the tech giant may soon expand the device’s NFC capabilities and personalization by enabling bands with the technology.
Apple filed (and was granted) a patent that includes NFC into the tip of the band, as noted by Patently Apple. When the band connects with the body of the Apple Watch, the watch would take on the color scheme of the band. The technology would also include extra security and allow specific apps to launch according to the band used.
Austrailian startup Bintracker wanted to go above and beyond to ensure accurate waste tracking, Microsoft News Center reported.
Chad Holland, Co-founder of Gurru, said: "Companies were generally assuming the weights of the bins they were picking up, and a lot of guesswork comes into that.”
Inspired to create a more accurate waste-tracking system, Bintracker was born. With QR codes on the bins or bags, the Bintracker app can record waste, waste sources or tenants. In real-time, digital scales integrated into the bins weigh the bags, giving an accurate overview of waste and recycling metrics.
This empowers brands with powerful key performance indicators (KPIs) that they can use to make informed decisions about their waste.
QR codes and NFC are both used to enable connected products with dynamic experiences. They can often be used interchangeably — however, their specific use cases may differ. Some brands may choose to use both on varying products depending on individual use cases.
QR codes are often used to launch engaging experiences that tell brand and product stories, share sustainability information, engage users with gamification, provide value-added content and more.
NFC, meanwhile, is loved for its authentication abilities, especially in the luxury apparel, accessories and wine and spirits industries. With a single tap, consumers get peace of mind that their product is the real deal. NFC is also hailed for its blockchain connection, as it provides more in-depth tracking and tracing than ever before.
Across Europe, an average of roughly 15% of all products in four major categories (beverages and energy drinks; health supplements; apparel; and wine and spirits) have a QR code, Blue Bite’s case study found:
While brands are increasingly getting empowered with the possibilities of connecting technology, that doesn’t always mean it’s the most effective.
At least 25% of QR codes in all categories led to a brand’s homepage, and roughly 10% of codes in apparel and wine and spirits had a broken link, according to Blue Bite’s case study.
While at least 9% of products across all categories in Europe had QR codes, Blue Bite’s case study revealed a majority of them were hidden. Trends from Blue Bite’s case study also found that wine and spirits, beverages and energy drinks, and health supplements primarily had QR codes on the product itself, while apparel brands chose to put codes on the packaging.
Brands that make the most of their connected products make QR codes and NFC tags visible and easy to tap or scan. They are visible when looking at the front of the product — not hidden.
Just because a QR code is on the front of the product or packaging doesn’t mean it has to contrast with branding — creating a QR code that’s in your product colors or an NFC that’s completely hidden but is made known (CTAs and insignia) are great ways to draw in customers and keep them engaged.
Clear, enticing CTAs are imperative to making connected products the most effective in 2023.
Blue Bite’s case study found that in the wine and spirits and apparel sectors, 75% and 66.1% of products, respectively, did not have a clear CTA. Health supplements and beverages and energy drinks were slightly better, but roughly 40% still did not include a CTA.
If consumers don’t know what a QR or NFC is for, they may never scan it — meaning your brand loses out on the opportunity to connect.
Brands staying ahead of the competition are using clear CTAs that entice consumers, like:
As consumers increasingly push for brands to be more authentic, they also want content to be personalized to them.
A Salesforce report found that 73% of consumers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations.
Despite consumers’ desire for brands to appeal to them as individuals, with Blue Bite’s case study revealing that more than 25% of QR codes across all industries linked to homepages 53% in the health supplements industry), many brands have room to grow with dynamic experiences.
Connected products empower brands to not only appeal to consumers with personalized experiences — they also empower them to continually tailor those experiences as consumers interact with the products and they learn more about them.
As the leading connected products platform, Blue Bite empowers your brand to engage consumers with dynamic experiences. With digital product IDs, your brand is empowered using item-level tracking that has never been possible before.
Whether you enable your products with QR, NFC, or a mix of both technologies, you’ll gain powerful insights to continually tailor your experiences for the most effective, personalized connections.
Download the Blue Bite Connected Products U.S. Trend Report.
We went to consumers and found out that 78% engage directly with brands, but not all of them are happy about those experience. Fill out the form to download our Trend Report and learn even more about how innovative brands are improving those experiences with connected products.