The technology provides customer service by letting buyers know they’re getting the “real thing,” as a consumer can scan and follow information developed specifically for that one label(s) – if any. Consumers also can interact with the manufacturer through the label – ask questions, access personalized recommendations and the like.
The ability to track buyers of these individual products enables manufacturers to reach out to them in the form of highly personalized special offers, rewards, etc.
Counterfeiting has largely been the catalyst for this technological development. According to a Harvard Business Review report earlier this year, “China and Hong Kong are estimated to be the source of 86% of the world’s counterfeit goods – an amount that the US Chamber of Commerce estimates is worth about $397 billion. Fake merchandise accounted for 12.5% of China’s exports in 2016, according to the same report.”
A Denver Business Journal article points out, “Fake goods are not fake news…Sales of counterfeit goods have never been easier as an increasing percentage of global commerce occurs online. Many consumers think only of fake designer handbags, clothing and jewelry. Lesser known are…counterfeit personal care and beauty products such as makeup, sunscreen, and shampoo. Even ‘man’s best friend’ isn’t safe from counterfeit pet food, prescriptions and pesticides.”
Compounding the concern is that “counterfeit goods pose serious threats to the health and safety of consumers. Take two examples: power accessories and makeup. A study by Electrical Safety First in the UK found a 98% safety test failure rate for counterfeit versions of a leading US smartphone supplier’s chargers, which pose a risk of fire, serious electric shock or even electrocution. Over $700,000 worth of counterfeit makeup seized by the LAPD earlier this year was laced with high levels of bacteria and feces,” the article emphasizes.
Far from being a passing fad, individual label digital IDs are the future. Notes a Manufacturing.net report, “Today it would be unthinkable to ship a consumer product without a UPC on every package and label. Ten years from now, it will be unthinkable to mass produce products without some kind of digital mark that gives every single item coming off the line its own unique identity.”
This is a powerful example of technology with profound customer service benefits. Basically, it tracks, validates, protects and engages—four attributes of major interest among today’s customers. They want to know where it is, that it’s authentic (and therefore safe for buyers), and that it provides additional avenues for communication and relationship-building. And, it’s all contained in a tiny label digital ID.
These same benefits apply to product manufacturers. For example, supply chain tracking can go beyond a shipment of an individual container. This provides an opportunity to update the production and/or transportation status for any or all of a shipment very responsively, making the producer look competent and caring – even heroic in the eyes of the purchaser.
The technology may also streamline costs of protecting products against counterfeiters. Buyers can verify product authenticity through the digital ID. This can save everyone along the supply chain from having to absorb increasing costs of helping ensure authenticity.
Protection of the manufacturer’s reputation is much stronger, as well. When counterfeit products wind up being purchased and then become public knowledge, it tends to cast a pall over the product’s reputation, in turn crippling or even putting a stranglehold on sales. Even more egregious is when the counterfeit products are imperiling health. Once buyers feel skittish about a product, they typically will turn to another solution in which they have more confidence.
In theory, what manufacturer doesn’t want to enhance channels of communication with buyers? This technology offers a way to do that both with incoming and outgoing communication. Manufacturers can use individual digital IDs to selectively target buyers for everything from focus groups to special offers tailored specifically to different buyer levels (e.g., longtime customers, high-dollar buyers). These campaigns can be very personalized and efficient.
At the end of the day, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh sums it up succinctly: “We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.” That extends to many areas that go beyond what would be considered traditional customer service – such as combatting counterfeiting.
Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels, an all-digital custom label printer in Denver, CO, USA, since 2008. Find Lightning Labels on Facebook for special offers and label printing news.