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Augmented & Virtual Reality Unpacked

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Augmented & Virtual Reality Unpacked with The Hive Design Services multi color logo

Living in a created world while also a physical world? Seems very Matrix or Inception. Yet, in a way, it’s here. While not quite like the movies, virtual reality and augmented reality make these futuristic stories more familiar, even in the packaging industry.  

For the connected consumer who is eager to embrace expression, putting on a virtual reality headset or viewing a product through a screen isn’t daunting.  Some of these capabilities are already in place on products in the marketplace, including grocery store shelves. It won’t be long before cutting edge becomes commonplace. 

But, don’t feel behind if you’re intimidated.  We’ll take a look at the basics of virtual reality and augmented reality and explore some of the benefits related to packaging brands. 

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality allows viewers to feel like they are in a scene outside of their physical worlds and usually involves a headset for viewing, like in the image below.


Woman with Augment Reality goggles on looking at a projected crystal reaching her hand out towards it

 If you’ve ever worn a headset that allows you to visit a tourist attraction, view home improvement updates, or be a character in a video game, you’ve experienced VR. The sensory experience involves visual depth and sometimes other senses such as touch and hearing. Think of VR as a sensory immersive experience, transporting you to a different scene than the one you are physically in. 

Augmented Reality (AR)

Remember the summer of 2016 when people roamed around public spaces, stared at their phones, and searched for Pokémon? Pokémon Go is a breakthrough example of AR. As people searched for Pokémon, their physical worlds were enhanced by additional images from the game. 

Think about “augmented” as enhancing reality. Through technological devices such as smartphones, individuals can view reality plus additional images that enhance reality. 

It all sounds fascinating, right? But, how would this enhanced world work on packaging? 

Additional Content for the Inquisitive Consumer

Information conveyed through a package was once restricted by the package’s dimensions. Small package, limited information. Large package, increased possibilities. 

With AR and VR technologies, a package’s dimensions no longer define the possibilities of what information can be conveyed to consumers. Consumers can put on a headset and learn more about the product through VR or they can use their own handheld devices to hover over a product and learn more through AR. 

To be more specific, say a small condiment package uses AR technology on its label. Information such as recipes featuring the product or sourcing locations that don’t fit on the label could be accessed by the consumer through AR. For the smart, active consumer, this easily accessed additional information is a game changer. 

Engagement for the Individualistic Consumer  

Today’s consumers are “more individualistic than ever before.”1 As consumers search for the brands and products that fit their specific desires, VR and AR allows brands to provide customizable representations of products and brand interaction. This interaction provides advantages for both online and in-person engagement. 

Online shopping grows exponentially. Yet, there is a drawback to online shopping when the individualistic consumer cannot experience the product before purchasing – one rationale why returns are so much higher for online purchases than brick-and-mortar stores.2 VR and AR technology bridges that experiential gap by allowing consumers to try on a product, visualize it in a living space, take a tutorial, and more before clicking “add to cart.”  

When a consumer interacts with a product in person, VR and AR allows for a host of individualistic engagement opportunities. From “fun” engagement such as playing a game or touring the company’s campus to more technical engagement such as access to a user manual or explaining a product malfunction to customer service, VR and AR enhances the possibilities for consumers to connect with your brand in a way that is meaningful to their individual desires. 

Differentiation for the Competitive Brand

Beyond serving customers, technological advances can also better your brand. Brands that choose to creatively integrate technology can differentiate themselves from competitors that might be part of a late majority in technological adaptation or don’t have the resources to invest in technology. 

Yet, even among competition with brands that are integrating technology in their packaging, you can still stand out with AR and VR. As described, there are numerous possibilities for customizing AR and VR to the brand and consumer, and consumers are ready for this type of interaction with your brand.  

GlobalData explains: 

Quote - Smart Packaging resonates with consumers that desire more than just a transactional relationship with their favorite brand from GlobalData, superscript source 3

As you seek to customize an experience for the consumer, you are also differentiating yourself as a brand. Customization means differentiation. Not only are you appealing to consumer trends, you’re integration of AR and VR could positively benefit your brand differentiation. 

Ideas for Integrating AR and VR into Packaging 

While it’s good to differentiate, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. We’ve compiled a few ideas – some already given as examples and some new ones – that can get those creative juices flowing. 

Ideas for how you can integrate AR and VR into your packaging: 

Bullet List of Ideas - Maps, Quizes, Stories, Tutorials, Recipes, Games, Tours, User Manuals, Product Sourcing Information, Nutritional Information, Trouble Shooting or Malfunction with Customer Service

The Hive℠  Design Services can bring your VR and AR to life. Let us help build your portfolio of next generation packaging!

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At The Hive℠ Design Services we are ready to help by designing custom research programs to uncover your customers’ brand connection, preferences, pain points and usage behavior, while revealing themes that you can use to build your strategy for enhancing consumer engagement and brand loyalty. Our certified moderators, research and packaging specialists will build the qualitative and quantitative studies you need to test your concepts at scale, from insights to prototyping.

For more information on how we can help you convert insights to opportunities, email us at or visit our page

1 GlobalData, 2020. “Individualism & Expression Overview” (Subscription Required) 

2 Pearce, 2019. “How to Use AR (Augmented Reality) to Improve the Customer Experience.” 

3 GlobalData, 2020. “Presentation: Smart Packaging Solutions to Grow Sales and Optimize Operations” (Subscription Required)