Getting started with Accessible QR codes: A Brand Guide

Blog Author
7 min read
Everything you need to know about creating the internal processes and procedures you’ll need to make sure you can scale AQRs across different teams, brands and geographies.

Creating an Accessible QR code with Zapvision is as easy as 1,2,3. All you need is your URL, GS1 Category for the SKU and product description and you’ll be able to generate the SVG ready for artwork. However, if you’re a brand owner, manager or accessibility lead, then before you get started, you need to think about the internal processes and procedures to make sure you can scale AQRs across different teams, brands and geographies. 

In this blog, we share the key elements to think about before you get to Accessible QR so you have a foundational playbook for internal processes, procurement and governance of any QR schemes and related data analysis as part of your connected pack strategy. Accessible QR codes by their nature are just an inherent part of this process and a way to make access to product information on packaging a basic human right.

Secure leadership buy-in and organizational commitment

The journey to integrating QR codes starts at the top. Securing senior leadership buy-in is crucial. Your C-Suite must understand the value and potential and champion these initiatives, signalling their importance to the entire organization. This top-down approach ensures that the adoption of QR (and AQR) becomes a priority, receiving the necessary resources, cross-functional collaboration and attention they need to scale. The reality is that with new QR standards in retail and CPG (with GS1 Digital Links and Sunrise 2027); upcoming legislative change (around Digital Product Passports and the EAA etc.); and the scan rates and user engagement being reported from product packaging as a brands most valuable owned media channel mean that we’re in the midst of a revolution in mobile ready packaging design so this change is coming. 

Build a central team and appoint a project lead

So you’ve secured leadership buy-in and organizational commitment, now it’s time to set up a dedicated central team and a project lead to ensure a successful QR code program. This team's task is to review the current QR code strategy,  usage, procurement processes, risk management and governance, artwork management, digital asset management systems, data structure, analytics and reporting practices. This comprehensive review involves input from various departments and external stakeholders, ensuring that the implementation is cohesive and aligns with the company's overall objectives as well as ensuring a deep understanding of existing industry standards and upcoming legislative requirements for the sector and business.

Develop a foundational architecture and playbook

Following the full systems and process review the next step is to establish a foundational architecture and playbook for the business for all brand teams to follow. This involves designing systems for QR code creation, data input protocols, APIs, approval processes, brand guidelines around AQR positioning and CTAs, QA and data dashboards. Achieving cross-functional buy-in and board approval for this architecture and playbook is critical to ensure scalability and effectiveness throughout the organization from top to bottom.

Conduct a product information audit 

An audit of existing data systems for product packaging and messaging requirements across product SKUs is required. This process is about identifying the information that already exists on pack digitally within the organization and assessing what other information might appear visually (through diagrams) or written on packs that need to be articulated in a way that will benefit people who are blind or have low vision. With the move to GS1 Digital Links and requirements around Digital Product Passport and the European Accessibility Act,  having a single source of truth of all product information that can serve everyone, whatever their visual acuity, will become increasingly important.

Set your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Most businesses will already have an existing data lake through which they capture QR code scan metrics. So what about the accessibility element? Every business is different and will attribute different metrics for the use of the accessibility portion of their QR implementation. For many it’s part of their charter as purpose-driven organizations to level up how brands and businesses can deliver positive social impact as responsible corporate citizens. Whilst also understanding that people who are blind or have low vision and their extended network of friends, family and colleagues provide a sizeable audience to engage with from a marketing and sales perspective. For some the KPIs might be internally driven in terms of meeting sustainability and D&I goals set by the corporation, or they might be linked to positive brand scores and media coverage around the new capability; or they might be focused on engagement with people who are blind or have low vision. The point is, to know what’s meaningful to your organization and set expectations from the start.

Run pilot programs: test and learn

The implementation process typically involves pilot programs to give the business the right learnings to scale. This can be coordinated at a brand, SKU and/or market level. These pilots serve as a test-and-learn phase allowing businesses to work through the implementation process and get feedback on the first iteration in a controlled market setting that can be presented back to the business. This phase is crucial for understanding what works and, more importantly, what could be further improved, providing valuable insights for future strategies and fine-tuning the playbook. Collaborating with organizations like the RNIB to test the implementation delivers insights and guidance for connecting with the visually impaired community from both an execution and communications perspective, further enhancing the chances of success and providing a positive feedback loop for future improvements.

Roll out and scale

Post-pilot, the gathered data helps refine the approach, making it ready for broader organizational implementation. This stage is about taking lessons learned and integrating AQR codes into regular business operations. This will involve taking the playbook on the road and presenting it to all stakeholders across the company and making it an integral part of everyday business. Note that creating a connected pack strategy that’s fully implemented across the entire organization takes time.  It's a process that typically spans 2-3 years but is essential for long-term success. So it’s important to get ahead of this now given the changes in mobile-ready packaging and the opportunity it affords.

Don’t forget the importance of… 

Internal Infrastructure

For those in roles related to innovation, digital transformation, packaging design and innovation, accessibility, inclusivity, or sustainability, understanding and delivering internal infrastructure for QR on product packaging is crucial. The creation of an internal playbook for process, procurement, and governance is the foundation of successful QR schemes. The right operational architecture and playbook is vital for internal buy-in and creating a scalable, cost-effective solution. This foundation is crucial for future-proofing against changes in supply chain, retail, and packaging legislation.

Seeking Expert Advice and Compliance

Consulting with industry experts like CEC and organizations like GS1 is recommended. They can provide best practices and guidelines for QR deployment at scale. Understanding GS1 digital links, link shorteners, redirects, GTINs, and W3C standards for website accessibility is crucial for effective implementation. At Zappar, we work alongside companies like CEC who are subject matter experts to help brands build connected pack strategies. Organizations like the RNIB can then also offer research, insight and guidance on how to ensure your implementation and communication around AQR will meet the needs of the community. Our AQR and Zapvision solution is designed to meet corporate standards and system requirements, ensuring scalability and future readiness.

Clear communications strategy

Think carefully about how you’re going to communicate and position how you’re embracing accessibility in product packaging for people who are blind or have low vision. That narrative might need a slightly different emphasis depending on your different audiences - internally, to your partners,  from a corporate comms perspective, for broader marketing communication and in speaking directly to the people who are blind or have low vision.  Make sure to seek advice from organizations like the RNIB who can help in this regard and avoid common pitfalls.

Final Thoughts

The above might sound daunting but it’s not. It’s not only doable, it’s been done. Unilever has shown how AQRs should be rolled out at scale across different brands, teams and geographies. Brands like Bayer and Diageo are doing the same. So what are you waiting for? The time for action is now.  This simple way of looking at it is that if you’re implementing QR on packaging why not make it AQR and help make access to product information a basic human right for everyone?

Getting started with setting up these cross-functional processes means greater long-term success for your business in general through better data, insights and sales success for your connected pack program. With the simple move from QR to AQR you’ll also be making a fundamental shift in helping make the world of product packaging more equitable to everyone. Don’t worry about perfection the first time but start the process now or risk your competitors stealing a march on you.

If you’d like to find out more about connected packaging, AR for product packaging and Accessible QR please contact us at