Brands need ‘tokenomics’ to push for reusable packaging. NFTs are the next-gen incentive



Without a doubt, one of the best ways to reduce plastic pollution is to eliminate single-use plastic and introduce long-lasting reusable packaging instead. But brands are still reluctant to give up low-cost, grab-and-go convenience. They find it hard to believe that enough customers are willing to put in the extra time and effort to return the containers to stores for refilling.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, reusable packaging could represent a $10 billion opportunity. That kind of money speaks to manufacturers, but a billion-dollar question remains: How can brands and retailers make reusable packaging more appealing than single-use convenience? The answer may not be in dollars. Maybe it’s in bitcoin.

Customer loyalty programs are the basis of the success of many companies today. From loyalty points and collectibles to giveaways and discounts, giant brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks have designed their programs to build loyalty and increase spend and traffic. A 2017 survey showed that 81% of people thought that loyalty programs made them more likely to continue doing business with brands.

Engagement is the name of the game when it comes to these powerful marketing tools, and engagement will be what ensures customers choose reusable packaging too. A fact that is recognized by most of the pioneers in reusable space. Starbucks and Costa Coffee offer cash discounts to people who bring their own cups. While Café Nero goes one step further and gives you double loyalty points, which add up to a free coffee after five refills. Rewards work to change behavior, but the rewards don’t have to be physical. They can also be digital.

Next generation rewards schemes

With the rapid evolution of the metaverse, there will inevitably be sales promotions, virtual goods, and an additional opportunity to interact with loyalty programs. Digital currencies as rewards for desired behaviors seem like the next logical step. For example, points, miles, cryptocurrencies and tokenized assets could be used to incentivize reusable packaging, and blockchain technology would mean everything could be tracked and consumer data collected more efficiently.

Since the public is already used to opening mobile apps to redeem points and miles, the transition to blockchain-based assets would be a frictionless experience. They could even be used in a deposit-reward scheme, a kind of digital trolleybus. They may prevent you from throwing your container away, like that specially minted car coin that prevented you from leaving your car in the parking lot. That coin (or token, if you will) made you feel differently about the car and changed your behavior despite having no intrinsic value.