Implementing shopper-led packaging

Packaging is a brand asset owned and controlled by the Marketing function within our organisations; and more often than not, the design and structure of the pack is created with the consumer in mind. However, there is another stakeholder for which the pack is crucial – the shopper! Packaging acts as the primary mechanic to find and choose products in-store. It’s therefore imperative that we take shopper behaviour into consideration when creating packaging.

So what do we need to understand?

As with most shopper activity, we need to understand the shoppers’ task at the shelf, as this will determine the primary role for our packaging from a shoppers view point. For a large group of shoppers, their task will be to find and buy their usual brand at shelf. In this case, the role for the packaging is to facilitate the navigation process in-store.

This is fairly easy for brands with a large pack structure and multiple facings. For example, walking into the Soft Drinks aisle, it is easy to see Diet Coke, as the products are large and multi-faced. If you have a smaller pack with limited facings, you need to consider supporting mechanics like secondary packaging (SRP) to help your pack become more visible.

The other aspect of packs that will help shoppers to find them easily is the visual trigger associated with that brand. The visual trigger can be a combination of colour, shape and iconography that enables shoppers to easily identify your brand.

Brands packaged with a very strong visual trigger benefit from having quick recognition, allowing shoppers to find them easily; which in turn maximises brand conversion. If our brands don’t have a strong visual trigger, shoppers will struggle to find the pack in-store; resulting in brand walk aways. On many occasions, brand managers decide to “refresh” packaging without considering these visual cues (we’ve all seen the examples of this and what it does to brand sales!). Changing packaging is of course necessary for the evolution of brands, the key is retaining the visual triggers and changing everything else!

Identifying your visual trigger is fairly simple – if you had to remove all but three items from your pack, what would you keep in order for shoppers to be able to recognise the brand?

If you can’t do this easily, you need to spend time researching exactly what the triggers are for your brands, otherwise you are in danger of losing the elements that are key to shopper recognition in any future pack refreshes.

Own label brands are now doing this very well with their different store brands (e.g. Tesco Finest, Sainsbury’s Basics range). The visual triggers for these brands are consistent across categories, allowing shoppers to navigate to them quickly and easily.

Aside from the shoppers looking to find a pre-planned product, the remaining shoppers in your categories will be there to browse, without a clear idea of the exact product they want to buy. For these shoppers, the role of the pack is about attraction and persuasion.

In order to attract attention, a pack needs to be disruptive from its surroundings. Disruption can be created through colours, shapes or movement. For example, Old El Paso is disruptive within the Cooking Sauces aisle due to its disruptive yellow packaging.

Packs can be persuasive by communicating call to action messages relevant to shoppers. However, we need to be mindful about how many messages we are trying to communicate on pack, which will be governed by how involving the shopping process is within your category.

We also need to communicate the right message – to do this, we need to understand what the purchase drivers are for browsers at shelf. For example, is it about health? value? product efficacy?

Understanding the drivers will ensure we communicate the right messages on packs to persuade browsing shoppers to buy our brand.

In more involving categories, shoppers can be observed to pick up packs and read the back for further information. It’s important for you to understand if this behaviour is apparent within your category, and if it is, what information they are looking for. Having this understanding will ensure you communicate the right call to action messages on packs to aid conversion.

In summary, if you apply the principles discussed here, you will allow planned shoppers to find your brand easily (achieving growth through preventing lost sales), whilst also attracting and inspiring those undecided shoppers to buy your brands (achieving growth by attracting new shoppers).

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