Packaging Design Research for the ‘Way we Shop’

As marketers, we are constantly learning more and more about the way we shop – advances in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavioural Economics are shedding new light on consumer behaviour and decision-making. We look at the implications of what these disciplines bring to packaging design research and list some top tips on researching your packaging designs based on Vision One’s market-leading product PackProbe.

The Need for Speed

One of the first golden rules of packaging design is that it must work fast! Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ successfully highlighted the importance of System 1 (i.e. fast thinking) to retailers and brand owners. When shopping, people need to find and identify with your product and packaging within a matter of a few seconds. So it’s not rocket science to realise that packaging too must be designed to be eye-catching and communicate the right things within this short time, and similarly research needs to replicate this in the research process.

When testing, make allowances for familiarity

Current packaging designs that are familiar to consumers often outperform newer designs due to familiarity. Fortunately, there are techniques for overcoming this by looking at standout metrics and implicit product perceptions.

Packaging research is an Art rather than a science

When dealing with any communication vehicles (e.g. advertising, packaging, pr) it is important to recognise we are often dealing with manipulating people’s emotions towards a product. The rise of ‘storytelling’ in business in recent years is a direct response to focusing on emotions.

It’s what they ‘Think’ or ‘Believe’ about the product that counts

When testing any packaging, it is vitally important throughout the research process to encourage the respondent to focus their attention on the product (inside) rather than what they think of the exterior. Always refer to the product rather than the pack – e.g. How likely are you to buy this product?

Ensure you have the whole picture.

A holistic assessment of packaging design research is essential to avoid making costly mistakes. We adopt a balanced scorecard or a metric of metrics to assess a pack design – this ensures all its strengths and weaknesses are considered.

Context is everything!

We recommend that packaging designs are tested in a realistic environment – incorporating both imagery and video that reflect the real-world shopping experience. For example, using modern 2D and 3D virtual shopping environments, it is possible to mimic what people will see on the supermarket shelf. (Note. Unless you are testing a refrigerated product, we strongly recommend that the stimulus is on a grey background for a more realistic context).

Don’t test your packaging in isolation.

On shelf, there is always plenty of competition, and consumers typically make choices via comparison. So always test your packaging against a competitive environment with a control product (i.e. this could be an alternative design, your current design or even a competitor product).

Never ask consumers how they would improve a design

They’re not design experts, and you want their reactions, not their solutions. Research should identify what is happening and where things may be going wrong. Packaging is creative, and asking people to design your packs is asking for trouble.

We hope you find this article interesting. Visit our website for further information on our packaging design research services and PackProbe (our specialist pack testing tool).


If you are curious to know more about how we could work together, or how our insights can grow your business, then please give call us on 0203 693 3150 or use the contact button below.


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