Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Retail's First Moment Of Truth - The Package

What is a package any way? We all know it conveys a product from point A to point B. Besides the obvious of getting it there undamaged or not broken, what's a box supposed to do? That job has changed dramatically in the last decade. The package has become the “first moment of truth” at retail. And now, especially it’s going to decide whether someone will by your product, or not. So you better pay attention to not only what goes inside but what’s on the outside of the box.

Just because you have a great product doesn't mean its going to sell. Or even if you have it in the right retail environment that it’s going to fly off the shelf. Packaging a product the right way entails much more than just creating a box to put your product in. Sure, you are going to get it there in one piece, we hope but gone are the days of the box acting as only a protective shipping container. The box today is the "retail" salesperson. The box or package is expected to provide the necessary information to make an informed shoppers’ decision plus no salesperson is available to answer a question either. So the package must be the silent salesperson to tell all there is needed to know.

More importantly conveying the information about what is inside and how it’s going to help the consumer solve a problem. That’s an important factor to remember. When someone looks at your product in their minds they are saying “What is this product going to do for me?” Do think about your package from a consumer’s perspective, not a package designers or engineers. Don’t get caught up in the notion about what has to be “ON” the box rather what needs to be on the package to pique or satisfy the consumer’s interest. Keep engineering driven statements to a minimum, rather explain what value and benefits they will derive vs. technically oriented information.

Think about the people who shop. Today’s consumer is a moving target. You have market trends, demographics and market niches that are continually evolving at any point in time. If you are not staying on top of these trends then your product isn’t “connecting” to them with the right message. That core “message” is one of the most important attributes of your product packaging.

An intrinsic message can be conveyed in a number of ways. You can make your product more appealing though a variety of package applications. Here are a few ideas to consider, compelling graphics, a complete family of interrelated products, engaging lifestyle photographs, clear and concise and short instructions and benefits driven statements. All of which have a subtle “feel good” message for the consumer. It tells them what they need to know or provides information that “connects” them with other satisfied buyers.

Were you aware that women either influence or make the purchasing decision 85 percent of the time? In some market sectors its more and in some less, but over all its women that make the primary purchasing decision. What is going to get her to buy your product? The answer is not what you might think.

But consumer’s goods companies are finally waking up to that fact. Unfortunately, its not as simple as just taking the man off the box and replacing it with a woman. Nor is it to use pink packaging or other feminine colors. Did you know that the number one color for packaging chosen by women is blue followed closely by red?

So first, understand you need to connect with her on an intrinsic level. Do you understand why she is making the purchase? Alternatively, you need to know where she will be shopping. One thing is for sure, she will be in a hurry. Today's women are over worked, time crunched, and busy multitasking. How are you going to help her make an informed purchasing decision? Make it easy for her to buy and easy to use and understand and you will have a winner.

Are you aware that the 50 + generation is the fastest and most affluent purchasing demographic?
Did you know that:
· Americans age 50-plus control $7 trillion, or 70% of all US wealth.
· The 50-plus group brings in $2 trillion in annual income that they want to and are willing to spend.
· One baby boomer turns 50 every 8 seconds of every day. Do a little calculating here about this market size. Think of all the boomers that you know besides me.
· The most common phrase that seems to satisfy everyone is “active adults.”

Do you know what they want in their product packaging?
Whether you use the word, "boomer," "senior over 50," or "aging," this age group doesn't want to be referred to as old. No "over the hill" context. Use words that are not considered negative. In a recent survey I conducted, the words "golden," "aging" and "elder" were disliked. Sell the 50 + generation the experience and the benefits that come in using your product or service. Lifestyle issues are important. Boomers expect to live well and longer so conveying this in your product will create relevance. And don’t forget their eye sight issues too. Bigger type will satisfy them. As our population matures manual dexterity in opening the product will also become increasingly important.

It’s trends like this that dramatically influence product packaging and who will be the primary shopper. Yes, there are many other important demographics out there but women and 50+ gen. account for a tremendous and lucrative segment of the population. One you cannot overlook in any product packaging.

So it is imperative to understand what today’s consumer expects and demands from their product packaging. When a consumer shops, 70 % of the time they make the purchasing decision in the retail environment. That means at the store, not before and also means your product is competing with dozens of like or similar products for their attention. The clutter and proliferation of competitive products is almost mind boggling.

So even if you have established brand awareness, is it enough to make your product stand out on the shelf? A quick note here on branding for seniors: The over 50 population is not brand loyal contrary to what you might think. They will switch brands if you provide a superior experience especially at a lower or competitive price.

What makes this problem even more difficult is that on average a consumer is going to take approximately 2.6 second to make up their mind whether to pick your product off the shelf. That’s a few seconds of retail sensory overload that going to determine whether or not your product will sell. So your package better have the right message geared towards the right audience.

There are so many factors that can influence a buyer to pick up your product. But there are several things which I call “universal truths” that influence virtually any consumer.

1st: Time is not on your side.
Consumers are in a hurry. They are not going to take a lot of time making up their minds which item to buy. Make your product easy for them to access where and when they are shopping and have your product make the buying decision for them.

2nd: Convenience is mandatory.
Look at the success of Wal-Mart or Best Buy where you can access a myriad of products under one roof. Today’s consumer is looking for one stop shopping where they can the majority of what they need in one place. Other growth areas include convenience stores which are upgrading and expanding their quality and quantity of products.

3rd: KISS. Keep it simple stupid.
The more complicated the decision making process the more likely you will loose their interest. It needs to be quick, simple and uncomplicated.

Last but not least-----give them a reason to buy. What is this product going to do for them? In many cases They will even pay more if it solves a problem.

Other "social” issues that can influence your package in include:
Environmentally accountability or sustainability: Green issues revolving around disposability, recyclability, and the latest hot button issue bio-plastics. The environmental aspects of packaging are heating up. Every week there are dozens of article pertaining to packaging and the waste stream.

Packaging Innovation:
One major shift in consumer acceptance can cause a landslide of new product innovations. Companies are building entire brands around environmentally friendly packaging and consumers are waking up to the “garbage” problem.

Product security:
Much of this packaging has come about for specific reasons: security, tamper evident, counterfeiting and so on. If you cannot prove that, your product is secure and hasn't been tampered with, look out. Consumers are getting more and more wary of where products come from and how secure they remain though the manufacturing process. Look for many innovations that prevent counterfeiting, tampering, contaminating or any product degradation.

Under this category comes RFID applications and tracking your products from the manufacturer to the consumer. Believe it or not the media is driving this. Too much packaging that’s too hard to open. Consumer Reports just ran a spread in March about the 5 most difficult to open packages. (The Oyster Awards) And at Christmas time there are always scores of articles about “wrap rage”. So make sure the consumer can get in to the box and more importantly that it’s not a negative experience in doing so.

So if you want to package products consumers will buy keep the above in mind and:
Look outside your industry for innovative packaging ideas.
Don't become so “industry” focused that you overlook opportunities in other markets.
Get grounded in hot consumer trends and understand what drives people to buy.
Don't just package hype, package experiences.
Deliver value in the form of benefits consumers will derive from buying your product.
Keep current on who is buying what and where and don’t rely on what worked in the past.
Lastly look at the package from the consumer’s perspective not the manufacturers.
Remember the package should be your first thought not your last.


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