What’s the Tell: A Shopper Marketing View of Packaging

Jim Lucas says shoppers/consumers provide valuable insights into what our packaging should be communicating to them.

Written by Jim Lucas, EVP, Global Insights & Strategy, Schawk, Inc.

The “tell” for gamblers is some kind of clue that provides insight into the mind of one’s opponent. Packaging is about providing the right “tell” at the shelf. Packaging must often accomplish many things: attract attention, demonstrate fit with the shopper’s lifestyle (relevance) and make it easy for shoppers to find the right product for them (shop-ability), create a positive experience with the brand, evidence of sustainable packaging, etc.

This is no mean feat, as shoppers can make purchase decisions in as little as .3 seconds, average around 3-5 seconds per product viewed and spend between 30-60 seconds when shopping a category. Shoppers are equally skeptical and curious in the approach to beauty/personal care (BPC) products—looking for the best product and price. The up side to getting the packaging right is huge, since shoppers like trying new BPC products (50%) and/or splurging on themselves (47%).

To cope with the type of clutter or tyranny of choice in the store, shoppers use “heuristics” or mental shortcuts for helping evaluate products (i.e., tells that they look for). We looked at two different sources of insight to provide us with clues as to what the “tell” should be: survey research (Mintel’s Personal Care Consumer, U.S. September, 2012) and product claims for new BPC products (based on Mintel’s Global New Products Database, December, 2012).

What kinds of tells should we provide shoppers with at the shelf?

Shoppers tend to look for specific kinds of ingredients when shopping for beauty/personal care products—Vitamins A, C, E and antioxidants (60%+ indicated they look for these ingredients, Mintel Personal Care Consumer, 2012). Nearly half of women aged 35-54 are familiar with and look for essential oils when shopping for products. Emphasizing ingredients shoppers recognize as good for health, are more likely to make them feel good about a product for hair and skin.

Consumers surveyed suggest that claims like dermatologically tested (47%), clinically tested (44%) or hypoallergenic (40%), make them feel more confident about a product. Natural ingredients are viewed as safer, better for you (40%).

There can be a great deal of variation across categories with respect to the claims that are most important. Here we see the differences between skincare and color cosmetics.

Moisturizing / Hydrating, 67% of new products
Botanical / Herbal, 69%
Time / Speeed, 31%
Dermatologically Tested, 25%
Anti-aging, 24%
Brightening / Illuminating, 24%
Vitamin / mineral fortified, 22%

Long-lasting, 41% of new products
Brightening / Illuminating, 35%
Moisturizing / hydrating, 23%
Seasonal, 23%
Ease of Use, 22%
Time / Speed, 19%
Botanical / herbal, 18%

Source: Mintel's GNPD, Dec. 2012.

Rising expectations on the part of consumers often means that shoppers are increasingly looking to products that multi-task (e.g., fight anti-aging while moisturizing, providing UV protection, reduce wrinkles and cover pores). In a sea of increasing complexity, there can be a big benefit/differentiator in pointing shoppers to the primary result to be expected from using a product.

While mass merchandisers are generally the go-to retail destination for BPC products, as they age, shoppers are more likely to shop for BPC products at drugstores.

In Closing
In a kind of reverse engineering, we can use what shoppers look for to help us design the appropriate “tells” for specific categories and shopper segments. Shoppers/consumers provide valuable insights into what our packaging should be communicating to them. Qualitative research, surveys and social listening represent three simple ways to garner such insights (e.g., ingredients and claims). They are intended to serve as fuel to drive our creative thinking about how to deliver such “tells” (e.g., copy, visuals, color, structure, etc.).

About the author: An avid student of shoppers and retailers, Jim Lucas has been very engaged in the development and practice of shopper marketing. He is a frequent author and speaker both domestically and globally. He is also a major contributor to the international book, now in its 2nd edition—“Shopper Marketing: How to Increase Purchase Decisions at the Point of Sale” (Kogan Page, April 2012). Prior to Schawk, Jim held executive positions in planning and shopper marketing at Frankel/Arc, Euro, Sales Machine and most recently Global Director Retail Insights & Strategy at DraftFCB. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in Sociology & Statistics and his MA and BA from Loyola University of Chicago. James.Lucas@schawk.com http://www.schawk.com