A consumer’s interaction with a packaged product, especially in the fast moving food categories is more prolonged than many in the industry would take for granted.
As a result, companies design their packaged products for a single consumer touch-point, like POP stand-out, or visual appeal, or branding. In the consumer centric innovation model that we use, the product journey we consider for a packaged food product is the following:
This is where the consumer anticipates the product purchase and consumption. As is the case with low-involvement products, anticipation is fueled by positive experiences with a packed product (i.e. Tropicana juice) and positive (less important) or lack of negative experience experiences (more important) with the package itself.
This is where the main consumer touch-point is the package itself. Visual and sensory appeal of the package plays a very important part for the package to stand-out in the ocean of products that crowd the retail space.
How and where people purchase is very different from culture to culture. Ethnography plays a very important part in this.
Especially important in food related purchases, depending on urban or rural settings, countries, cultures, etc., people make purchase decisions based on the mode of transport home. For on-the-go consumption, naturally, this is more a question of handling on-the-go.
For larger packages or bundle packages of goods like milk and juice, the amount you can carry on foot, or on a bicycle, drives decision making. It also drives the package format, and multi-pack type selection.
Food products are typically stored either in pantries, in the kitchen, in the basement, or in the fridge. Or even in a car cup-holder. The package design and selection are driven by the mode of storage in different ethnographies. In a country like France, where kitchens can be smaller, people tend to shy away from larger multi-packs, like 6-packs, and opt for smaller bundles, which results in more frequent trips to the grocery store.
This is the area where consumers and producers alike get passionate, seldom with good results. While usability is a hot topic in computers and electronics, there is no significant body of usability work in packaging. Over the years, we have developed a variety of metrics for packaging usability.
A few highlights:
- Usability of a package is context driven. What’s good for pouring will not necessarily work as a drink-from package.
- Bigger openings on bottles do not necessarily make them more usable.
- Obviously, dexterity varies largely between age groups, but you can not simply design products only for the dexterity of 25-year old adults as the aging populations can testify. Children’s package usability concerns often go unheard.
- Adaptive behavior from consumers is an indicator for usability problems. (i.e. squeezing the package to speed up pouring.)
- Opening and closing instructions on packages are indications of usability issues.
This is the last consumer touch-point that feeds back into the need loop. It is also where lasting environmental opinions are formed. Where the package is discarded, how it is discarded, and which country and ethnography it is discarded in, drives opinions on environmental issues, and they can be very varied.
Interestingly, many consumers over-state environmental concerns, and historically it has not been a primary factor in POP decisions. In more recent times, however, we are seeing a shift towards a higher convergence in what consumers say, do, and think in this area.