It’s virtually impossible to overstate the importance of packaging competence, preferably packaging excellence, for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies operating in today’s hyper competitive, technology-driven global economy, where what once passed for breakthrough innovation can suddenly be dismissed as yesterday’s news with blinding speed.
And while the impact of product packaging on the consumers’ purchasing decisions at the retail-shelf level has been thoroughly studied and analyzed in countless studies, progressive CPGs would be well-advised to align their long-existing packaging practices and strategies with the fast-growing emergence of online shopping, with its disruptive potential to change the traditional brick-and-mortar retail business model beyond recognition in the not-so-distant future.
According to the recently-published Packaging Matters study—conducted by leading global packaging products manufacturer MeadWestvaco Corporation (MWV) across 10 major international markets—companies who may be tempted to cut corners on their product packaging for goods sold online will do so at their own considerable peril.
Based on an extensive survey of 7,665 consumers in four major ‘developed’ packaging markets of Germany, Japan, U.K. and the U.S.—along with the ‘developing’ packaging markets of Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa and Turkey—the survey finds surprisingly little to suggest that consumers anywhere are prepared to settle for inferior packaging execution for the convenience or novelty of the online shopping experience.
Among the surveyed consumers who have shopped online, 29 per cent report to have used the product packaging to research more information about the products, with 22 per cent actually posing an online review that mentions the packaging.
Similarly, 20 per cent of surveyed online shoppers became “friends” or “fans” of the brand or company on social network sites based on the product packaging, with 18 per cent posting their personal comments on packaging on social media.
“Packaging continues to play an important role in building brand loyalty and driving repeat purchase in-store and, increasingly, it is also a vehicle that connects brands and consumers online,” says MWV vice-president of global creative Steve Kazanjian.
“Brands that recognize how packaging can influence online shoppers have an opportunity to see a ripple effect as those consumers share their positive experience with others via product reviews or through their social networks.”
While packaging suppliers can take comfort in the study’s logical conclusion that “because every purchaser is guaranteed to interact with a product’s packaging, it should be an integral component of the marketing mix and the physical manifestation of a brand experience,” the fact that only 11 per cent of the survey participants reported to be “completely satisfied with packaging today” should serve as a sobering reality check.
“Functional attributes, such as protecting the product from spilling and making the product easy to get out, are considered more important packaging attributes to consumers across all product categories,” the study observes.
“By comparison, attributes related to the appearance of packaging, such as being attractive and easy to find, are overachieving based on the perceived importance to consumers.”
As MWV director of consumer and customer insights Brian Richard points out: “Our research shows that the package needs to do more than look good on a shelf and drive trial of a product.
“The package also needs to be easy to transport, store, use and dispose of, if the consumer is going to buy the product again.”
We really could not agree more.