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Retail : the role of packaging on in-store purchase decisions

How to drive more in-store purchases ? This is the $1m question every retailer relentlessly tries to answer. Recent scientific advances in the field of consumer behavior give us some insights on this, especially on the role of packaging.

How do consumers take purchase decisions in stores ?

Drivers of attention and evaluation are myriad in stores (for a review see Chandon et al. 2009). When they visit a store the least we can say is that consumers are stimulated by a broad range of cues : shelf position, prices, number of facings. But out-of-stores factors like mood, shopping goals, brand specific attributes and past usages also influence the likelihood to purchase A rather than B. The power of habits (which we have dealt with several times on this blog) is known.
Consumers take in-store purchase decisions very quickly. Research has shown that decisions are reached within a few seconds (Clement et al. 2013). The myth of consumers taking rational decisions has long been forgotten; in retail environments consumers “look too short and decide too fast to make a full-informed decision” (Clement et al. 2013).
Now, what is the role of packaging in this decision process ?

The role of packaging in in-store purchase decisions

In a research published a few days ago, Clement et al. (2017) have studied the effect of Potentially Misleading Elements (PME) on purchase decisions in retail settings. These PME can be of 2 types : pictures and text on a product’s packaging. Some exemples given in the articles include texts such as “15 percent fibre”, “low cholesterol”, “30 percent more …” or “10 percent less”; pictorial information can include “happy people, doctors in white uniforms [leading to the] interpretation that the product is preferred by healthy people or health-minded people”

The impact of misleading elements on purchase decisions

The authors formulate several hypotheses, 3 of them being of particular importance for marketers. All got proven.

1. consumers prefer products with a potentially misleading element (PME)
2. the more a consumer will look at PME’s, the lower the effects on the purchase likelihood
3. prior experience with the brand reduces the effect of PME

Conclusion : what is the influence of packaging on purchase decision?

The question is of course very complex and beyond the scope of this simple article. Yet what we can say is that some labeling elements (pictures, text) do lead consumers to take quick decisions. In particular potentially misleading elements (PME) increase the likelihood of purchase compared to similar products. This effect diminishes with the time spent on evaluating these elements and the previous experience with the brand.

Image : shutterstock

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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