How do you test your packages?

How do you test your packages?

How do you test your packages?

Packaging is a key piece of innovation. It’s where your ideas come to life. You might want to revive your established brand with a fresh, new package. Or you might want to launch a new product with a package that sets it apart from other items on the shelf. Either way, making sure your package captures customers’ attention is integral to success. 

Have you had the following experience? You design a new package for your product, but you just aren’t sure if it clearly communicates the messages that are most appealing to consumers. You wonder if the package will be compelling enough to garner much needed sales. You know that the size, shape, and color of the package is important. You also know that the images and copy shown in the package is important. But you don’t know which design encompasses the best of everything. You have a set of designs which are screened and narrowed down.  This slimmed down list moves on for further development.  A few changes are made, they go through another round of evaluations by the marketing team, and presto chango, a design is chosen.

Unfortunately, the stage is now set for a marketing disaster. Without incorporating customer feedback, a poor package design could be chosen. This could lead to marketing failure.

What are the keys to using research to develop and evaluate package designs?

Gathering input from customers through market research is a key driver of packaging success. Ideally, research should be included from the very beginning of the process, the pre-package design phase.  Good research can help your team set the correct goals and objectives for the new package design.  Other questions that could be answered at this stage include: How do consumers shop the category? How much time do they spend in front of the display? How many packages do they pick up? How many shoppers read the details on the label? How many packages of what sizes are purchased? How does the consumer interact with the package in the home before, during, and after usage?

The next step in package development is to understand the primary motivations and perceptions that affect brand choice.  If you haven’t already, think about conducting research to answer questions such as: Are respondents aware of brand names, or do they buy based on the color and design of the package? What is their awareness of advertising in the category? Can they remember and describe the existing packages in the category? What do they remember, or think they remember, about these packages? Are they brand loyal? How frequently do they buy the category and the brand? How frequently do they interact with the package once it arrives in the home? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the packaging and graphic designs for each of the major brands in the category? All these tiny details, once fully understood, can help your marketing team set clear and relevant goals for the new package design. 

Designers usually create a large number of rough designs (10+), that you will need to narrow down.  Important package market research happens at this point to identify which packages have the best potential.  This can be done quickly and cost efficiently through an online survey.  Depending on the number of packages, a respondent can see all packages or a subset of them.  The packages are presented in a sequential monadic design.  Key questions that this phase of research should assess are: 

  • Purchase interest
  •  Uniqueness 
  •  Fit with brand 
  • Overall appeal 
  • Stopping power

The output of this research should help you narrow the list down to five or fewer packages that you can then fine-tune.  

Fine-Tuning and Improving the Design

Once the “winning” designs are identified, they are sometimes put through another round of qualitative research (generally depth interviews are better than focus groups because they can dig down into the details more intensively). The goal of this qualitative research is improvement and fine-tuning of the better package designs. Every little detail of each design is explored in these one-on-one interviews, searching for any little tweak that could improve consumer reactions to the packages. 

Finally, each of the improved designs are tested against major competitive packages. Ultimately, each package design must be evaluated in the context of this competitive environment. This is often done via a simulated shelf set where respondents “shop” the category aisle.  They are able to “pick up” packages and review them and also purchase them.  

The package design(s) is tested monadically among a representative sample of target consumers with samples sizes of 200 or more. Some of the key measures included are:

  • Purchase intent and “share of market” versus competitive packages
  • Expected purchase frequency 
  • Brand fit or compatibility 
  •  Image projected by the package design 
  • Pricing expectations related to the package design

The output of this research should yield the one design that best fits the product, conveys the
vision you intend and stands out well against competitors.

Other considerations

If there is any possibility that the new package design will negatively affect the product inside, an in-home usage test is always recommended. The product in its new package is placed in homes of target consumers, and they are asked to evaluate only the product itself. These results can be compared to results for an identical in-home usage test of the existing (or old) or a competitive package. If the new package improves perceptions of the product inside, then you may choose to invest more money in introducing the new package. If the new package negatively affects perceptions of the product, then you should go back to the drawing board and start over.

Launching a new package is an exciting and important piece of innovation. Packaging can make or break your product. Don’t let a poor package design interrupt your innovation process by becoming an unnecessary barrier to success - incorporate the voice of the customer and let your packaging shine. 

Package Testing

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