The Hidden Art of Packaging

The hidden art of packaging

Wandering around a Supermarket might not be everyone's idea of fun but next time you pop out to do the weekly shop, take a moment, to look around you and appreciate the packaging on shelf.
Down every aisle, the colours, shapes and designs on display are astonishing given the small budgets and rapid developments of the Grocery sector.

An incredible amount of research and development effort is put into making the packaging jump off the shelf and into your basket.

But that’s today, what are the future considerations for packaging?

Today’s packaging protects, preserves, transports and markets the product, and designers are adept at creating new packs that stand out on shelf and encourage purchase “in store”. But the advent of online shopping has changed consumer behaviour but companies are yet to fully realise this in their packaging design.

Current packaging is optimally designed to be moved around the world on shrink-wrapped pallets, unpacked and placed on shelf in store. However in online grocery shopping, retailers also need to move single items from store to home, in non protective bags. Because the packs have not been designed for this type of movement, breakages and spills often happen. As this way of shopping grows, companies must create packaging that is suitable for the last delivery mile to keep customers happy.

Selling online changes the requirements of packaging in a different way too. The pack still has to preserve, protect and transport the product, but now the marketing aspect can be delivered by additional digital content. It seems silly that, for example, the photograph of the food on the sleeve of a “ready meal” is photographed again to include the product on a supermarket website. One could speculate on how successful this is for attracting customers!




Sensory Packaging Appeal
Creating products that appeal to all of our senses improve the consumer interaction and lead to more sales. Increasing the number of senses that are transmitting information strengthens the marketing messages. In a supermarket, adding sound to a pack could be intrusive, taste and smell are probably inappropriate for many products. So improving the feel or touch of the pack or product makes most sense. Pun intended! The importance of the feel of a pack is starting to become more prevalent across the grocery sector. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), around 75% of all personal care launches involved soft-touch coatings.

Touch is still important for online shopping too. Whilst the feel of the pack will not influence consumers at the point of purchase, when the product is delivered to the home, the first thing they will experience will be the touch of the packaging. Potentially this makes tactile pack design even more important as it will have a lot of influence on any repurchase.







The Rise of On Pack Electronics
Printing electronic circuits, sensors and memory directly on to pack is now possible and can turn the packaging into a device capable of showing movies, playing music or interacting with you. Connected Me is an Ericsson concept that transmits information from product to mobile just by touching the pack using your body as a cable. Imagine downloading recipes, nutritional information or reordering a product just by touching it.

Mobile technology, however, means that the electronic requirements can be “outsourced” to the consumer. Augmented Reality (AR) is a way to add elements that aren’t really there to a live-camera view of the world. So, for instance, you can overlay animation onto a view of a cereal pack to make it look as if the printed material has come alive. To employ AR, the consumer needs a smartphone or wearable technology and place their camera over an image that has been linked to the AR, to launch the hidden content.

So next time you are buying shampoo, cheese or beer spare a thought for the people who spend time, effort and research developing the packaging, just before you put it in the recycling bin!

Professor Catherine Barnes Member of IORMA Advisory Board and Director of Retail Innovation Leeds Beckett University Retail Institute

See Professor Cathy Barnes in conversation with IORMA here 


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