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Package Deal: Research Reveals What Motivates Shoppers to Buy

August 13, 2019

People buy with their eyes.

Grocers and brand managers know it’s an important reality — 90% of consumers make their purchase decision after looking at the front of a package. Both retailers and brands need to know exactly what captures attention – and what doesn’t.

And we know that consumers overwhelmingly prefer sustainable brands — 83% say it’s important that what they buy is reusable or recyclable. Packaged goods have to balance brand messaging with required and sometimes regulated logos. But, has sustainability and corporate social responsibility messaging affected how consumers make purchase decisions?

To research this topic, Quad partnered with Package InSight — part of a Clemson University institute that studies package performance, consumer attention and shelf impact. They looked at how a sustainability rating’s logo might affect purchase decisions.

What they see is what they get

For the 2018 packaging study, researchers created five fictional brands with five physical paperboard prototypes of each.

They also used five legitimate, national brands with sustainability claims on packaging. Each of these products were inserted into a competitive planogram where participants shopped.

Eye-tracking technology followed shoppers’ gazes in grocery stores to learn what captured attention and ultimately factored into sales. The study’s participants wore glasses that tracked eye movement across groceries on store shelves and showed what captured attention that ultimately factored into sales.

The study measured how fast and long consumers fixated on different areas of a package, then whether they bought the product.

The fictional sustainability logo graded packaging with A, B or C. This gave researchers two factors to study — whether the visual element captured attention, and if the rating mattered.

No package is an island

The first group of shoppers had no information beyond what was on the packages. And the logo alone didn’t drive the sustainability message home — 92% of the first group didn’t notice the label at all.

But researchers sent a supplemental flyer about the rating system from the fabricated Council for Sustainable Packaging to the second group of participants.

That additional context made a big difference with the second group — 44% of the educated shoppers saw the sustainability logo. And participants purchased products with high ratings 50% more often than low.

Bottom line

This study demonstrates that packaging is a channel, necessary for conveying information about products to customers. But it has the greatest impact when marketers closely coordinate it with other channels.

Best-in-class packaging alone improves sales by 6%. Direct mail, programmatic ads, sponsored social media posts and other tactics grow consideration beyond the shelf. Likewise, packaging that drives consumers to digital platforms gives brands more data and insights.

Packaging is more dynamic than ever. Brands take convenience, personalization and e-commerce into account to design an appealing package. Now sustainability has emerged as a key trend in the industry — one that will become even more crucial in purchase decisions.


Download the full white paper, “Sustainable Packaging & Brand Identity Part 2: Consumer Education,” to read more.

Then learn about the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s mission to bring actionable improvements to packaging, and to lend an authoritative voice on issues related to packaging sustainability.