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Using packaging to fight back and drive sales

According to the latest British Retail Consortium figures, May 2019 saw the UK high streets biggest decline since the mid-1990s with overall retail sales falling by 2.7%. This was also reflected online where sales grew by the weakest amount ever recorded.

There is no question that retail conditions are extremely tough, and news of store closures and business rate hikes are constantly in the headlines. Against this backdrop and with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, retailers are working even harder to lure customers to the shops and encourage them to spend. How can packaging innovations improve customer experience and drive sales?

Split second decisions

Science shows that many consumers haven’t completely made up their minds about what to purchase before they enter the store – this means there is a window of opportunity. 

According to research by OgilvyAction, almost 20% of shoppers impulsively buy in categories they had no intention to buy from before entering the store. 

Furthermore, the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science’s report “Shopping Takes Only Seconds… In-Store and Online,” found that the average consumer spends just 13 seconds choosing which brand to purchase in-store.

In this tiny moment of time, brands must catch the attention of the consumer and stand out from their rivals. This is where strong product packaging, on shelf packaging (Retail Ready Packaging or RRP), point of sale (POS) packaging and innovative packaging solutions can be extremely effective.

Using on shelf packaging to the max

RRP has become an established part of the daily shopping experience across a huge range of products. There is a big opportunity to integrate RRP design into the promotional mix to generate sales, create visual disruption in the category and make promotions succeed. Effective RRP can ensure there is more stock and range on the shelf, and strengthen product visibility and easy navigation for shoppers.

Similarly, DS Smith’s innovative packaging system SalesFront guarantees that products are pushed to the front of the shelf and seen by consumers. The SalesFront pack incorporates a specially engineered band into the RRP and smoothly moves the contents forward as each item is sold.

Research from IGD has revealed that 37% of customers will buy an alternative brand if they can’t see their chosen product on the shelf which shows the real importance of having products pushed to the fore. In contrast, retail trials have shown that the sales of a product continually presented to the front of the shelf can increase by up to 20%, with an average increase of 6-8%.

Taking a fresh perspective

Brands can also review their POS and evaluate whether they could employ new technology or innovative 3D design to create more cut-through.

A recent example of a brand doing something different is Stoffels Tomato Farm. Based in Belgium, it is one of the most modern tomato farms in Belgium. The company not only harvests colourful and tasty tomatoes, but also receives praise for the unique character of the crop and the innovative way in which the assortment is marketed. 

The company keeps a close eye on trends within the retail landscape and began to notice that consumers were looking for more self-service in the supermarket. There was also increasing interest in healthy food and ‘the rise of the vending machines’ in store. This led to the creation of the Automato – an innovative and eye-catching tomato dispenser, based on the Pick and Mix principle.

With the Automato you can determine how many cherry tomatoes you buy and which colour, with one twist of the Automato wheel resulting in six tomatoes falling into a cup. The dispenser consists of several units, each containing its own colour of cherry tomatoes.

The tomatoes in the Automato are packed in a special Toma’box and refilling is simple and hygienic. The team at Stoffels worked closely with packaging specialists at DS Smith’s PackRight Centre to create the dispenser, which refills the tomatoes in the Automato and also looks great at home on the countertop.

This kind of POS display is totally unique and engaging and shows the impact that can be obtained by challenging the norm to trigger interest.

Stand out with innovation 

With product saturation at an all time high, brands are increasingly offering innovative packaging solutions to stand out in the crowd. By implementing augmented reality (AR) experiences though primary and secondary packaging, brands are more commonly using innovation to bring their products to life. 

This has been largely implemented by single QR codes that are consistent across identical packaging. However, emerging print technologies are enabling brands to now produce multiple variations of packaging for a single product, through large print runs, in a cost-effective way. This development has allowed for packaging to be printed with image variations, all of which can be scanned by a mobile device – each offering a different AR experience. 

Could a series of boxes each feature an image of a different celebrity’s face which, when scanned, brings that person to life on a mobile device? Could a food product’s packaging be scanned to show relevant recipe videos dependent on the different serving suggestions printed on each box? 

This innovation can improve consumer engagement and allow businesses to simultaneously gain valuable insights into the personal preference of individual consumers. All of which can play a vital role for guiding future marketing activity.

With traditional retail environments struggling so much, innovation and creativity will be the key to drawing the customer’s eye and driving sales. It is critical that brands ensure their packaging solutions are delivering for them at every level and not becoming invisible.


Alan Potts, design innovations director at DS Smith

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