How many other marketing and advertising mediums are placed within inches from the competition? Not many. Retail packaging, however, lives side-by-side with its marketing rivals.

Typically, indecisive shoppers hold a product in their hand while scanning other possible options and comparing brand recognition, features, benefits and price. All of this happens in about 15-20 seconds. There is a small window of opportunity to convince a customer to put your product in their basket. While it’s great to stand out and be different, in the world of packaging, it’s sometimes beneficial to have “me, too” features alongside key features that differentiate your product, especially if you’re a new brand without a lot of recognition.

A simple walk through a retail store can give you a ton of valuable information such as what type of structure you should consider; what features do your competitors call out; and what are the sales associates saying about the category. Packaging structure plays a large role in your customer’s decision–making process. If all of your competition is in bags and you decide on a box, your product could be missed simply because you were overlooked as not being part of the category mix. Knowing what the customers have come to expect is key.

Communicating features and benefits in a category that has a lot of competitors can be tricky. Everyone understands the values of what a 60-watt, 75-watt and 100-watt light bulb means. However, if you are packaging a new LED light bulb, you’ll want to shout “lumens”. But how is a consumer going to compare an 800-lumen to a 75-watt bulb? They aren’t. Unless you tell them about it on the packaging.

While walking the retail environment, be sure to ask an associate for information and or feedback on that particular industry. In some cases, they will be able to tell you what is selling and why. Associates are big influencers of the buying decision and understanding what they are saying about your product should not be taken lightly.

Package design should begin at the shelf. Reviewing the competition and shopping your own product in a store environment can’t be substituted. Simply viewing a new package design on a computer screen or even a really nice color print can’t tell you how your packaging really speaks to consumers.

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