Doing a Package Redesign? Start with Customer Research

Customer research is the cornerstone of any successful product launch. Because your packaging is often the first thing a potential customer sees, package design is one area that can benefit from feedback directly from your target customers.

Reflecting on the Role of Research in Package Design

I recently wrapped up a research project in which the findings were used to influence a package design initiative for a health and nutrition client.  After the close of the project, I found myself reflecting on the process we went through and our findings.  It stayed with me because we learned so much from where we began – the process and results were truly eye opening and enlightening to everyone involved, including the client, package design partner and us as researchers.

Why Research and Package Design?

First and foremost, there is no better way to understand what your customers are thinking than talking to them directly.  But more importantly for this particular initiative, it allowed us to test internal hypotheses as well as resolve internal debates.   As I look back on the progression of the work from those initial internal meetings to our final analysis, we made some significant decisions based on the research.

Aligning the Research Plan to the Design Process

From the creative brief to package launch, we used research to inform the process every step of the way.  There are many ways to include research in the process, but here are some examples of ways we did it.

We kicked off the process with exploratory customer research using a combination of in-home interviews and shopalongs.  We chose this methodology to better understand:

  • Who is the consumer?
  • What brands are they passionate about and why?
  • What packaging and products “pop” for consumers at the shelf?
  • What packaging elements are important to consumers?

An additional part of this exploratory phase was to begin to understand specific packaging elements, such as proposed messaging and images that resonated with these particular consumers. We used hour long one-on-one in-person interviews in a focus group facility to learn more about which packaging elements stood out to consumers.  These results became key inputs into the development of the creative brief and helped drive the initial package design concepts.

Testing the Package Design Concepts

Once initial package design concepts were complete, we began another round of research to test those concepts.  For this, we used in-person focus groups.  The focus group format allowed us to gather opinions from a robust number of consumers in different geographies.  This research allowed us to:

  • Get consumer feedback on each box option including visuals, features, benefits and messaging
  • Understand which elements draw the consumer in and mean the most during purchase
  • Learn what consumers view as their “ideal box” or their take on the optimal combination of images and content

We combined the group discussion with some individual exercises to gather everyone’s unique perspective.  One of the individual exercises was specifically designed to understand the consumer’s “ideal box”.  Each consumer individually chose the images and content they preferred to see on the package, and assembled the box they found most compelling.  This exercise was critical to learning which specific elements “pop” for the consumer. We also learned which components of the box were most impactful during purchase.

The Big A-Ha

Why was this process so eye opening?  There are several key reasons.

First, we learned that some images that were initially favored by the team were not relatable to most consumers.  The images did not feel like “every person” or did not depict health and fitness activities that resonated with most consumers.

Second, we found that some of the messaging elements deemed important internally were either not important to consumers, or actually confusing.  One of the biggest takeaways from the research process was that consumers want to be educated on this product category. Because of this, they prefer messaging that ultimately helps them understand what they are buying and why they are buying it.

Without including a research component with this package design process, we would have missed out on these important learnings and would have very likely ended up in a very different place.

Don’t be left holding your inventory

Crafting and implementing a comprehensive research plan as part of your package redesign can give you the customer perspective that may ultimately mean the difference between your success and failure.

If you are interested in understanding how customer research can be a vital part of your next product launch, feel free to contact me at .


Jennifer Cuthill

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