Industry News

Consumers & Packaging: How Brands Are Listening

Consumers & Packaging: How Brands Are Listening

Posted on July 22nd, 2020 in Industry News

Packaging is the customer’s first experience with your product, so it needs to make the right impression.

With more options and more informed customers, today’s businesses can no longer rely on brand loyalty alone, especially with younger generations. According to a survey by financial services firm ING, shoppers under 30 are more likely to switch brands if they don’t agree with a company’s values.

A quick look at product packaging tells the buyer a lot about a company and its values – especially when it comes to hot topics like sustainability, and especially for everyday purchases such as food and drink or pharmaceuticals that customers rely on. ING found that almost half of adults aged 25 to 34 said they’ve stopped buying grocery products from brands after finding out they’re not environmentally responsible.

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic brought new challenges for brands as packaging took on a more important role in helping people to shop from home, putting materials and processing under more scrutiny than ever. By paying attention to what people are saying, on social media and in focus groups, retailers and packaging manufacturers can explore ways to better serve their customers’ changing needs.

Explore sustainable materials

With climate change and ocean plastics being major pain points for many ethical consumers, leading brands across the sectors are committing to reducing their carbon footprints by switching to greener packaging. This is easier said than done for many companies though, especially those that have long relied on the strength and convenience of plastics.

Replacing single-use plastics with renewable or recyclable materials is the single most effective step brands can take towards greening their packaging, at least as far as pleasing shoppers goes. This could involve establishing new supplier relationships or working with materials science companies to find the best solutions for your unique needs.

Once among the worst offenders for waste, major food and drink chains are now emphasising their sustainable packaging to help improve their public image. Starbucks replaced plastic straws with recyclable polypropylene plastic lids, while McDonald’s has committed to using 100% sustainable packaging by 2025 coming from renewable, recyclable or certified sources.

Work with recycling infrastructure

When brands green their packaging, the responsibility of maintaining the circular economy is shared with the consumer.

Customers will recycle packaging when the infrastructure is there, so brands should make sure they’re using widely recyclable materials and include clear guidance on the packaging itself about how to dispose of each component responsibly. Encouraging customers to use the recycling at their local supermarket will keep your brand and sustainability in their minds when they’re browsing the aisles.

Some brands go further and make their own recycling commitments, such a Coca-Cola’s pledge to recycle a bottle or can for every item they produce. Although this faced some criticism for being insufficient in light of the huge volume of materials the company adds to the stream every second.

Prevent damage during transport

It’s not only sustainability that gets customers passionate about packaging. According to DHL’s Rethinking Packaging Trends Report, almost half of consumers say they’re less likely to use a retailer again if their order was damaged during transport. While accidents can happen, robust packaging can minimise the risk.

Some brands find that the need for strong packaging conflicts with the drive for sustainability, and finding the ideal balance is a major focus of research and development. Bulky packaging costs brands more and can be another source of frustration for online shoppers, as they have to dispose of the extra packaging that protects their goods along the entire delivery route.

Amazon may have one answer in its automated packaging and processing systems. Powered by AI and machine learning, the retailer claims they reduce damage rates by 24% and transport costs by 5% compared to conventional shipments. Amazon plans to make the system available in open source so more ecommerce businesses can reduce their losses and customer frustration, provided they can afford to invest in the technology in the first place.

Test packaging redesigns

Whether it’s a subtle texture change as your brand switches to recyclable packaging or a new look expressing your brand values, packaging design transitions need to be handled with care to avoid alienating existing customers. This is especially the case for food and drink, pharmaceuticals and other everyday goods that buyers want to be assured are still the same.

Market research, sample testing and social listening to see what customers are saying about you on platforms like Facebook and Twitter will help you avoid a disastrous relaunch and losing customers to the competition. Although brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be, you can still win over new and existing buyers when your packaging clearly communicates the positive values they share.

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