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Understanding Package Design Testing for CPG Brands

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Packaging is the face of your product. It’s a key driver of sales in retail environments and acts as a chief way to differentiate yourself from competitors. But in our experience, many companies don’t give the packaging design process the respect it deserves. This article covers the key CPG package design testing methods to predictably determine shelf performance.

Why don’t brands of consumer packaged goods engage in the testing innovations? Sometimes this results from marketing, but more often than not, it’s because CPG brands are not up to date on the latest ways to test a package for performance. Our objective here is to help CPG packaging decision makers understand and embrace the testing innovations that our clients use to outperform the competition.

CPG Package Design Testing

Brands of consumer packaged goods that want to compete at the point-of-purchase must understand the tenets of packaging design testing and why it’s so important. A bit of effort in the testing phase gives you a wealth of information you can use to better tailor your packaging to your customers, provided you handle it correctly.

Like other forms of branding, marketing, and advertising, a CPG company there testing for performance requires the right setting. In this article, we will provide you with specific testing methods that separate buyer intent from actual purchase intent.

Testing Reduces Risk, Improves ROI

The key goal of package design testing for consumer products is to hammer out problems with your design before you produce it on scale.

If consumers don’t like some aspect of your layout, or they’re confused by your packaging, you’ll need to rework your design to appeal more to their sensibilities. It’s an unfortunate fact, but no matter how much effort you put into your packaging design, the final vote goes to the end user.

In this way, testing works as a key method for risk reduction, particularly for totally new products that lack established markets. And it also influences ROI in terms of your production costs. Modern commercial printing is less expensive, but from a cost/benefit perspective, it makes little sense to launch a set of labels without performing due diligence.

Testing provides a reduced risk for CPG brands that go beyond the store shelf. Since product packaging exists across the entire marketing strategy, it makes sense that testing your packaging design will have a positive impact on any advertising campaign.

How to Structure CPG Package Design Testing

Package design testing encompasses several types of market research data collection, from pre-design research to post-production surveys. CPG companies need to start this process as early as possible in the packaging design phase; you’ll need these insights as soon as possible to give your designers some material to work with for their mock-ups and prototypes.

Consumer Packaged Goods Testing

The way you collect data depends on the research method used. In consumer packaging research, there are a few common options:

  • Observational research: Working with select customers and observing their behaviors in the retail shopping environment.
  • Guided Assessments: Focus groups where a moderator directs a group that matches our target customer.
  • Online studies: Great for collecting large volumes of responses during the initial package design strategy.
  • In-depth interviews Provides more detailed information about customer motivations, perceptions, and preferences.
  • Post Purchase Surveys: Follow-up surveys to determine intent to repurchase and brand loyalty.
  • Retail Simulation: Simulating the retail environment to recreate the buying experience and witness the real time purchasing decision.

The idea here is to leverage research methodologies in tandem to get a complete view of your market’s perceptions. What do they think of your brand? Does your new packaging stand out on the shelf? How long do they typically spend comparing products, and is your new design worth consideration?

Initial Research For Your CPG Brand

To begin, plan out your research goals and determine a reasonable scope for each effort. Proper planning is a crucial part of getting an organizational buy-in, from your C-suite to your marketers to your designers. Everyone needs to agree and have the same goals in mind.

Start by analyzing the existing market research for a historical understanding of consumer behavior from your target market.

Following your understanding of the market, begin testing certain concepts individually or in small groups. Structure your testing to focus on individual elements one at a time, such as your product packaging layout, color choice, copy, and so on.

Asking The Right Questions

You’ll get far more concrete information asking customers specific questions like “Does the package’s messaging make you feel confident about this brand?” rather than generalized questions like “What’s your opinion of the product packaging?”

In this initial research phase, your design team will take this information and come up with a bunch of prototypes based on your initial findings. We eventually pair these down through further research and competitor assessment (as we’ll discuss below), but it’s good to have lots of options to work with. If for no other reason than the fact that most consumers don’t know what they like until they see it.

Build out a few options for your designers and consumers to play with and go from there.

Testing Against Competitors

As you use these methods to learn more about your product packaging, you’ll need to make sure you’re testing against a comparative set similar to your own brand. In other words, your biggest competitors. If you want packaging to have high purchase intent, you’ll need to make sure you’re differentiating yourself in the marketplace.

Look at your competitors. What are they doing? What strategies are they employing that you aren’t? In your experience, how do these strategies play into your market’s perceptions? It’s important to understand what they’re doing well as well as where they’re going wrong.

Integrating Competitor Data Into Your Design Strategy

Compare these issues and keep in mind issues that may create conflicts in your data, such as the relative size of the competitors. For example, if you’re a small manufacturer, it’s helpful to assess what industry giants are doing. However, since their manufacturing capabilities will far exceed yours, you may apply different strategies they do.

Along the same lines, if you’re entering a crowded field with well-established players, your market may have certain expectations based on what your competitors have already put out.

This provides an opportunity for differentiation-but it also poses a challenge, as expectations play a huge role in purchasing intent. You don’t want to swing too far in the other direction and build a crazy package design your customers don’t understand.

Design Your Packaging With Care

One of the overarching goals of the CPG package testing process is to get both aim and subjective information about your product. It’s important to get as much information as possible, but be careful about applying too many changes too quickly.

Like your other brand marketing efforts, slow and structured changes are the way to go. Perform a structured testing process for each phase of your CPG packaging design to hammer out any issues that might come up. Rushing the process will defeat the purpose. Go slowly and make your improvements one step at a time.

Proprietary CPG Package Design Testing

At SmashBrand, our testing methodology goes beyond finding the target audience through market research. Our CPG packaging design agency goes through an extensive process, giving you accurate data about what success looks like for your final design.

Our mission is to increase your revenues while reducing retailers risk when putting your product on the shelf.

Book a time to discuss your project with our team.