••• new product research

Images are better shorthand for line extensions

Rows of colorful rubber ducks.

Research from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia exploring how colors and images can help identify line extensions has found that images, rather than colors, are much better at communicating product variety.

For the article, “How to signal product variety on pack: an investigation of color and image cues,” perceptions of 1,853 customers to 576 products in the U.S. packaged goods market were analyzed. The study showed that only 56% of product varieties had a color that was commonly expected by category buyers.

“As images are less ambiguous, they have more power to convey variety than colors. Yet for marketers, it’s common practice to signal a new line extension by mimicking the colors used by competitors,” says article co-author Ella Ward. “We recommend using images where possible and protecting the master brand by keeping variant colors to 25% of the pack face or less.”

The research draws upon empirical consumer research on how consumers identify and recall information about brands in their memories. “In our study we found that competing brands use similar colors to signal 84% of the variant types analyzed but consumers associated a color with only 56% of those types,” Ward says. “Concerningly, there was a disconnect between colors used in practice and those expected by customers, with these aligning only 16% of the time. When we assessed images however, we found that 23% more consumers were able to link these to product variants.”

••• shopper insights

Bring back the showrooms?

A white and gray maze.

New research finds renewed value in retailers returning to an old concept – the store showroom – particularly when larger, big-ticket durable goods are involved.

Using data from more than 380,000 transactions at a leading Italian furniture retailer, researchers studied whether customers’ sensitivity to delivery lead time – also known as fulfillment – differed when sales were made through store showrooms, online or by phone using a printed catalog.

Study findings suggest that retail showrooms make customers less sensitive to lead time than online or catalog channels. “When people go into a showroom and they see the product and talk to store employees about it, they simply don’t care as much about the long wait time,” says Fei Gao, co-author of the Management Science article, “Channel changes choice: An empirical study about omnichannel demand sensitivity to fulfillment lead time.”

“What we find is that you don’t really need to speed up the delivery process too much; you can make better use of your stores,” Gao says. “Once people have seen the product personally, they know more about it and it reduces what we call ‘information uncertainty.’ Especially for furniture, you don’t want to buy something that’s too big for the space, and when you’re buying online, you may not be sure if it will even fit.”