Understanding consumer choice at the retail shelf

By Alex Hunt  

In the critical task of measuring and predicting the potential for packaging design to influence sales lift, there has always been a desire for simple diagnostic metrics, based on benchmarks, that can help provide directional advice. This is in addition to deep, in-depth diagnostics that reveal elements of pack design that effectively convey benefits that drive purchase behavior, as well as the components of design that introduce barriers to consumer choice at the retail shelf. This month, Behaviorally introduced exactly this metric in the PackPower Score™, one number score that predicts the potential of packaging design to grow in-market sales. What the PackPower Score provides is a window into how and where pack design done right can be attributed – in isolation – to as much as a 5% sales lift within 12 months after a successful pack upgrade.

Since products on shelves also exist within an ecosystem of other choices, Behaviorally has and always will present new pack design options in full-shelf context, which dictates so much of how consumers respond. So, we engineered the PackPower Score to also pinpoint the performance of packaging relative to specific competitors, thus enabling a potent competitive benchmarking tool, previously unavailable, relative to that launched or fast-growing competitive product that everyone is talking about.

Given the importance of these metrics, the PackPower Score will be included in all work Behaviorally conducts to evaluate consumer response to new pack designs as an additional performance predictor beyond our in-depth diagnostics. We are confident this will prove valuable for our clients, allowing them to move forward (or not!) with added certainty about their pack performance.

Why is a simple predictive behavioral score significant? 

Having relentlessly focused on measuring and shaping the effectiveness of great packaging design for much of our 50+ year history, we understand its role in our clients’ overall marketing strategies. Anecdotally we know that the majority of pack enhancements result only in small changes in consumer behavior at shelf, at least when taken in isolation from other POS and marketing initiatives. So, we have been passionately focused on deciphering how even incremental improvement of pack performance can drive sales.

In our e-book, “The Power of Packaging,” we looked at numerous case studies for packs we tested that did contribute to sales growth. As often as not, the potential contributions of pack design to sales uplift in isolation was an elusive metric. What we concluded was that brands could benefit from a simple way to isolate the potential for pack designs to drive sales and realize the most important moment in marketing: the purchase transaction. Once that simple, benchmarkable metric is known, all the other deeper diagnostics our solutions provide can lead to fine-tuning the elements that will further ensure that most important moment of purchasing success. Conversely, a simple directional metric could signal that the pack design is introducing barriers to consumer behavior that will lead to sales declines. From there, brands can either start over or delve more deeply into whether a design treatment can be improved. 

Think of the cumulative impact for brands of hundreds of products that could be achieved with as much as a 5% lift in sales through packaging alone, in the context of all the other marketing dimensions to which packaging contributes! At its core, this is what the PackPower Score delivers, providing what we believe the marketplace will adopt going forward as foundational to pack design decisions.

How AI unlocks the predictive power of behavioral data 

Unlike agencies that claim to be behavioral experts but really dabble in the theoretical, early in our history Behaviorally moved beyond the academic to focus on tangible executions that are actionable in commercial marketing decision-making. For decades Behaviorally has been leveraging proprietary evaluation techniques across tens of thousands of pack and shelf designs, globally, in more than 80 different CPG categories. What we have built in aggregate as a result constitutes the largest pack design database of its kind, comprised of over 32 million behavioral datapoints across 42 diagnostic metrics, providing incredibly rich behavioral data from which to derive contextual comparisons.

But as with all extremely large data sets, computational challenges arise with the application of conventional technology to make sense of it at scale. Without a more advanced analytical engine it is impossible to parse such unstructured data and integrate it with other contextual data streams such as sales results in a timely fashion to support agile pack design decision-making.  

To achieve the PackPower Score, we approached the technological challenge guided by our purposeful innovation strategy to unlock the potential of our extensive behavioral data assets. Building on what we had already developed in our core solutions, we doubled down on techniques for analyzing the behavioral data with AI and computer vision technology that trains machines to evaluate pack design elements the way a human would see them. We then married all the data and analysis with third-party historical sales data, learnings for case studies and meta analytics specific to consumer behaviors and regional nuances in hundreds of CPG categories, to form concrete contexts in which to predict sales impact of new pack designs. It combines early consumer purchase intent with in-market performance data in order to predict real sales impact potential at very early stages, additive and supplemental to the robust evaluative diagnostics of our overall solution stack. 

Along the development road map, we drew on contributors and partners across our business, as well as invaluable contributions from clients who helped us road test the metric to ensure that it was meeting this critical unmet need in pack design evaluation. We are excited to realize the enthusiastic adoption we are already seeing in early testers. 

Moving forward, we will be embedding the PackPower Score across all physical and digital shelf solutions in Behaviorally’s product stack. It will from today be added to every PackFlash® study we conduct in our three-tiered stack of PackFlash Core, PackFlash Pus and PackFlash 360, for evaluating pack designs. Early in 2023, the PackPower Score will be embedded in the rest of the Behaviorally product stack including our flagship ShopperLab™ solutions for qualitative exploration of pack structure and sensory diagnostics, as well as our Flash.PDP™ platform for evaluating visual assets that drive transactions at the digital shelf.

The PackPower Score is just one of the manifestations of this mind-set toward product and service innovation that will continue to guide Behaviorally’s market-leading growth in the coming years. The resulting products and services we will continue to develop will provide actionable guidance for improving pack design and other marketing, at scale for both physical and digital retail that can impact and influence consumer behavior to our clients’ advantage. In the end, like PackPower Score, these solutions are wholly focused on our clients’ ability to achieve the only metric that really counts: the moment when the customer chooses your product, and a sale is transacted.

Please reach out to the Behaviorally Customer Success teams in your region to learn more about the PackPower Score, and how it can be leveraged to help you drive more valuable transactions at the moment of purchase. And please let us know what you think.