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  • Writer's pictureKristen Davis

It's called a touchpoint for good reason

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

We know that over 80% of visual activity in the purchase process is attributed to processing the vast array of packaging available, which of course could be the first time your consumers see your packaging. This is why, here at Shoppercentric, we know we need to have a pretty good grasp on all things pack related. Our in-house experts work on projects ranging from concept development through to neuro-responses of final packaging artwork. However, with the push for timely, scalable, quantifiable design data to support creative teams, we are constantly reminding ourselves not to overlook the personal, tactile, experience an individual has when they touch the real thing for the first time.

As shopper specialists, we are constantly reminded of this while watching, listening to and learning from customers as they reach for and interact with new products in store. We all know the pack is a fundamental storyteller which must signal what’s important to say about a brand, but the ‘right’ pack will also teach us what to feel about a brand or product.

Packaging is typically tasked with looking after product function and good aesthetics, but it’s critically important to recognise this means more than investigating structure, font, size, symmetry and originality. Humans are highly tactile creatures. We use touch to build our relationships and adjust our perceptions of the world around us. Shoppers are no different; using touch to assimilate and differentiate between product choices, often without realising this powerful sense is truly in play?

In fact, touch is often a sensory shortcut to decision-making. It allows us to quickly evaluate an item and build that all important 3D connection with it – even with products you may not consider as tactile at all. In a recent project, we witnessed DIY paint shoppers routinely stroking the colour chips they were most drawn to – not because they wanted to necessarily feel the texture of the paint but because this textural proximity brought them emotionally closer to the colour in question. It would see some shades ‘feel’ better than others? On a different note, the muesli lovers amongst us will know that a reassuringly expensive new muesli is only so if it is also reassuringly heavy to pick up i.e. confirming it’s generously packed full of nuts, seeds and dried fruits. No doubt we’ve all seen the plethora of cardboard or hessian-style packs in many categories designed to flick our internal switches around natural, sustainable, honest, ‘good for you’ contents.

So, increasingly we see tactile branding as, well, a thing best described as a combination of marketing, psychology and cognitive neuro-science which helps brands put touch at the heart of their strategy. There’s even a term for it: ‘affective ventriloquism’ simply means that a good tactile pack experience may in fact bias us to over-estimate the quality and desirable values of its contents. For example, cookies may taste crunchier when taken from a rough bowl than a smooth bowl and coffee may taste more intense from an angular cup versus a more rounded shape. This isn’t to say that more top of mind factors such as flavour, price points and pack size aren’t influential, but perhaps a product that feels great has the power to improve all the perceived product features – and makes us feel better about parting with our hard-earned cash too?

What’s more, thinking about packs through a more tactile lens can help break packaging paradigms. Admittedly, Nike is never short on new ideas, but their secondary packaging for Nike Air is so simple yet embraces everything about the shoe’s promise, experience and technology into one eye-catching visual and tactile moment.

But what about online shopping? How do you consider touch and texture when your medium is pixels not pallets? Part of the answer lies in looking at the wider pathway to purchase. Now, we’re not advocates of packaging for packaging’s sake, but there is a very important moment in an online purchase …. that ‘ta-dah’ moment when a product arrives and is opened for the first time. Much like the arrival of a new baby, this is the moment of truth when the product is held for the first time for all to marvel at its perfection. Online brands that deliver a deeper connection on arrival through a textural surprise, or unexpected finish or detail, can also deepen the brand relationship going forward.

For us, we would argue that the most successful pack innovation programmes incorporate all the senses and feature ‘touch’ signals early in the development cycle, whether that be weight, texture, material, or form. We are big fans of evaluating visual texture too (anticipated tactile experiences) using neuro-responses supported by interactive sessions with future customers, but there is no replacement for good old fashioned in-hand product experience to help (literally) shape the product’s pack as the king of future touchpoints.

If you have any packaging challenges that you would like to discuss, then please get in touch:

Kristen Davis

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