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A majority of shoppers of private label products take packaging design into account in shaping their purchasing decisions, according to a University of Ulster study in Northern Ireland.  How can private label manufacturers materialize on this?

Design Factors That Influence Sales

Researchers found that consumers are more likely to recognize extrinsic cues rather than intrinsic cues that play a part in decision making. In other words, the packaging takes on a life of its own and can be more influential than the product itself, at least at the point of purchase.

Over 43 percent of consumers, for example, say they assess product quality based on pack photography. Some consumers may even use photography as a guide for food serving amounts. Even when there's a window for people to see the product, many still evaluate the product based on the photography.

Download Ebook 2A large number of repeat purchases were observed in the study, as 30 percent of the shoppers surveyed said that familiarity of the product was important. Only 21 percent said that the product descriptor was useful for judging product quality. The type of consumer most likely to be persuaded by descriptor words appealing to the senses were those who enjoy indulging in the product.

Only 6 percent of the shoppers claimed that portion size was a deciding factor, but it was still important to shoppers buying for families.

Earlier studies have revealed that consumers will evaluate the quality of brands when there is no apparent difference in physical quality between competing products. When consumers are swayed by extrinsic cues, national brands have an advantage over private label products. A 1994 study by Richardson and Dick, for example, found that store brands are mainly undifferentiated in the minds of consumers.

More recent research, however, indicates that store brands have become more familiar to shoppers in the new millennium, especially after a period of intense recession. A premium private label brand can communicate a sense of quality more effectively than competing national brands for certain product categories.

The study looked at five consumer segments within the category of premium desserts. Each segment relied on a different set of extrinsic cues for evaluating the product, as different segments correlated with different buying patterns.

Shoppers in general spent more time browsing the chilled desserts than for other products. What many had in common was they equated "finest" desserts with "restaurant standard" and "highest quality." Consumer comments suggested that these shoppers were looking for packaging that conveyed food that makes their "stomach grumble and mouth water."

Edge for Private Labels

Private label brands can use this study on packaging design to strengthen communication with customers. A major advantage that a private label has over national brands is that it can be adjusted more quickly and seamlessly. You simply need to identify market segments that favor premium private label products and packaging factors that influence their choices.

Opportunities are wide open for designers to capitalize on the fact that many consumers look for alternatives to national brands. For these type of consumers, all it takes is a certain type of design to capture their attention. A private label brand has the ability to be flexible and experimental until it finds a strategy that clicks with specific market segments.

In many ways a private label brand can develop a closer relationship with consumers than national competitors, especially if the store does its own market research on consumer tastes and packaging design.


Nearly two thirds of consumers say they are in some way influenced by packaging design. Packaging designers have the opportunity to maximize sales by learning more about what consumers look for in packaging photography and other design factors.


References and Further Reading

Topics: Cosmetic Packaging, Private Label Cosmetics

Topics: Private Label Cosmetics