Challenge to create shelf-shout

According to research by international point of purchase association POPAI, 70 per cent of purchasing decisions are made while customers are actually in the store.

A study by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Booz & Co and SheSpeaks found 85 per cent of shoppers perceive in-store factors, such as price, packaging and shelf displays, as more influential than out-of-store marketing.

“When people walk into a supermarket they know they need something, but they don’t know what type of something they want,” says Carsten Knudsen, president and chief executive of Esko, a global supplier of integrated solutions for packaging, sign and display production, which has a hand in the development of packaging for nine out of every ten major brands.

“Creating that shelf-shout is very important for brands. Frequently changing package design is a common practice among brands to stay in the spotlight on the shop shelves. Intelligent packaging is probably the next thing we will see. We’re already starting to see QR codes printed on products and then linking to the website of the brand, so we have wine bottles that tell us about the winery or raw food that tells you how to make a dish out of it.

“Brands are now looking at how to make packaging more informative for the consumer and to add value to the product.”

Alongside the use of more innovative technology is a growing desire for brands to customise their products for particular customer sub-segments. “Twenty years ago there were maybe two or three different variants of a particular toothpaste; today there are more than 40, so there is this proliferation of brands to target specific customer groups,” says Mr Knudsen.

Some brands are even using the personalisation of products within a brand itself as a means of standing out. Mr Knudsen points to the highly successful Coca-Cola campaign where shoppers could buy Coke bottles with their own names on. “For some brands you can go on their websites today and order their products with your son’s name on for a birthday party tomorrow,” he adds.

But the volume of regulation and legislation now emerging around packaging is proving a challenge for brand owners.

“This can be a particular issue for international businesses, which have to comply not only with varying requirements in different parts of the world, but even in some cases regional differences within trading areas,” says Mr Knudsen. “Another issue is environmental sustainability and consumers’ desire to buy green products. Packaging is considered as waste.”

With many years’ experience focusing on the packaging industry, and research and manufacturing facilities worldwide, Esko is well placed to help retailers and manufacturers struggling to cope with the sheer variety of options and requirements

Eco-friendly packaging is a solution that can also be extended to other aspects of the supply chain. Mr Knudsen gives the example of working with a lawnmower manufacturer, where the packaging supplier was able to fit 20 per cent more items on each truck load – creating financial and environmental savings – by modifying the design of the product to lower a screw by two inches, enabling it to fold into a more compact space.

“How to keep track of all this packaging variation in a controlled manner is a challenge,” says Mr Knudsen. “There’s an increasing complexity and an increased need for speed among brands, which makes it difficult for them to keep up and ensure their local manufacturers and products live up to both the local legislation and the brand design guidelines. With product recalls and bad publicity, the cost of non-compliance is extremely high so brands are very focused on ensuring they do comply.

“And how to manage that complexity is also a big challenge. Brand owners are concerned that the brand name looks right, is at the right location on the package, has the right dimensions and colour, while at the same time ensuring that customisation, and even personalisation, is possible. Often that means localised and much dispersed production, with very short print runs. Standardised and managed packaging production processes will drive efficiencies, and ensure a consistent look and feel to brands, across different product lines and around the world.”

The use of software to design and display virtual products is making these kinds of initiatives easier, says Mr Knudsen. “It ensures all parties throughout the supply chain are able to feed into designs, using cloud-based technology, and even visualise how these will look in a shop alongside competitor brands, through the use of a virtual supermarket.

“Years ago, print meant making a physical sample and printing it. Today you can have minimal iterations and much more environmental, sustainable, faster and cheaper processes to design new packaging, and reduce the time it takes from creating an idea to developing a finished product.”

With the need for brands to be able to move quickly in a competitive market and the complexity brought about by regulation, having a dependable partner that can not only support the design and visualisation of packaging, but also advise and guide around the bigger picture is essential.

With many years’ experience solely focusing on the packaging industry, and research and manufacturing facilities in five European countries, the United States, China and India, Esko is well placed to help retailers and manufacturers struggling to cope with the sheer variety of options and requirements.

This expertise is complemented by workflow software solutions that will help brands manage the entire packaging process, from the initial idea through to production, says Mr Knudsen. “We have cloud-based software where customers can view mock-ups and approve designs, so they can make sure the same colour specification is sent to the Indian printer as the US one, and that therefore the outcome is the same,” he says.

Being able to provide instant access to ideas and assets for designers and supply chain partners can iron out any design errors before the item is produced, and significantly shorten the time it takes to get a new packaging design to market.

“It makes sure that if there are bumps in the road, they see them early and ensures the whole supply chain has what it needs to continue the development process,” says Mr Knudsen. “It’s a complete management solution.”

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