Taking the mystery out of marketing, and getting to the heart of what entices a consumer to buy

By Dr. R. Andrew Hurley
Contributing Editor, Beauty Packaging

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The beauty retail sector is packed with brands and products, and growing every day. But if you’re launching a new product, or looking to revitalize a classic standby, you’re likely just taking a swing in the dark when trying to identify what will attract your (hopefully) new customers. Market trends are helpful, but if over-relied upon, they can create a homogeneous shelf: every product going for the same “great” look, so all products become just that. The same. And really, you know your own product too well to be able to take a step back and look at it with unbiased eyes. Consumer feedback is invaluable.

There are some ingenious tools out there, like eye-tracking, that get to the heart of what entices a consumer to buy. Eye-tracking isn’t new tech, but enhancements in the industry now allow for data points to be gathered at 50 times a second. If a consumer spends 5 minutes looking over your planogram in a retail setting, that’s 15,000 nuggets of information about you (and your competitors) that can be put to good use.

The A/B testing model works here, just like it does when you’re testing out a social strategy. Initially, you determine your baseline; How does your current packaging perform in its competitive array? Once you have that data in hand, it will inform the decision-making process on what elements work, and what elements could work better.  Instead of dropping a million dollars on an untested design, it’s now possible to spend a few thousand on prototyping and testing to hone your form and messaging, and even optimize shelf placement. A well-designed eye-tracking study gives you the opportunity to really see what resonates with consumers across your entire competitive market. And each different product iteration gives you the chance, with relatively little investment, to perfect a strategy for growing and understanding your retail shelf in very specific terms, instead of the generalized “one-size-fits-all” blanket offered up by market trends.

Eye-tracking can be an effective marketing tool to evaluate what resonates with consumers on-shelf and online.

Eye-tracking can be an effective marketing tool to evaluate what resonates with consumers on-shelf and online.

While in-context retail testing is invaluable for the brick-and-mortar space, so much of the market now exists online, and these audiences interact with your product in completely different ways. Here, your messaging becomes as much, if not more important, than your packaging. Luckily, marketing research also extends to on-screen eye-tracking, offering the ability to see the non-conscious decisions made by internet shoppers, and giving you the insight necessary to win in the e-commerce space as well.

As your brand evolves, you also need to be prepared to evolve. As packaging scientists, we’re always on the lookout for new substrates, finishes, or manufacturing advancements that will enhance a brand presence. So, why should marketing that package be any different? The technology has been in play for 30-plus years, and in that time, it’s proven itself as an effective tool when utilized by savvy marketers.

About the Author
Dr. R. Andrew Hurley is an Assistant Professor of Packaging Science at Clemson University, where he directs the design, prototyping, and consumer experience test lab, CUshop™. In 2014, Dr. Hurley co-founded Package InSight, a full-service eye-tracking, packaging design and consumer experience company in Greenville, SC. He is also a co-founder of The Packaging School, offering the 12-course Certificate of Packaging, a state-of-the-art online curriculum teaching packaging essentials to working professionals.

Beauty Packaging article viewable here: 
https://www.beautypackaging.com/issues/2017-07-01/view_columns/enhancements-in-eye-tracking/42087

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