Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Show Shoppers Selective Transparency

When my sister moved from Southern California to Northern California, following my migration path years earlier, I asked her if she was appreciating the cleaner air up here, compared to the smog she left behind. She quipped, “Actually, I prefer to see what I’m about to breathe.”
     But do people prefer to see what they’re about to eat? Researchers at Ohio State University and University of Texas-Austin aimed to answer that question by assessing the effects of transparent versus opaque packaging on attitudes toward foods in retail stores . They found two opposing effects:
  • Salience. Being able to see a food item facilitates imagination of consumption, usually making attitudes more positive. 
  • Monitoring. Seeing the actual food item activates scanning for flaws, usually making attitudes more negative. 
     Here’s how that tug-of-war played out in the studies:
  • For foods in large packages, monitoring won when transparent packaging was used. Opaque packaging with an illustration of the item resulted in higher sales. 
  • For foods with interesting colors and/or shapes sold in small transparent packages, salience won. The likelihood of purchase and amount consumed increased because of the transparent packaging. 
  • An exception to this was with any vegetables which consumers thought of more for health benefits than for tastiness. Transparent packaging resulted in lower sales than did opaque packaging. Salience had won over monitoring, but the result was contemplating consumption of a product which wasn’t especially tasty. To build sales, use opaque packages displaying spectacular graphics. 
     For other situations selling food, the Ohio/Texas researchers said the effects of transparent packaging on consumer attitudes were not—well—so clear-cut. The outcome does still seem to be influenced by the package size and the characteristics of the items.
     With non-food merchandise, shopper psychology research finds overall advantages in letting the shopper see the item rather than hiding it inside opaque packaging. Do allow enough package surface to list usage benefits, though. People buy things for the benefits offered more than for the physical characteristics of the items.
     Sales staff should be describing the benefits. However, they can too easily forget to do the job. Sales people can get busy, and staff who are thoroughly familiar with how well a particular item produces benefits can take it for granted that the customer knows, too. Let the packaging help.
     Complete transparency in retailing has advantages. Still, when it comes to complete transparency in product packaging, sometimes refrain.

Click below for more: 
Help Shoppers Use Their Imagination 
Clarify Cause & Effect with Users 
Acknowledge Customers’ Willful Ignorance

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