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Suzi Shopper: Overcoming Packaging Deficiencies with Visual Cues

Suzi Shopper: Thoughts on business from a consumer’s perspective

As retailers, you know you’re dealing with short attention spans and consumers with too much going on—phones, kids, thinking about the next thing they have to do—the list goes on and on. The bottom line: they don’t pay attention like they should, so it’s your job as a retailer to grab their attention.

This is especially true when it comes to when your supplier has let you down when it comes to packaging. Let me give you a few examples which, while I might not classify as tragic (ok, one was kinda funny), they were definitely a result of poor packaging combined with consumers that were not paying close enough attention—and the retailer could have saved them some heartache.

Liberte has different yogurt container types for non fat vs. low fat. Score one point for them! (And they have the yummiest lemon yogurt I’ve found.)  The short package is the Greek version; the tall package is for the “regular” version.  However, with each of these, there are non-fat and low-fat options.  This is printed in teeny, tiny, light gray letters….on a small yogurt package.  Needless to say, my aging eyes need a big magnifying glass to read that part, which means I often miss it—and the grocery store shelves both versions all together, making it even more of a “hazard.”

Here’s another example: The various manufacturers of “pods” for K-Cup brand coffee makers are some of the worst offenders. Those in particular who produce DECAF coffee need to figure this out – there’s no difference in color, style, font, or any other visual cue with the boxes—just this one, tiny word. I miss it way too often. When I do I eventually figure it out, I’m not very happy, because it’s after the box has made the trip home with me.  Why are they on a mission to make us drink decaf???

When I was telling my editor about this, she added her K-Cup story (this is the funny one). While shopping for K-Cup coffee one day, she came across a sale on what she read to be French Roast—and at a rock-bottom price. (And for those of you K-Cup users, you know they’re not cheap.). Since her husband is an avid coffee drinker, she snatched up 6 boxes of 32 pods, thrilled at her bargain. The next morning, she awoke to what a dreadful smell emanating from the kitchen. “Sort of a fake, stinky maple-y smell.” When she questioned her husband, she was told that she had not purchased French ROAST coffee, as she had thought, but French TOAST. Comparing the box with boxes of French Roast (and others), the difference was barely noticeable—just one tiny letter that resulted in 192 cups of hell (for her, at least—her husband didn’t seem to care too much).

So, getting back to what you can do as retailers if the manufacturer falls down on the job of packaging. How about making big signs? Setting up visibly separate displays? Other verbal cues that will help your customers make the right decision? How do you display your products to overcome manufacturers’ deficiencies in packaging so you don’t have unhappy customers/product returns?  How do you avoid customers feeling as though they were “tricked” into buying a product due to misleading packaging?