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Implied motion: Making packaging work for you

Supermarkets are full of attractively packaged food products. To stand out and increase shopper attention as well as get them to purchase, manufacturers have experimented with countless visuals and packaging designs. New research suggests that food products sell better when visuals include implied motion on packages. Front of Product (FOP) helps capture shoppers’ visual attention, which increases product choice. Implied motion also creates perceptions of freshness, which creates perceptions of tastiness and attractiveness. This leads to higher product evaluation and higher purchase intention.

Shopper behaviour has emerged as a distinct field of study and is differentiated from consumer behaviour. How shoppers behave is often at odds with how products are consumed (consumer behaviour). Significant efforts are being expended in studying how shoppers can be enticed to pick up products from shelves and drop them in a shopping cart.

In a typical supermarket, aisles full of attractively packaged products jostle with each other to grab the shoppers’ attention. How the products are arranged, at what heights, in what order and how the aesthetics are managed are all important for retailers as well as manufacturers. Another important variable is the product packaging.

Glossy images of bowls of cereals garnished with fruits and nuts, glasses of splashing juice surrounded by fruits, and leaping potato chips tempt shoppers. Packaging serves as more than a logistical convenience today. It is a communication tool that attracts shoppers, creates positive expectations, enhances the consumption experience, and triggers purchase behaviour. With all packaged food products clamouring for the shopper’s attention, marketers are faced with the challenge of how to package their products to gain an edge over competitors. A study based on two experiments (milk and juice packaging) tries to answer the question: Does implied motion on packaging of food products influence purchase decision-making?

The study found that implied motion used in front of product (FOP) designs can lead to increased sales. Implied motion refers to peoples’ ability to perceive movement in still images. For example, a mid-air frisbee with an outstretched hand nearby is perceived to be “flying”. Similarly, liquid being “poured” into a glass is another example, one that is used by firms like Amul, Danone, Mother Dairy on their milk cartons.

FOP designs with implied motion are more successful at capturing shoppers’ attention, which is the first step in the purchase process. The study provided a fascinating explanation for this by delving into human evolutionary theory. Evolution has made humans more attuned to motion since detecting moving entities, both prey and predators, had been crucial for survival. Therefore, even now, motion (even implied motion) attracts and retains people’s visual attention. For example, Saffola, Baggry’s, and True Elements are some brands that use implied motion on their muesli boxes to make them catchier than products whose FOP shows the cereal sitting in the bowl.

Visual attention has a positive connection with choice. Studies have shown that products that retain shoppers’ gaze for a longer duration are more likely to be chosen. Therefore, implied motion indirectly leads to greater product choice.

Implied motion also enhances shoppers’ food evaluations. Again, evolution plays a role here. In people’s minds, the freshest products are those that are closest to the point at which the animal/vegetable/fruit is harvested. That is, a point at which the original product was still moving. Motion, therefore, automatically triggers ideas of freshness. This is why brands like Minute Maid, Real, and Slice use implied motion on their juice bottles and cartons.

In people’s minds, freshness indicates tastiness, which enhances the attractiveness of a food item. Implied motion, therefore, indirectly also leads to a positive evaluation of the product by shoppers. Moreover, positive product evaluation leads to higher greater purchase intention.

This study provides manufacturers and retailers with an inexpensive yet effective way of

increasing shopper attention and enhancing purchase intention in a store environment crowded with competing products. Implied motion can be an alternative to a higher number of facings and optimal shelf choosing, both of which involve high costs. It can also be used to indicate positive product attributes, so it can be a substitute for in-store promotions such as signages as well. Including implied motion on products’ FOP is within the manufacturer’s control and financially viable. Therefore, it is a relatively safe bet to invest in implied motion on products’ FOP to make packaging yield higher returns.

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