In today’s omnichannel marketplace, packaging is still the only marketing communications vehicle that reaches 100% of shoppers. It has the power to affect purchase intent, overall product satisfaction and repeat purchase behavior. 
At MWV, we study packaging satisfaction to help brands deliver on their promises. Results from our inaugural packaging satisfaction study this year – “Packaging Matters” – reveal significant opportunities for brand owners to leverage packaging to better serve their consumers from the store shelf, to in-home use, all the way through to disposal. 
Packaging is more than a container—it’s the physical manifestation of a brand impression. Our study shows its performance is becoming more important to consumers. In fact, the average consumer ranks packaging interaction almost equal to brand experience when it comes to overall product satisfaction. The role of packaging in the consumer-brand relationship has changed irrevocably; today’s consumers see product and packaging as one unified experience.
When looking down the endless rows of colorful products in the supermarket aisle, there is no doubt that packaging plays a distinct role in the shopping experience. Based on our study, nearly two thirds (64%) of consumers will sometimes buy a product off the shelf without prior knowledge of the product or researching it first. While aesthetics often attract initial interest, the functionality of packaging—how it opens, its sturdiness, flexibility—is not to be ignored. It is yet another opportunity to express a brand promise. “Packaging Matters” reveals steps brands can take to better align their values with their packaging, delighting consumers and increasing repeat purchase.  

The state of the box, bag, or bottle: packaging satisfaction today

Across every category we surveyed, we found that packaging plays an important role in purchase decisions. Consumers have high expectations of their packaging, and very few brands are actually meeting them. Less than 20% of consumers report they are very satisfied with packaging. Brands are missing critical opportunities at each touch point in the packaging lifecycle to create emotional connections and reinforce brand messages through their packaging.
Shoppers report the highest levels of satisfaction with packaging at the retail shelf, but once they leave the store, they become frustrated by structural features that don’t live up to their expectations. Of the 15 packaging attributes we studied for importance and performance, only a small percentage of consumers ranked shelf appeal, or the product’s attractiveness and distinctiveness, as very important contributors to satisfaction. 
But this is where brands are performing best. 
“Packaging Matters” found that no more than 22% of customers are very satisfied with their food packaging. Shelf stable was the highest performing (22%), followed by refrigerated (21%) and frozen (18%). This is an opportunity for brand owners. 

Evaluating the importance of shelf appeal

So what does this mean? Brands are over-performing on shelf appeal and aesthetics but underperforming on the critically important performance attributes that impact overall product satisfaction and drive repeat purchase. Conventional wisdom assumes the product with the flashiest packaging design wins, but our research encourages a focus on function over form. 
Shelf appeal is an important component of the first moment of truth – packaging that doesn’t appeal in-store will be overlooked – but packaging also has to deliver on brand promises throughout the rest of the product lifecycle: It has to be easy to carry, store and use.
We found that packaging matters, and in very impactful ways, particularly when it comes to the in-home experience; namely opening, dispensing, holding, resealing, storing and disposing. 

Functional packaging and product satisfaction

In order to guarantee consumer satisfaction and influence repeat purchase, we found that packaging must perform across four key categories: it must protect from breaking/spilling, maintain product integrity, allow the user to get the entire product out and be easy to reclose/open. Together, these categories make up the functional attributes of packaging. Food that is stale, spoiled or spilled due to poor food packaging will leave a foul taste in your consumers’ mouths; it can have a lasting negative impact on the product experience and the opportunity for repeat purchase.
When functional elements of packaging fail, brands miss an opportunity to delight consumers and reinforce brand promises across every product category.
Shoppers bitterly blame packaging when they have to throw out frozen foods due to freezer burn. They play a frustrating game of ‘Freezer Tetris’ while trying to fit frozen foods into limited space. And they unwittingly let food go to waste when it is accidentally pushed to the back of the pantry where packages don’t fit as nicely as they appear in the supermarket. Packaging is the physical manifestation of the brand expression, and when it underperforms, your consumer loses confidence in the product and in the brand as well.

Delivering on the brand promise 

You know your brand and consumers better than anyone. As the retail landscape becomes more diverse and multichannel, remember that every single person who uses your product interacts with the packaging. By mapping your brand proposition into the functional and product integrity features that consumers desire, you can have a significant impact on satisfaction.
Using insights from “Packaging Matters,” brand owners can work to improve food packaging’s ability to be a positive point of connection with consumers that drives product satisfaction, repeat purchase and overall brand success.
Steve Kazanjian is vice president, global creative at MWV, a global leader in packaging and packaging solutions for the world’s most admired brands. The full results and methodology for MWV’s inaugural packaging satisfaction study, “Packaging Matters,” are available at