Each year, Perception Research Services (PRS) pretests several hundred new packaging systems prior to their introduction in the market. Although we’ve long emphasized the shelf context, we’ve recently been encouraging clients to think more holistically about the shopper and store as they develop new packaging. We now begin many projects with in-store studies to observe shoppers’ path-to-purchase and their engagement with point-of-sale (POS) materials, including displays, in-aisle signage and shelf talkers. In this article, we’ll share insights for ensuring that packaging and POS efforts work together to facilitate shopping and drive purchase.


Improving POS Efforts  

A Great deal of POS Investment is Wasted

Packaging and POS Materials Typically have Different Strengths and Roles in the Shopping Process


Improving POS Efforts  

Our in-store research often centers on uncovering the roles of the different touch-points along the path-to-purchase and on documenting shoppers’ engagement with displays, signage and packaging. Across countries, categories and retailers, several patterns have consistently emerged:


A great deal of POS investment is wasted

Point-of-sale materials at eye level or arm level (interspersed with packaging) are far more visually impactful.

Often, that’s due to poor store placement. In a recent beverage study in the U.S. and Argentina, PRS Mobile Eye-Tracking revealed that not a single shopper looked upward to engage with overhead promotional signage. This finding is largely consistent with our experience across studies: Shoppers use ceiling-based materials to guide store navigation, but once they are in the aisle, their focus is straight ahead or slightly downward. Thus, point-of-sale materials at eye level or arm level (interspersed with packaging) are far more visually impactful than materials positioned above the products. 

In other cases, we’ve found that excessive in-store merchandising overwhelms shoppers rather than helps them. In a recent study for a technology marketer, we uncovered that over 85 percent of shoppers engaged with product displays and fact tags. However, other materials (including comparison charts and selector guides) were only considered by 10 to 15 percent of shoppers. As a result, the marketer redesigned its critical materials and eliminated others, which led to an easier shopping experience. 

Packaging and POS materials typically have different strengths and roles in the shopping process

These findings suggest that packaging and POS have somewhat different profiles and optimal applications. Specifically, POS materials can be viewed as closer to an extension of advertising, in terms of ability to drive awareness/attention, to create an emotional connection and convey a single key message. On the other hand, packaging, as the embodiment of the product, is somewhat more factual and rational in its nature. As shoppers get closer to their actual purchase decision, they are looking for key information and reassurance (i.e., “Am I buying the right product?”).Displays and signage can be valuable in creating visibility and attention and in helping brands to create a beacon or destination in the aisle. They can also be very effective in driving impulse purchases, particularly when coupled with a price/value message. Additionally, given their size, displays can present an opportunity to connect more emotionally and viscerally with shoppers, often through visual imagery that links to users and usage occasions. However, one very important guideline is to keep it simple, via a compelling image and/or a quick message. When POS gets complex, it is almost always ignored. When we’ve tested POS systems designed to compare products and/or drive trade-up, the results have nearly always been disappointing, because shoppers typically rely on packaging for product comparisons.

“Am I buying the right product?”

Therefore, marketers and retailers can significantly improve their POS efforts by keeping a few simple, tactical principles in mind: 


  • Work from the floor up (not the ceiling down)

  • Keep it simple

  • Connect emotionally

  • Surprise and delight (via unique structural design)

  • Facilitate shopping (don’t impede it!)