January 13, 2012, 4:19 PM

Online, packaging can make a difference for consumers

Viewing packaging graphics and structure influences online buying, a report says.

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Online shoppers care about the look of a desired product’s packaging, including its graphics and structure, a web design expert says.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, president and founder of the Toronto-based branding and design firm Shikatani Lacroix, says that because online shoppers typically rush through online shopping visits, the ability to easily view a desired product’s packaging on a web site can help make a shopper feel more comfortable about buying it online.

“The need to review many products in a short period of time reinforces the need to have a visual link of the packaging as part of this selection process,” Lacroix says in his new research paper, “Packaging in an online world.” “Web sites should allow for an easy search of products by category and use the packaging image as the primary navigational vehicle, while featuring supporting information such as price, coupons, features and testimonials as a second layer of the purchase decision process.”

Lacroix, whose paper includes the results of a 2011 study of online shoppers about the importance of packaging, says the criteria cited most often by respondents were feeling assured that the product would be protected during shipment, cited by 64.9%, and feeling assured that that they were actually going to receive the item, cited by 60.0%. Other packaging criteria cited as important were the ability to understand the instructions that come with the product, and being assured that the product’s features would be easy to find.

The study also asked online consumers to name, other than final pricing and shipping policy, the aspects of product display most important to helping them decide to purchase. Nearly a third of respondents cited packaging. Following are the respondents’ answers, with the percentage of respondents citing each:

● Photo of the main view of the product with the appropriate price, 61.2%

● Ability to view close-up images of product features, 50.7%

● Photo depicting all views with the appropriate price and product features, 49.9%

● Photo of the main product view with pricing, features and testimonials, 38.5%

● Ability to view the product packaging, instructions and potential features, 32.9%

● Virtual tour where you can control the product view, plus see price and features, 27.5%

Video of the product being used, 22.1%

The study also found, however, that relatively few online shoppers place a lot of importance in the actual packaging they receive when an online order arrives at their home. In all product categories, less than 40% of respondents said the appearance of received packaging was very important.

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