shopper research: packaging - mind hack your shopper

by: Klara Bruveris


Do you understand your shopper's mind enough to influence that final purchase decision?

In this post, PLAY researcher, Dr. Klara Bruveris, explores the mind of the shopper in a retail environment with a focus on packaging (one of our favourite topics!).

The reality

In today’s retail environment, shoppers are presented with an overwhelming number of options and brand touchpoints.

Countless decisions are being made along the customer journey but the final and most vital, is the decision made at the shelf.

In reality, no one has time to evaluate the thousands of products in a supermarket or store. The human mind is a cognitive miser, finding shortcuts wherever possible.

These habits and subsequent decisions are driven by emotional memories stored in the brain and called upon when we need them (what heroes!).

But how do we form these memories, and what does this mean for your brand?


Cutting through the noise

To ensure success, brands must understand how shoppers make decisions and make the most of the opportunity to influence that crucial final purchase decision.

Brands should create straightforward, efficient mental shortcuts to influence shoppers’ judgements and purchase decisions.

Marketers must focus on brand salience, and respect shoppers’ existing associations, while constantly refreshing and rebuilding memory structures.

It is essential to create and make use of a brand’s distinctive brand assets to connect with the mind of the shopper.

The way your product is packaged (from the first advert, to the packaging on the shelf, to how society perceives it), all impacts on whether the shopper gravitates to your product...

In-turn, this influences what brand somas will begin to develop, and future purchasing behaviour.

Heuristics, while providing a useful shortcut for purchase decisions, are a complex process affected by numerous external influences.

To make it slightly more complex, everyone has different heuristics, different need-states and different ways they respond to different touchpoints.

This has become increasingly fragmented and problematic in an era of personalised marketing.

Sounds messy. So, what can you do about it?

If you want to understand the mind of the shopper and how to optimise your packaging for greater impact in the retail environment, it is important to first put yourselves in the shoes of the shopper.

What decisions are being made and why? What different elements are involved in the decision-making process?

A few things to consider...


Sorensen has conceptualised as the 3 moments of truth in shopping: reaching, stopping and closing the sale. Holding the packaging is key to converting the shopper to a buyer (Sorensen).

Your product needs to be in the right place. This is the place the shopper expects: the place the shopper can easily navigate to, and see.

Head of Customer Insights at Endeavour Drinks Group, Rodney Sammut, recently stated to us:

"If you look at decision hierarchies that shoppers have - it is driven by the store layout."



Shoppers aren’t spending hours making a decision, in fact on average, a decision at shelf takes 3-5 seconds. Most of the time we act as cognitive misers, using mental short cuts to make decisions.

Supermarket shopping, for example, is considered not to be hedonistic, it is habitual and often thought of as a chore. Grocery shoppers are largely ‘apathetic’ and ‘convenience’ shoppers, with only a small number who are ‘involved’.



Our decisions in store are driven by emotion and what will make us feel good.

"The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions"(Neurologist Donald Calne)

In our contemporary brand saturated world, we have also developed what Erik Du Plessis calls ‘brand somas’ (a memory that connects a certain emotional experience to a brand). These somas drive you, often unconsciously, towards a purchase decision.

In fact, as Philip Graves argues, the greatest success a brand can have is when it becomes so synonymous with a person’s desire that

"The unconscious mind has it as the answer before the conscious mind gets involved in considering the question"



The shopper's experience of your product will be dependent on how they've been primed. That first interaction with a brand is a very important moment.

You want to develop emotional ties between you and your potential consumer as quickly as possible. This will not happen if the advertising (often the first time a shopper is introduced to your product) is focused purely on functionality.



It is no secret that while we often consciously crave to demonstrate our individuality, subconsciously we often act like sheep.

For example, in the wine category, even Millennials that exhibit independent behaviours in other categories are likely to revert to looking for traditional cues and authority figures.

Therefore, it is important to consider developing or established trends and how they could potentially impact on a shopper’s interaction with a consumable.



The fear of losing something is felt particularly keenly by the shopper. As Kahneman and Tversky put it

"In human decision making, losses loom larger than gains."

When used in advertising, it can prime shoppers either about your product/service, or that of someone else, in the case of comparative advertising.

The McGuigan’s wine advert, for example, demonstrates how the company has cleverly played on Millennials’ fear of being made a laughing stock for bringing the wrong wine.



More and more people in Australia, and globally, are becoming increasingly aware of their environmental footprint. This is demonstrated, for example, by the growing popularity of veganism. In Sydney there are now 50 restaurants dedicated purely to serving vegan food.

This is the same for trends that we see on the supermarket shelf.

People are not only looking for environmentally friendly products, but also packaging that reflects this. The packaging must create the right signals - and the product needs to follow through on the promise.


We explore these key areas in juicy depth, and provide 6 practical takeouts
in our free report 'Packaging: Mind Hack Your Shopper [Part 1]', featuring:

  • [EXCLUSIVE] interview content with industry experts (from our upcoming book)

    • Rodney Sammut (Head of Customer Insights at Endeavour Drinks Group)
    • Michael Sergeant (Global Marketing Manager at Casella Family Brands)
    • Justin Dowel (Managing Director at Natures Organics)

  • Important academic thinking and findings which apply to the retail environment

  • Real world examples and practical tips for marketers

Download: Mind Hack Your Shopper  

Over to you

We're passionate about bringing brands closer to their consumers. Check out our shopper research solutions HERE or send us an email on to see how we can help.

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Klara Bruveris

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