It was a lazy Saturday afternoon when I first spotted a light-orange colored biscuit pack on my iPad screen while I was browsing a recipe site looking for the right cake recipe for my husband’s birthday. I found the box of biscuits interesting, so I read some product reviews online. Then I thought, “Perhaps next time I’m at the store, I’d buy a pack.”
But over the next few days, I forgot about it. A couple of weeks later, I was in the store doing my regular grocery shopping. Nothing exciting about that! But then, as I stood in front of the crowded biscuit shelf to buy a pack or two, I spotted the same, interesting, orange biscuit pack, and it caught my attention.
I picked it up and looked at it carefully. I read what it said. I turned it around and looked at the content. I had to buy some biscuits anyway. “Should I buy this one?” I thought. I picked up a couple of other packs from the shelf and very quickly compared the available options. The orange one I had picked up before did indeed appear appealing to me. So, I put it in my shopping cart.
The lucky orange biscuit pack came home with me and found its place on a shelf right next to my jar of homemade cookies, a pack of crisps and a box of crackers. Every day, I’d look at the orange pack. Sometimes it’d win my desire to consume an orange biscuit, sometimes it’d lose to the other options I had there—my homemade cookies or crisps. Over time, the orange pack built a relationship with me.
As I interacted with it, our relationship grew stronger. It was very easy to store. It had a clever mechanism that allowed me to open and close it, while keeping the biscuits inside fresh. So I rather liked this purchase of mine and my experience made me think I should write a positive product (and pack) review for it.
My experience with the orange pack of biscuits is typical of how shoppers interact with product packs. Packs catch the shopper’s attention at the “Zeroth moment of truth”—when the shopper is in front of a screen. They then catch the shopper’s attention in front of the shelf—that’s the “first moment of truth”—where most purchase decisions are made.
A person’s very first interactions with a pack, whether in an ad or on shelf, are handled by System 1 processes. In System 1, the brain is on autopilot and the items that will get priority for processing (or catch attention) will be emotionally relevant (emotionally meaningful or familiar), or visually salient (have strong visual pop-out). This occurs primarily nonconsciously, as these automatic brain systems guide your eyes (and sometimes even your hands) toward the pack for further, more conscious and rational, processing.
Once you’ve been drawn to the pack, you’d rarely make an abrupt decision of purchasing it. You’d first pick the pack up, read what’s written on it, pick up another one for comparison, maybe pick up a third one (and perhaps a fourth one), and then decide which one to buy. Here, your cognitive ability—your System 2 decision-making self has been triggered. During System 2 processing, you’re thinking consciously and making your decision to buy (or not to buy) the pack.
The pack then travels home with you and finds a place on a shelf. As you interact with it, you’re at the “second moment of truth”—building a relationship with the pack. This could be positive or negative, depending on whether the pack continues to appeal to you. This is a function of both your systems (System 1 and 2) acting together. Does the pack provide you with a positive experience (utility, open-close-store etc.)? Are you able to emotionally connect with the pack?
A pack’s journey with a shopper, and the relationship it builds with him or her, involves both the conscious and nonconscious systems in the shopper’s brain. Each shopper may use both System 1 and System 2 processes when deciding to buy a pack or not—how much of each system is used depends on their past experience with the pack and product. Therefore, appealing to both systems is critical to making your pack a success with the shopper.
So, when you make your pack design decisions, it’s important to evaluate your options with consumers along the two dimensions of Systems 1 and 2. They key here is to be able to understand in a holistic manner, how consumers make their purchase decisions, using both systems. Evaluate your pack for stand-out, emotional engagement and memory activation using System 1 testing approaches. And use System 2 testing approaches for purchase preference, understandability, usability and overall likes/dislikes.
Ultimately, the pack that’s lucky enough to draw a consumer’s positive interest at the zeroth, first and second moment of truth—and inspire him or her to write that five-star product review—will be the one that wins on both these systems of evaluation.