Are You Ready for Plastic-free Aisles? (And Other Trends Technology Can Help You Prepare For)

Posted by Gina Joseph on July 19, 2018

environmental friendly aislesWe all know how shopper trends are changing the retail landscape. More health-conscious shoppers spurred the ongoing organic and fresh foods movement, and Millennials who began using their mobile phones to shop kicked off the popularity of store apps. 

In recent months there's been a big push from environmentalists and activists to cut down on the world's mass consumption of plastics. The removal of plastic single-use straws has been a priority for some major companies like Starbucks and American Airlines. Earlier this year, the world's first plastic-free grocery aisle was unveiled in Amsterdam, allowing customers to purchase goods packaged in bio-materials, glass, cardboard and other natural materials. 

While plastic-free aisles may still be a far-off notion for many large retailers in the U.S., the point here is that trends like these might be something brands and stores want to be ready for. Virtual and augmented simulations can help with that. That's because this technology allows teams to visualize and test new packaging and messaging designs within the context of the store shelf. 

Virtual Package Testing Provides a Look into the Future

Let's say you're a snack food brand who wants to get rid of the traditional plastic packaging on your granola bars, in favor of biodegradable materials. You want customers to still recognize your product, but also understand your environmental motivations behind the change. Once you have a few designs nailed down, you can then digitally test those designs in virtual with real shoppers. This allows you to get purchase data for each before deciding which concept to take to market. You can get both attitudinal and behavioral insights so you'll know exactly how real shoppers will react to the change. 

For example, a manufacturer wanted to learn if new packaging for a frozen food product would help them save money on materials. They came up with two new concepts and virtually tested them with shoppers against the current package design. They looked at shopping behavior, provided pre- and post-shopping attitudinal surveys, and timed how long it took shoppers to find the products in the store in order to determine findability. In the end, they found that the cost savings of new packaging wasn't enough to offset the sales decline. They stayed with their original design, saving them well over $500,000 in redesign and production costs, as well as the risk of a significant loss in revenue. 

Perhaps going green and replacing plastic packaging with earth-friendly materials will cause your sales to soar. Or perhaps it won't. But at least testing with virtual gives you the foresight to know what will happen before creating any physical prototypes, and you can decide what makes the most sense for the environment, for your customers, and also for your brand. Or maybe you have a locally grown or locally made product and want to update your messaging to better convey that. Shopper trends can fizzle out, or they can turn into a movement that will become the norm in the future. Our technology gets you ready either way. 

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Gina Joseph

Gina is the Senior Manager of Content Marketing at InContext Solutions

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