Retail Packaging: Get More Box for Your Buck

Most HME providers know that customer access to products is the grease that eases the sale. Just like the foundation of a good piece of literature, showing, not telling, makes consumers more eager to purchase — and also strengthens purchasing confidence. That means consumers who are able to see, touch and experience a product are more likely to commit to taking that product home.

What dealers might not realize is that for products that come in a box, the way the item is packaged can drastically influence a customer's decision to buy. Likewise, the arrangement of eye-catching products at shelf level could mean the difference between a one-time customer and a life-long customer.

What Drive Medical Is Doing … The new retail packaging incorporates the fresh new look of the Michael Graves collection with images and language that clearly explains the use and benefits of products in a non-medical presentation.

Manufacturers are taking note. An icon of the past, the white box with the blue label is quickly taking a bottom shelf to hipper, warmer packages that grab the customer's attention. And stronger packaging means bigger dollars for marketing-savvy dealers. Add a little flair to your floor with some retail packaging tips.

1. Increase product knowledge

So, you say a box is a box. Not so, touts Jack Evans, an educator, marketing consultant and president of Global Media Marketing.

"We're not running warehouses anymore," says Evans. "We're running retail stores and therefore the packaging should reflect a retail environment."

Translation: Provide customers with the tools necessary to make a decision on the best product for their needs. Evans says customers purchasing items in an over-the-counter, mass retail setting want to see instantly from a photograph that the product is what they are looking for.

What Invacare Corp. Is Doing … The new look of the packaging for Invacare's standard product line features more vivid colors and new lifestyle photos depicting customer satisfaction with the products.

"If they need a wrist wrap, they can see the photograph of the orthopedic support on somebody's wrist," says Evans. "They see automatically which product they are looking for. So retail packaging does help the consumer find the product, make that product selection and close the sell."

Good retail packaging is essential for a store without a salesperson, but great retail packaging doubles as a valuable tool for salespeople. "If salespeople are not familiar with a product," says Evans, "they can just look at the product packaging and automatically say, 'Oh, this will do this for you.' "

In addition, many products, such as bath safety products, will also show related products that will assist a salesperson in up selling.

2. Attract attention

Studies have shown that three out of four customers decide to buy a product after they are already in a store, says Evans. What makes customers more eager to buy than others?

It's a simple rule of attraction. "If you just had a wall of white boxes, people wouldn't even take a second look at your store," says Evans. On the other hand, "shelves and gondolas of bright packaging with people on them showing products in use … attracts people to look at your displays and to come in and shop and buy."

What FLA Orthopedics Is Doing … The new design for Activa's Graduated Compression Legwear packaging incorporates style icons to clearly indicate the enclosed style (knee high, thigh high, etc.) on the front, the enclosed compression level on each side and large product images with product details on the several box fronts.

To attract attention, retail packaging incorporates a few industry standards:

  • Color — Possibly the most important feature on the box, bright colors instantly catch the eye of would-be consumers.
  • Photos — For years the trend has been lifestyle photos, that is, photos that show someone using the product. Many manufacturers opt to put baby boomers on the packaging rather than seniors, says Evans, because people tend to visualize themselves 10 to 15 years younger. When customers see another person using the product, they are more likely to visualize themselves using the product. More recently, packaging is focusing on large, crisp images of the actual product. The reason is simple, says Evans. People want to see what's in the box.
  • Personal Benefits — For customers to truly engage in the purchasing experience, they need to know how the product will meet their needs. Packaging, therefore, has to get past the product features and "talk to the consumer," says Evans. "How is this going to help the consumer? What are the personal benefits?"

3. Strategically Arrange Products

By taking a little time with product arrangement, dealers can set the scene for the customer and create an experience. A bright showroom, says Evans, "makes a real customer-friendly statement that we have products here that you'll like."

The reward is that customers who are happy with a store will likely come back to purchase larger ticket items, such as scooters, lift chairs and rollators.

What Sunrise Medical Is Doing … Sunrise has two distinct styles of packaging — one for home health care products and the other for nebulizers. The home health care product line, which was redesigned in 2004, features photos of the products in use at home as opposed to shots of people using the products, tri-lingual product function descriptions, two-color packaging with silver and Guardian blue and a cross-reference of other products in the line. The retail packaging for nebulizers, new for 2006, is designed with new lifestyle photography and a four-color box.

Evans offers the following tips to take advantage of well-designed, brightly colored packaging:

  1. Put all of the soft goods in plain boxes — ostomy, urologicals and wound care — in the back of the store. Plain white boxes do not inspire customers to buy.
  2. Place all of the brightly colored products, such as hot/cold packs, back cushions, blood pressure monitors, orthopedic supports and compression, to the front of the store so customers can see the products from the window or as soon as they walk in the front door. "Vendors pay a lot of money for four-color varnished packaging," says Evans. "Take advantage of it! Use the packaging to make your showroom look bright and cheery."
  3. Create a total marketing package that supports the retail packaging. Include signage, category signage, shelf talkers, product selection guides, literature and brochures.
  4. For products that are too large for a box, such as scooters and lift chairs, use bright, bold signs that identify the personal benefits of the product.

Sounds simple, right? Evans says he sees so many HME providers that make the mistake of putting dull boxes on display right at the front door.

Sometimes simple is the best solution. So, start shifting your merchandise and watch your profits move as well.

This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of HME Business.

The Key to Patient Engagement