Courting Convenience

February 1, 2005
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Courting Convenience

Ok, so you’re sold on convenience. But how do you come up with a package that actually delivers on it? With the help of Peter Clarke and Javier Verdura of Product Ventures, we’ve put together a shortlist of essential considerations in convenience package design:
Shelf Shout. Everything about a package must scream convenience on the retail shelf, from a distinctive closure system (like a pour spout) or a shape that is inviting to hold (think pinch waist) on down to graphics and copy points. If the convenience features add to the cost of goods, the package must justify the higher price tag in consumers’ minds, says Peter Clarke. But beyond that, it also must visually differentiate the brand for consumers, though Clarke cautions against anything too radical. “Your design should not be so breakthrough that it alienates your core customer,” he says. Clarke and Verdura point to the Folgers plastic canister with the easy-grip handle as a package that did the job well.
Home Storage. While distinctive shapes help with quick visual identification on the retail shelf, it is important that they do not create inefficient storage situations for the consumer at home. The considerations all depend on where items are housed. Packages stockpiled in a garage, for example, must protect against temperature fluctuations. If cabinets are the preferred point of storage, cereal-box proportions, which occupy a limited footprint and a maximum of vertical space, are valuable. Handles are helpful features for items housed in lower cabinets, says Verdura, while pinch-waist handling is convenient for upper-cabinet storage. The goal, he says, is to create an easily identifiable package that stores efficiently, is easy to grasp and offers an “inventory view” of how much product is left.
Use. By now we all know that a great deal of convenience packaging is designed for use in the car and with the almighty cupholder. But Clarke and Verdura suggest thinking about new on-the-go opportunities: other receptacles like hand bags, backpacks, lunch boxes, briefcases, belt loops and wrist bands; and other locations like the office desk, school, public transportation and the great outdoors. Regardless of for what or where it’s designed, Verdura says, the package must be intuitive to use and universally designed; though he says the item’s proportions should ultimately be in relationship to the ergonomic needs of the target user. Blind or one-handed operation is the goal.
Resealability. Packages that reclose offer incredible convenience benefits. With press-to-close zippers, snap-on lids and a host of other closures at their fingertips, consumers can enjoy products on-the-go or keep them fresh throughout single-serve consumption. Though, according to Clarke, there are pluses and minuses for each option. Least expensive is the snap-on lid, he says, which also offers the audible “snap” consumers need to assure themselves the package has closed. Screw caps, on the other hand, are the most intuitive. Though, Clarke says, holding the cap during use can be a hassle (he says the upside is most manufacturing lines feature standard equipment to apply this closure). For beverages, a sport “push-pull” closure can prevent spills while one that snaps onto another location of the container can also be useful.
Disposability. More and more, the life cycle of packaging is coming under closer consumer scrutiny—even by those who love and use convenience packages. “If it’s too significant a package, consumers feel bad disposing of it,” says Verdura. The goal, he says, is to offer no-guilt solutions that balance environmental impact with the packaging performance and convenience benefit. Recyclable materials and collapsible containers that simplify disposal are good options, he says, “then people don’t feel like they’re throwing a lot away.”

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