Market Research System 1 Methodology

Package Research System 1 Methods – Ready for Prime Time?

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Kristy Roldan

Director, Account Service

Package design is often the first (and last) element noticed by customers. It influences consumers to buy the product or chose another one. The design must accurately represent the brand while standing out amongst the competitors.

The CPG industry is especially affected by effective product design and product packaging. A different or interesting package could entice customers to buy. And with 70% of customer decisions taking place in-store, retailers have a large opportunity to capture customers. However, other industries could also utilize package market research to make better design decisions.

System 1 market research is prepared to conquer the challenges of package design. Are facial coding, eye tracking, and virtual reality (VR) market research methods ready for prime time?

Facial Coding

Facial coding involves mapping combinations of facial expressions to emotions for real-time evaluation. An immediate facial response is pre-cognitive, which means it can be seen before a person is even aware of the emotion they are revealing, making facial coding an ideal tool for understanding the subconscious. As respondents watch a commercial or photo reel, the webcam and program pick up on micro-expressions made during the commercial. The expressions are immediately recorded and analyzed.

This supplemental quantitative method is usually used in creative testing as insight can be uncovered at specific points throughout the ad such as in MDRG’s copy testing case study. Utilizing facial coding with still images allows market researchers from all industries to optimize package design decisions.

Verdict: Facial coding uses have expanded and are a valuable tool for not only copy testing, but also for package design. Researchers should incorporate this System 1 method into their toolbox.

Eye Tracking

Eye tracking follows eye movements to know where (or not) customers are looking, how long they look, and in what order they look. The software determines what people see first, what they look at most, and general gaze patterns. Companies view the results through visual elements such as heat maps.

Package designers learn what people noticed about their product and what elements were not paid any attention. For example, eye-tracking can be used with virtual shelf shopping to see if a CPG product stands out from its competition. Or, an automobile designer could see which design elements consumers are most drawn to. This methodology is especially useful when a CPG product or a digital experience like an app or website nears completion, so the study mirrors the actual usage.

Verdict: Eye tracking is ready for mainstream use. Its accessibility and variety of System 1 insights provide clarity to what elements capture customer’s attention.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Companies are racing to determine virtual reality’s full potentional. VR assists package research by simulating a store’s environment and showing respondents real in-store shelves.

Researchers, utilizing virtual shelf shopping, study the in-store consumer buying journey. Shopper insights such as viewing time, store navigation, dwell time, or product choice can be gleaned. Adding eye-tracking to a CPG market research study provides additional system 1 shopper insight.

Utilizing virtual reality shelf shopping can inform CPG product placement, product design, and packaging choices. However, VR is not yet mainstream, as the technology’s price and set-up time are too high for all but the largest companies on a continuous basis. Additionally, it is currently difficult to get a representative sample as VR must be completed in person.

Verdict: The technology’s price must decrease for virtual reality to become a mainstream market research method, along with finding ways to use it with remote respondents. In the future, this will be a valuable tool for CPG market researchers and brands.


Facial coding, eye tracking, and virtual reality are valuable system 1 methods. Each method answers package research design questions for CPG researchers and other industry leaders. We’ve already incorporated these system 1 solutions into our work – have you?

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