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Understanding the Customer Decision When Buying

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 5426 words Published: 24th Sep 2021

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For the past few years, the economy in the globalization world is getting tighter. This is also affecting the economy growth in the food industry. Therefore, to be able survive in the industry, maximising profit through selling product become every company’s priority. In order to achieve that purpose, a company have to be able to understand consumer purchase decision especially based on a food packaging.

The process evaluating of several choices made by a consumer prior making a purchase is called buying decision. This purchase decision is a complex act where there are a lot of internal and external factors that affect it. One of the factor will be how the packaging of a product be able to communicate and attract the consumers.

Every customer has a different concept on how they look, buy and use a product. However, the first thing that will affect their buying decision will be its packaging. To most of the people, packaging is the essential item that the main purpose is to preserve food product from any harmful elements. However the main purpose of the packaging has changed, as it seems to be one of the main factors of buying decision made at the selling point (Prendergast and Pitt, 1996). Therefore, a good packaging will help to market the product and boost the selling point.

Visual package elements help to represent the brand and the product itself; however there are a lot of factors that may influence it. The few factors included the design, type of material used, colour and graphic used, and shaped of the packaging.

Objective of this study is to observe the influence of the elements that containts in the packaging. There are 4 elements that can be categorize into to. They are Visual and Information category. In each category there are 2 elements. In Visual category there are color and graphic, shape and size. Where on the information catergory there are technology (material) information and product information. This research aims to look for which of these criterias affect the consumer most. To simplify the work, adapted from Hasanglipour, Yazdani, Nejad and Rayej (2010), a framework is created for this research.

  • Color and Graphic
  • Shape and Size
  • Product Information
  • Technology (material)
  • Visual Category
  • Information Category
  • Purchase Decision

Based from the framework in the previous page, the hypothese for this dissertation paper can be categorized into 3. They are:

  • Visual Elements of the package influence choice of the product
  • Classic color and graphic is more attractive compare to flashy design
  • Inclusion of a picture of the product on the package significantly influence attention of the product.
  • Visually larger package significantly influence consumer decision
  • Cylindrical packaging is more attractive
  • Informational Elements of the packaging influence choice of the product
  • Packaging with clear, neat, organized and easy to read information significantly influence perception of the product quality
  • Material used for the packaging affects customer decision

Information generated from this research based on the hypothesis, should provide marketers with a greater understanding of the package’s ability to communicate and the nature of its effects on consumer attention and product choice.

Literature Review

Potato Chips and Packaging

Potato chips are deep fried thin slices potato. It is a savoury food that usually served as an appetizer, snack or side dish. Potato chips first was dicovered at 1853 by George Crum, a chef in Moon Lake House at New York. Crump was flustered by the customers that keep sending back his fried potatoes complaining they were too thick and soggy, he then decided to slice the potatoes as thin as paper. The potatoes was fried until crisp and seasoned it with salt vigorously. Unexpectedly, the diner was delighted by the new chips and it soon became a regular item sold on the menu and known as “Saratoga Chips”.

In 1895, William Tappendon took up the chips’ manufacture and marketing it to restaurants and grocery shops. Due to high demand, he changed his barn into the first potato-chips factory in the world. The chips were sold to local grocers in Cleveland, Ohio, and since then massive production of chips began on the move.

Early in 20th century, potato chips were turning into huge bussiness in America. At the begining, chips were scooped out from large bins or barrel in the grocery stores, packaged in a paper bag and delivered by horse and wagon. However, the chips at the bottom of the bin were no longer crispy by the time the shops sold them. To solve the problem, in 1926, Laura Scudder innovated a sealed bag. She asked her workers to take home sheets of wax paper to iron waxed-paper sheets into the shape of bag and iron-seal the top of the bags after filling it in with chips the next day. This method reduced the crumbling problem and it kept the chips fresh and crisp longer. The mobilisation of the chips were easier due to its new packaging. The bussiness expanded from U.S.A, and chips started to be known in London. In 1920, Smith Potato Crips Company Ltd was formed. Smith packaged them in greaseproof paper bags and sold them around London. Within a year, the company expanded and moved to Australia to expand his business. Today, potato chips become a mass market product and are packaged in a plastic bags, with nitrogen gas blown in prior to sealing and lengthen the shelf life and prevent it against any crushing during the distribution.

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Function of Packaging and Purchase Decision

As Prendergast and Pitt (1996) points out that the basic functions of packaging is defined by their role in either logistic or marketing. To preserve food product for an extended shelf life by protecting the food product from external influences such as weather, bacteriological and transit hazards which can cause damage (Stewart, 1995; Bottani et al., 2011) is the logistical function of packaging. On the other hand, in the marketing role, packaging plays as an attribute to present the whole product and attract consumer at the point of sales. Pilditch in 1957 is the first who define pack as the “Silent Salesman” that is why the pack have to be lively in terms of selling point. Thus, to attract and communicate with the customer through packaging, a good quality and best design to represent the brand need to be done. It will not only help to develop the relationship to the customers through marketing side, it will also help to protect the food product from any contamination during or after the distribution channels.

Indeed, a logistic purpose of the packaging act is one of the key idea perceived by the customer. To assure the availability of the “right product, in the right quantity, in the right condition, in the right place, at the right time, to the right customer, at the right price” (Shapiro and Heskett, 1985). As consumer always expect for the best to what they spend their money on; in terms of hygiene and quality control where there is no spoilage or leakage in the package that will affect the goods. This quality has to be maintained in order to garner customer’s trust towards the product’s hygiene and quality. As there is no guarantee that consumer might not get any food poisoning from a food product that still in the package. For example, when a customer looked at the food rack in a supermarket, they tend to buy product that has more convincing appearance and information towards the HACCP procedure (hygiene purposes) and there is no spoilage in the package.

Aside from logistic factors, there is no way that packaging could run from its duty as a marketer. A research done to children and their parents which resulted that packaging is indeed have a strong influence on children’s product preference and parents’ purchase decision (Ogba and Johnson, 2010). Silayoi and Speece (2004) stregthen the statement with their findings that visual and informational elements influence purchase decision on a product. Thus, in order to assure their product stands out from the others, normally marketers use attractive visual imagery, recognisable character, colour and design (Ogba and Johnson, 2010). Even some of the consumers viewed their shopping trip as a “leisure activity”, it is proved by some of the academics that stated shopping has become “a major recreational and a lifestyle activity” (Wells et al., 2007 ;Bayley and Nancarrow, 1998). In general, shoppers spend longer time while browsing for the item they looked for. Considering that the fact of higher probability of choosing the wrong item due to carelessness, which lead to dissapointment and disastisfaction.

A food company has responsibility for the planning of innovation strategy in designing a food packaging as its marketer. As packaging speaks a thousand words about the product in the customer’s eyes, a detailed and accurate design of a packaging need to be designed which will straight away attract customer at the first glance. It is a subtle decision for a company to have an in-depth understanding of more than just customer’s needs and wants ( Vernuccio and Cozzolino, 2010) before and designing the package. To deliver the exact message and image of the product to the customer, it depends on how all the elements blend together, which become the key success for many marketing strategies ( Silayoi and Speece, 2004).

Kupiec and Revell (2001) had done a research which resulted that consumer intention to purchase depends to the extent to which consumer expect that the product could satisfy their needs. However, there was a study that shows 73 percents of purchase decision are made at the point of sale (Connolly and Davidson, 1996). This proves that the purchase decision is determined by what the package communicate at the selling point. The package becomes an essential factor in the purchaser decision-making process considering that it communicates to consumer at the time they are actually deciding in the store. Quality judgment is highly influenced by the characteristic that the package reflected. The package reflected a tangible and intangible message about the product. It highlights the product’s originality and uniqueness. Since consumer aim for a good quality of a product, one will expect to get the same quality towards a product, judged from its package’s quality. Underwood et al. (2001) suggest that consumer are more likely to spontaneously imagine aspects of how a product looks, tastes, feels, smells, or sounds while they are viewing a product picture on the package.

Visual Elements

Graphics and color

In everyday life, human in their nature seeks harmony and resolution. By using the five senses, human perceive and nevigate an object. The same theory is applied on how purchaser perceive and navigate an item through its packaging. Thus, graphic and color of the packaging plays an important role on affecting customer’s choices.

According to Oxford dictionary, graphic is defined as a visual presentation connected with drawings and design on some surface, such as canvas, paper, wall, etc. Quoted from Evans and Thomas (2004) that “graphic design is the art of arranging pictographic and typographic elements to create effective communication”. Which in packaging,it is to ensure its attractiveness, at the same time to differentiate and to give a clear and detailed identity of the product. For instance, a product package may contain a logo, image layout, color harmony, text layout, and product photography which unite the piece into a presentable packaging.

Each of the elements contained in the graphic design has its individual function that affects customer’s perception towards a product. Firstly, logo in a packaging helps to represent and identify the company of the product. It helps to give a certain impression towards an item which helps customer to identify it directly. Logo comes in all kind of shapes and size. It can be found in form of word-marks, letterform, marks, symbols, emblems, ect. Because of this, the symbol (logo) has to be created in a way that universally understood, and easily recognizable.

Secondly, typography is the art process of setting, arranging, styling and appearance of one or more fonts into an element of writing (Really good packaging explained). The main function of typography is to deliver a message to the comprehension of the readers to whom it is addressed ( Heller and Meggs, 2001). The purchaser is the one being addressed in this case. According to Heller and Meggs (2001) there is high possibility of the purchaser not in particularly interested in the message. Thus, to ensure the message delivered properly to the customer, it is important to create the simplest and easiest to read typography.

Third, product photography is basically an advertising image of the product itself. Every marketer of goods needs to make the public aware of the product being offered for sale. In order to convey the visual component of the message, thus the image shown in the packaging. The presence of the product photography has been proved to increase the probability that a purchaser will use it as an extrinsic cue (Olsen & Jacoby, 1972) and as an indicator of the product quality (Richardson, 1994). Product photography and image layout are linked to each other. Image layout is how the overall arrangement and style of the image and other visual components blend together on the packaging. The positioning of the product’s picture and other graphic elements on a package may make the difference between identifying and missing the item (Herrington and Capella, 1995). Rettie and Brewer (2000) did a psychology research which the recall of package elements is influenced by the arrangement and positioning of the elements on the package. A research done by Silayoi and Speece (2004) indicate that the position of image on the right hand side and product information on the left hand side is more effective to help Thailand purchaser (Asia) to recall a product.

Last but not least, color is one of the main components that is highly noticable. Color play an important role on how it affect the purchaser perception towards a product. Color delivers information and provides images awareness on a product. It is important for the professionals (e.g. graphic designer) to determine possible color options for a product’s packaging and always keep in mind on how it will affect the consumer.

In packaging, different color has different meaning and could evoke various feeling and emotion in consumer. It is belived that color has evolved and it speaks its own language- with symbolic, cultural and psychological meaning (Evans and Thomas, 2004). There was discussion by Imran (1999) on how color could influence quality perception and Grossman and Wisenblit (1999) stated that purchaser also learn color associations, which leads them to prefer certain color for certain product categories. For example, orange color stimulates appetite feelings, and it may represent a products flavour such as orange flavoured candy. However, keep in mind that each person has different perception towards an idea of what they perceived.

There was psychology research resulted that customer perception is influenced by how the brain evaluate the elements in packaging design (Rettie and Brewer, 2000), it is important for the marketer purposely developed the image created in the packaging to communicate and give a strong impact on consumer decision making process. A research done by Silayoi and Speece (2004) resulted that poor graphic design can cause loses in sales for many consumer compare to attractive graphics. This shows that poor graphic has no power to captivate the customer at the point of sale, which lead to poor sales.

There are a few categories of graphic design, such as classic design and colorful design. Classic design is the design that has been used everywhere in their field through continued and successful technological or design innovation. It is recognizable and regularly use in the packaging. On the other hand, colorful packaging is a new innovation and technological is used in designing the packaging. However, a researched done in Thailand by Silayoi and Speece (2004) resulted that the purchasers prefer to have a classic design on packaging compare to colorful design. The respondents believed that classic design is more reliable and familiar, which is more convincing.

Different people have different ways in responding towards different packaging. Especially during the evaluation of low involvement product; which is a daily used product that is bought with minimum thought on it. For this reason, graphic and color play a critical point in the decision making process as it is the most noticeable factors in the packaging (Grossman and Wisenblit, 1999).

Shape and Size

Packaging outer form and volume affects customer judgment and decision on buying a certain product. According to Silayoi and Speece (2004), purchaser judge a product’s volume based on its outer visual. In this case, outer visual in packaging is interms of its size, shape and elongation.

According to Evans and Thomas (2008), the size of a product determines the physical aspects of the packaging; which consists of width, length and height. All of these aspects is generally term as size. Nevertheless, length is the most dominant from all other aspects. Raghubir and Krishna (1999) had done a studies, which resulted the elongation of a packaging has a positive effect on volume perception.

Prendergast and Marr (1997) stated that the larger package refflects better value of the product. Especially, when it comes on judging unbranded product or low involvement items, the bigger packaged tended to be chosen. A participant in qualitative researched by Silayoi and Speece (2004) stated that ” bigger packages was bought usually as he/she thought it would be value for money. But he/she would only consider the grocery products”.

Purchaser tend to believe that the taller the packaging, the larger the volume. Although, the real content has been stated on the packaging, there is possibility of the purchaser might not read the label (Dickson and Sawyer, 1986; Raghubir and Krishna, 1999). Under certain circumstances, such as under time pressure, the probability of purchaser does not read the label is higher. This may lead to dissatisfaction, due to the fact that the actual content is not as much as expected through the packaging size. As the consumer tend to feel being deceived by the inconsistency of size, this may affect their future purchase decision.

However, there’s some customers are not affected by the disconfirmation of package size experience. Although, they realize that the actual volume is lesser than what it is being shown by the dimension of the packaging, it may not lead consumer to change their purchase decision. They will tend to be more careful and read the label on the packaging. In addition, if the inconsistency of size is not very large, it may not affect consumer to revise their volume judgment in the long term (Raghubir and Krishna, 1999; Silayoi and Speece, 2007).

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Other than size, shape of the packaging also plays an important role on influencing consumer’s purchase decision. Certain package shapes might represent a double-win situation, that is, they may be more likely to be chosen because they are perceived to be bigger, and they also may be consumed faster (Raghubir and Krishna, 1999). Other than that, packaging shapes are now included as part of the brand image. Few examples of famous packaging shapes are the Coca-Cola bottle, Toblerone’s triangular shape, Perrier bottle, Pringles canistar cylindrical shape, etc. These unique packaging shapes are found more attractive compare to ordinary packaging. A studies done by Gelperowic and Beharrell (1994) on a group of children reported that children preferred to try and attracted by packaging shapes. In contrary, Silayoi and Speece (2007) carried out a conjoint analysis approach on Thai consumer, to determine the shape preference for packaging between curvy or straight shape. Through focus groups they identified that Thai consumers preferred straight shape compared to curvy. This showed that, overall the participants might be more interested to a packaging that looks normal which gives a reliable and familiar feeling.

Other than using unique shape to attract customer, purchaser also perceived size and shape for its usability. It is important to design a convenient and easy to carry packaging. Packaging’s shape and size is design depending on its usage and target market. For example, according to www.smeda.org.pk (2006) , potato chips are targeted for children, teenagers and young people. Due to the fact that the target market are young people and usually consume potato chips for leisure and recreation, a unique yet convenient packaging is needed to attract the purchasers. There are 2 types of famous packaging that are used to packed potato chips in the market; they are bags packaging (by Lay’s) and canister cylindrical packaging (by Pringles). However, for bags shaped packaging, there is high possibility on getting the potato chips crushed. Therefore, clylindrical package will be more convenient and it may prevent from any damage.

Informational Elements

Technology Image

The purpose of packaging is to protecting food from external influences that may affect the quality of the product. In regard to this matter, selecting the right materials and technologies for a certain product allows maintaining quality and freshness during the distribution and storage system (Martinez et al., 1998; Bottani et al., 2011).

Relationships between packaging material, product characteristics and packaging technology are interrelated with each other. In short, product characteristic determines the type of material and packaging technology that is required for specific packaging purpose. As stated by Robertson (2006), packaging materials and technology is classified as following:


There are many type of materials, they are: metal, aluminium, glass, paper, paperboard, tetra-brick, polystyrene, tin, flexible films, polystyrene, plastics, etc

Packaging technologies

Packaging technology is the development of further purpose of the packaging. For example: vacuum, sterilization, pasteurization, preserving fluid, thermal protection, aseptic packaging, etc.

The evolutions of technology in processing different type of materials have provided an opportunity to improve food packaging and its function. The development for packaging is influenced by the current trend of consumer behaviour and products (Silayoi and Speece, 2007). Whereby, the technology used in the package has an impact on convenience and may increase the product’s shelf life. For example, working customer usually tend to look for microwaved food, which is more convenient. For this reason, packaging material that is used, have to be compatible with the food preparation. The material can be made of aluminium or plastic that is heat-resistant. The technology of packaging has to meet customer criteria

For potato chips packaging, there are few materials that are usually used, they are plastic, aluminium, flexible film, tin and paperboard. It is known that potato chips contains high fat content. It is best not to expose potato chips to UV light and oxygen, to prevent from rancidity. Ideally, the packaging of potato chips exclude oxygen as well as light in order to prolonged the shelf life. Thus, a clear view package is not suitable for potato chips. In addition, the potato chips may be seen to be broken which will decrease its sales appeal.

In the market there are several type of packaging shapes. Which shapes inffluence the type of material used. For example, several brand like Lay’s, Mister Potato, and Ruffles is using a classic design potato chips bag. This bag normally used flexible film materials such as cellophane and/or polypropylene. Both of these materials are used in combination for one another to give a better protection to the potato chips from changing weather conditions, UV light and oxygen. This materials also provides sparkle which may attract customer, sealability, and ability to tear easily (open mechanism).

Other than bag shaped, Pringles comes out with a cylindrical packaging shaped. This canister shaped (tubular) is made from paperboard-can which its inner layered with foil and a resealable plastic lid. This type of packaging allows the potato chips to be stacked neatly in the container compare to be packed loosely in a bag. The material also helps to ensure the product is prevented from breakings, and any external condition that may harm or reduce the quality of the product.

Besides packaging material, packaging technology is important too. For packing potato chips, it is important to exclude oxygen presence in the packaging as it may reduce the quality of the chips. During the sealing process, the right technology must be applied to prevent from existence of oxygen in it. For example, vacuum package could be a possible option. However, due to the product characteristic that is fragile, it is impossible to do vacuum package as the chips will crumble under this condition. Thus, another option like pumping air and seal it might be the best decision.

It is important to remember that packaging material and its technology need to be presented visually as one of the communication elements. These communication elements linked to technology all influence the purchase decision.

Product Information

To convey product information is one of the packaging function. This product information is used by customers to assist them on the purchase decision process. Product information usually contain nutrition facts, list of ingredients, expiry date, serving size, ect. Recently, consumer tend to be more cautious towards their health, thus, food labeling is important to help them to decide on their product preference. For example, there are customer who are alergic to peanut. For this reason, it is important to identify clearly the content of the product in the food label. Thus, customer may avoid certain product that contain peanut in it.

In order to maximise the information carried by the product, sometimes manufacturer use small fonts and very dense writing styles to cram all the information on the label. This may lead to confusion and reduce its readability (Silayoi and Speece, 2004). In addition, too much information may cause misleading or imprecise information for the customer too. Therefore, for those customers who are heavily rely on the product information they prefer on the product that has simple yet accurate information. Silayoi and Speece did an analysis on how Thailand people reacted to the product information that presented on the packaging. It is resulted that product information that has an accurate and clear information give a positive result instead of the vague and messy presentation of information. Which in short, this means that consumer tend to value the information on the food label.

Food and drug administration (FDA)

Purchase Decision

Consumer Purchase Decision- adapted from Blackwell et al. (Consumer Behaviour 9th edition)

Purchase decision is a complex matter which internal and external factors influence the final result of the decision making to purchase a certain product or service. There are 5 major stages of decision making , which can be seen as follow:

  • Need Recognition
  • Search for Information
  • Pre-Purchase Evaluation of Alternatives
  • Purchase
  • Consumption

As the model shows, consumers typically go through these five major stages during making decision process. There are seven steps in total, after consumption there are post-consumption evaluation and the following is divestment. However, these 2 processes are usually involved in after usage or consuming the goods. Nevertheless, these 2 processes are unnecessary for decision making based on visual elements (this thesis based on visual elements); which only happen in the first 5 steps.

The first stage of any purchase decision starts from customers identifying their needs. The needs can be classified into 2 categories which are high-involvement product and low-involvement product. High-involvement product is a product which important to the customer. This type of product usually involve some financial, social, and/or personal risk where consumer has evaluated the product carefully for a certain period of time. Examples of high-involvement products are car, cellphone, laptop, etc. On the other hand, low-involvement product is a product that will not affect the consumer financially, socially, and psychologically. In this case, consumer may not take alot of effort and time to search and evaluate the product information as there are alot of variety or substitute. In short, limited decision making is involved for this kind of products. Example of low-involvement products are soaps, snacks, dairy product, grocery product, etc.

After identifying the needs, purchaser start to search for information relating the goods. Purchaser could obtain information from 2 different sources, internal and external. Internal is retrieving knowledgge based on the memory or experience that customer had from a product (or brand). Consumer survey passively by plainly becoming receptive towards the information around them. Aside from that, external means collecting information from internet, market, feedback, family, and others. Consumer actively seacrhing for the information realted to the goods by surfing the internet, reading food label on the packaging, searching for feedback about the goods, browsing through malls and retail outlets, etc. This collecting information behaviour is interrelated to the product involvement. As the product is viewed risky (a lot of factors influence the decision), customers are likely pay more attention to the product (Grossman and Wisenblit, 1999; Dholakia, 2001; Silayoi and Speece, 2004), thus on a high-involvement product customer will take their time on searching and comparing the goods from one to another.

By the time all the information has been collected, customers begin to process the information. According to Blackwell et al. (2001), there are 5 steps involved in processing the information. They are:


As a purchaser is exposed to the product through communication campaign (e.g Food Labeling, advertisement). One or more of the senses (5 senses) are stimulated, early processing begins. For instance, an image on the packaging that could stimulates brain.


The more relevant the information to the product chosen, the more attractive it will be. For example, for those who are on diet, a product labeled low-fats tend to be more attractive.


When attention is drawn, the information is then analyzed to get a better understanding of the message against the consumer’s memory (knowledge). For example, remembering a family recommendation to this certain product, that gives a positive image to it.


After getting better understanding of the product information, the message is either accepted or unaccepted. Which every marketers hoped the message is accepted, in order to proceed to the next step.


When the message has been accepted, brain will memorized the info which will useful in the future. For instance, when consumer aware of the quality of the product and tend to buy the same product from the same brand as they feel the product is more reliable.


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