Clemson's exhibit at PACK EXPO explores how consumers decide what to buy

How do shoppers decide what to buy? How large a role does packaging play in purchasing decisions? Clemson’s interactive exhibit “The Packaging Test Track” at PACK EXPO in Chicago, October 28 – 31 used the latest technology to explore consumer behavior.

The Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics sent 11 graduate students and 5 faculty members to PACK EXPO to conduct the research. The Department of Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Science also sent nearly 40 undergraduate students representing Creative Inquiry teams mentored by Mr. Robert Moore, Senior Lecturer.

“This research will help to improve the speed, efficiency ad sustainability of product development and packaging design,” said Chip Tonkin, PhD, and Director of the Sonoco Institute. “New products often fail and at great cost. The research methods we are using here can help to identify what consumers respond to and what doesn’t work. So much waste can be avoided,” he said.

The Packaging Test Track consisted of 5 separate store environments in a 5,800 square foot booth. Sponsored by ESKO and the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, (PPMI), the exhibit expanded from a booth of 3,800 square feet at PACK EXPO 2011, to include Sonoco Institute’s own CU Shop, as well as CU Office, CU Café, CU Auto, and CU Mart. Each store was the basis for a 2nd year graduate student conducting thesis research. A visual of the Packaging Test Track featuring the five different stores can be seen in a video filmed at the show found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OP_vQR7SiYs

Volunteers participated in a variety of consumer behavior studies with varying technologies. Tobii Technologies provided both eye tracking monitors as well as multiple sets of mobile eye tracking glasses to use in studies.  In addition, students also experimented with EEG, electroencephalography, which measures electrical activity in the scalp caused by brain activity, and GSR, galvanic skin response, which measures skin conductance, temperature and acceleration to correlate with physiological and psychological responses.

Rupert Andrew Hurley, PhD, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Science, is the faculty advisor to the graduate students. “Their research reveals consumer decision-making at the subconscious level,” he said. “The analysis of their data will help to identify trends in packaging design, as well as design elements that impact the perceived quality of products.”

Clemson undergraduate students participated in PACK EXPO at the Education Pavilion in the Clemson University Packaging Science booth. Students also spent time browsing the miles of show space and networking with companies in attendance.

“We’ve often said PACK EXPO is as much a huge learning lab as it is a marketplace, and Clemson’s research shines new light on that facet of the show,” said Charles D. Yuska, president & CEO of PMMI, owner and producer of the PACK EXPO shows.

PACK EXPO International 2012 was held at the McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois; the largest conference center in North America. The conference recorded over 1800 exhibitors, a record number of registered attendees, and over 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space.

About PMMI
PMMI is a trade association of more than 600 member companies that manufacture packaging, processing and related converting machinery in the United States or Canada; machinery components and packaging containers and materials. PMMI’s vision is to be the leading global resource for the packaging and processing supply chain, and its mission is to improve and promote members' abilities to meet the needs of their customers.