Clemson consumer research studies why we shop at Las Vegas PACK EXPO

by Ryan Newman

Clemson University once again drew the eyes of the world to its exhibit and on-site research at PACK EXPO 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. PACK EXPO is one of the largest international trade shows in the U.S. and the packaging industry’s biggest event, with more than 27,000 packaging and processing professionals and 1,750 exhibitors attending.

Clemson University is one of the few schools to offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in packaging science. The Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics presented the Clemson exhibit. The 2,500 square ft. exhibit space was provided by PPMI, the producer of PACK EXPO, to conduct state-of-the-art, on-site research based on consumer experience.

Clemson graduate students in packaging science conducted biometric research for several major product corporations, and, for the first time, demonstrated an innovative new product called Store Visualizer from Esko, a software company offering a portfolio of application support and consultancy services for packaging design, printing and publishing.   Though in its development stage, Store Visualizer creates a platform where users can navigate and interact within a virtual store and virtual products on a screen.  Store Visualizer allows data generated by users to be mapped on computers based on the direction of their gaze as they look at various virtual products in the 3-D store.

In contrast, students set up CU Shop™, an immersive retail environment where research takes place with participants wearing biometric sensors that track eye movements, physiological activities and brain flow.

Chip Tonkin, PhD, director of the Sonoco Institute for Packaging Design and Graphics, and R. Andrew Hurley, PhD, assistant professor and research associate at the Institute, supervise the research. A goal of the research is to determine if Store Visualizer can obtain comparable results to the research done in the real-world environment of CU Shop™.

“Consumer biometric devices, in addition to immersive retail environments are the ‘way of the future’ for holistic packaging design evaluation,” said Hurley.

Over the past several years, the research performed by Clemson graduate students at PACK EXPO has allowed students to develop their thesis and contribute to the global knowledge base for the packaging industry.

“Store visualizer has the potential to test hundreds of design iterations in a completely virtual environment,” said David Stone, a Master’s student in packaging science.

Given the overwhelmingly positive reception from employers, PACK EXPO 2013 has placed Clemson University at the forefront of scientific and design innovation in what is still a relatively new and exciting field of consumer research.

The Clemson exhibit named “Packaging Emporium,” took months of planning and preparation to develop the layout, graphics, and research designs. Five graduate students and approximately 25 undergraduate students attended PACK EXPO.

"PACK EXPO provides students with a unique opportunity to network and interact with companies from the packaging industry. It allows students to gain a deeper and broader understanding of all aspects within the field of packaging," said Edward Couvillion, a junior packaging science student.