Women make purchase decisions in five seconds at the shelf.

In that limited time, beauty marketers need all the ammunition they can get to make their product stand out. Beyond that, brands need images that are easily conveyed to others — especially in today’s online marketplace where customer reviews rule.

That’s according to Terri Goldstein, chief executive officer and founder of The Goldstein Group, who shared research during a presentation at last month’s HBA Global Expo and Conference in a session called “What Women Want to See, Feel and Understand About Your Package.”

Goldstein said women perceive packaging differently from men. They often describe visual cues when recommending favorites to other women. “Color is first, shape is second, symbols are third and words are last,” Goldstein explained, matching up to her theory of a consumers’ sequence of cognition while shopping, which she calls Shelf Sight Sequence. “Why this is important is there is a visual vocabulary women speak to inform other women which brand to look for on the shelf. They don’t always disclose brands by names.” As an example, she cited, a woman might tell another about a brand preference and to look for the package “that is yellow, in a tall bottle with the lavender flower on it.”

Packaging packs a bigger punch with women, Goldstein said, citing research that “women shop on an exploration and buy more in one shopping trip, while married men shop on a mission, and 92 percent of the time ‘she’ is telling him what to get.” You have to look at your brand recall as far as color, shapes and symbols and make sure you control that conversation, so he will know how to recognize her choices.

An average mass market store has more than 100,000 stockkeeping units, she added, with 76 percent of decisions made at the shelf. A secret weapon is a package that invites touch. “Forty-one percent purchase a product if they touch it,” she revealed. Some tactics include luxurious metallic finishes. embossing, alluring feminine tones and interesting packaging shapes. One thing marketers haven’t mastered, she said, is portraying women proficiently on packages, as women like to ensure they can relate to the portrayal. As a result, it is key to portray women representationally and in an imaginative manner, to represent “all women.”

With beauty products requiring more descriptive information, Goldstein suggested wrapping the message in a shape. “Words are the last element in the decision so put them into the second core identifier of your brand: a shape.”

Beauty brands in particular, she advised, need to put their product packaging to the test not on a conference room table, instead she recommended presenting designs real world style with the competition around it to help identify unique characteristics in a sea of sameness. “You’ve got five seconds or less. Never forget to give her strong and own-able core identifiers to talk about her brand preferences,” she said.

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