30 June 2020

Jonny Westcar, managing director of StormBrands global branding and creative agency spoke with Matthew Rogerson about the current market changes and trends that are developing in packaging and retail design to address coronavirus as well as thoughts on the future.

Who are StormBrands?
We work across 2 d and 3d design and prototyping and we also work on the brand side to help companies with their portfolio strategy for brands, and how they're responding to all the changes that are going on now and help them to understand how consumers lives are changing, and therefore, the considerations they have when they're buying products. And we also work with corporate brands.

 We’re working for a big company at the moment, about 11,000 people worldwide and where we're helping them communicate with a remote workforce. They are having to think like a communications team and publishers , so developing content and getting it out to their employees. . I think, at the moment the world demands total responsiveness. The world's changing every day, almost that's how it feels anyway. The reality is the people that they want to reach and influence are no longer spending ages looking through magazines or researching academic documents so they have to create content that heightens awareness and delivers interest. First and foremost, if you don't create awareness and interest, then you're never going to bring someone into the next step, which is to engage with your story and your content. We helped them move into this talks platform. Its a really interesting platform, but previously they would have probably written something, and done an interview and taken that through into an editorial piece. Whereas now it's fully dynamic. You are hearing the conversation almost as it happens.  If you don't create awareness and interest, you will never get the chance to engage with or talk to your customers as they will move on to companies or products that do. 

I think marketing's changed a lot. And communications has changed a lot. And I think brands are now doing as much as they can to” engage” But then when they're actually engaged, which requires the customer service interface, it requires operational changes to the customer experience. That's where it becomes difficult. So before, you know, marketers can pretty much rely on you know, launch a product, put some really good, appetising promotional support behind it. Get some really good retailer deals so that the product is visible and there you go, but that one doesn't exist. Now. You have a growing contingent of people saying  “I've seen the promotional Instagram, I've bought the product, I've tried it and I've done a shout out to promote them. I've endorsed and advocated that product or that brand, and they haven't responded”  if, you spent all that effort focusing on me and my needs and now I'm actually engaging with you , one of the biggest mistakes would be to go silent as a brand, as the experience will drive customers away. 

It's almost hard to know where to start because I see so much change. if I focus on the retail sector I see packaged goods are changing. And there's a few different sort of aspects that come together, but they all live within the whole customer experience. The retail space has changed massively, almost beyond recognition in the last couple of months. So if you think about the themes, the store experience changes, so you have less time to make purchasing decisions. You're in a conveyor belt in those stores so you've lost the you've lost the ability to walk around- most big retailers have now got one way systems. People have less time to make their purchasing decisions, and they making them sometimes under pressure. We're already in a period now where we are normalising  behaviors that we've adapted over the last few months which have become second nature to us. So I think the implications for packaging and retailers, I would say things like can I think retailers are undoubtedly stocking less lines, they got stock control problems, they're having to use less lines. That's one thing and I think they're looking at bigger formats. So I almost call it de-convenience.
 We're now in a very different environment where we have more time at home, we have more time to cook more time to think about things. So the prospect of convenience has changed. People  are prepared to use more ingredients, more people are prepared to try new things. The concept of convenience is  interesting from a retailer's perspective and I think that will lead to things like, bigger formats, less lines, more education around how to use these things to create meals or whatever it is, whatever it is you're doing. And I also think you have to think about on the inside of retailers businesses, the picking and packing and delivery

One of the main pain points when home shopping/delivery  is always the either the missed pick, or the sub the substitute. And that was a massive problem at the beginning of this period. I do think from a picking and packing perspective in the store for the drivers who are then going to go out and deliver, I think with less stock lines with clearer kind of organizational packs and packs. It makes that picking and packing thing easier. So that's just purely from a product handling perspective. I would say I think retailers are looking at how they bundle and present products in stores. People are not trying to reduce the amount of shopping so the ability to multibuy is more important because you're you don't want to keep going back to environment where you kind of feel at risk 

I do see the retailers putting a bit more thought into how consumers are shopping and adapting; for example by providing them a simple , collated way to make their next 3/4 meals rather than buying piecemeal. Or what can they provide that would ensure consumers can prepare a healthy breakfast and for the whole family. For example, Morrison's launched their veggie box a couple of weeks ago, for a fixed price, you get a box of the basic comestibles which is brilliant for those who are worried about going into a store, or isolating to still get hold of nurtional provisions.

 I also think retailers are having to think about how they're repackaging, not just shelf ready packaging, but how they're repackaging to get products into people's homes, to help make things easier for them. 

And there is also lots happening in e-commerce space especially in the distribution. With everything going on as a result of the pandemic we should expect to see a lot of purchasing behaviors change. One area this is really clear in is in waste. As we are all consuming far more at home we're all much more conscious of the amount of stuff we're now putting in our green bins or our brown bins or our black bins. The amount of volume of packaging being used is much more visible now.Previously we might bin or dispose of our products in the office or in public bins but now its all amassing at home in front of our eyes its much more front of mind.  

Supermarkets need to provide solutions because I mean, let's be really blunt, the supermarket experience has not changed in 40 years. So if you go if you went into let's pick a Waitrose or a Tesco he went in, in 1980, you went in 2020. Apart from the packaging designs, and the variety that's in front of you, despite retailers best efforts is still fairly uniform. I know they tried. But this period is forcing the kind of change you're talking about this innovation is now starting to come through because it's been having having to in order for them to, it's created a pressure on their business then needing to respond to so if you're if you're now time rich, it may be that you're fully capable of preparing three meals from scratch today using purely locally sourced organic farm shop ingredients. but some people they need solutions and going to the supermarket regularly to pick up bread and eggs and stuff is actually a bit of a pain point. 

Future focus?
How are retailers helping signpost health and nutritional choices in in store or online? how are they making it easier to decode? You know, decode which elements of a particular pack are recyclable or not as it's confusing - the amount of packaging being disposed of at home at the moment is enormous and how much of it is properly sorted? How much is it clear?

Also, I would love to see a supermarket organized on its products by its sustainability or circularity credentials. So you literally could go into one of three or four different zones . For example a green zone where you know that you're somewhere between 90 and 100% recyclability, right the way to a black zone where actually zero or close to zero, and then supermarkets might then look at building off that, making it easy for people to then understand how what they are buying fits into the wider scheme of things, such as disposal or health targets they have for themselves.

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