Biometrics: When science is applied to packaging design

Biometrics: When science is applied to packaging design

By Rick Lingle in Packaging Design

Biometric research, including eye-tracking and facial expressions, is a useful tool to lift the veil on the truth of packaging at the point of sale—and help guide effective designs.

Biometrics refers to metrics related to human characteristics. Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals.

The average new product launch costs $1 million and 22 months’ development. Yet, after two years, only 6% of those new launches remain on the shelf. Many brands still evaluate their packaging through focus groups with their target market, friends, family or employees. According to Sara Shumpert, director, The Packaging School, this approach is less effective because decision-making is “nonconscious.”

Humans simply are not aware of why they like something, and ultimately what triggered their purchase decision, she explains. Thus, biometric research such as eye-tracking and facial expressions are a useful tool to “lift the veil” on the truth of packaging at the point of sale.

It is important for brands to utilize packaging to help consumers visually interact with their products faster and longer than the competition. Ultimately, effective product packaging enables the consumer to quickly find the brand and specific product or other variant they desire to make a swift and safe decision. To design effective packaging, research must be performed to discover what will resonate with the target market.

Shumpert will be presenting on the application of biometrics in packaging and more during her presentation, Designing with Shelf Space Strategy in Mind – Packaging Trends in Industry Categories, on Tuesday, June 14, at 10:30AM at the Packaging for Food & Beverage conference during EastPack. Shumpert responds to our questions in this preview of the topic:

What remains the value of focus group studies in new product/package development?

Shumpert: For many brands, focus groups are seen as a valuable tool for acquiring direct feedback on new products and packaging from the target market. Focus groups, like most research methods, do have their downsides. “Groupthink” is a common phenomenon that can occur when a group of people make irrational decisions based off of their desire for harmony or conformity. There’s moderator bias, where a facilitator may incidentally move people to a predetermined idea. It’s also not contextual, meaning the consumer is not at the point of purchase. What someone thinks they will buy, and what they will actually buy in those seconds at the shelf are two completely different things.

What’s a brief overview of what biometrics are about?

Shumpert: Biometrics are tools—devices, sensors, hardware, etc.—that measure human activity. Like a calculator, these are tools that can be used to answer questions. Also like a calculator, they can be used incorrectly. They provide data and answers to questions on the intersection between humans and activity.

What companies can benefit from using biometrics?

Shumpert: Everyone can use biometrics, whether brand owner, packaging supplier or design agency. Anyone interested in how people interact with objects needs to be informed on biometrics. Eye-tracking technology can now be used to effectively collect quantitative data on the effectiveness of point-of-purchase marketing in a controlled environment with a set methodology.

How can companies with smaller budgets benefit from biometrics?

Shumpert: Pricing is completely based on the questions you want to answer. The more detailed the question, the less-expensive the study. Cost is related to the number of participants, the location, the number of samples tested, and what insights need to be extracted. The more refined the list, the cheaper the study. Exploring data and sifting through things is time intensive and costly.

What’s new in biometric studies?

Shumpert: It’s an emerging market, similar to rapid prototyping. Eye tracking was used prior to the 1960s. However, new technologies, such as lighter weight devices, advanced code, cloud processing and computer vision are big topics for biometric device manufacturers and users.

What one sentence piece of advice do you have for brand owners?

Shumpert: Design, test, and redesign every single time.


As director of The Packaging School, Sara Shumpert provides training and continuing education to professionals looking to advance their career or companies interested in developing training solutions for their employees. Over her young career, she has worked with multiple consumer good brands on marketing and package design. From packaging innovation brainstorms to digital marketing plans, Sara has seen first-hand the vital role packaging plays in the marketing mix. She may be reached at

For biometric study inquiries, please contact The Packaging School’s partner company, Package Insight, via

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