New research reveals the power of persuasive labels

Business Insights

A unique psychological study from Avery UK has revealed just how much labels really matter when it comes to consumer decisions and customer loyalty.

The in-depth research centres on small businesses and the power and influence of their own shipping and product labelling.

Working with an established behavioural psychologist, the firm tested consumer response to small business label designs to reveal how certain elements can encourage positive reactions to the items they are attached to.

The study explored important aspects for anyone selling goods either online or face to face.

It considered how various label designs affected how much someone was willing to pay; how they made people feel towards a company and how likely test subjects were to make a repeat purchase.


Fiona Mills, Marketing Director at Avery UK, said:

“This has been ground-breaking research for us.

We suspected there was more to the science of label design than might first meet the eye, but the discoveries have been extremely enlightening.

We can now speak with the utmost authority to say that labels really do make a difference to the performance of small businesses.”

The Research

The research included three scientific approaches to understand what makes a successful label.

A review of 159 academic papers on the topic helped to inform the study, and cutting-edge eye-tracking apparatus, then used in controlled laboratory conditions traced exactly where a label leads the eye.

Finally, three online experiments were conducted testing 1,108 British adults to examine the more cerebral and behavioural aspects of labels. There were two sides to the research: one centred on product labelling and the other featured mailing and shipping labels.

The results uncovered many insights into how small businesses can make label design work for them, but two major principles really stand out, the eye and the brain of the consumer.

1 Catch the Eye.

It may sound obvious but if a label can grab customer attention above all the competition then you’ve won half the battle. The eye-tracking experiments confirmed that bright colours and large labels help your potential consumer stop and look; while bold lines, borders and stripes mean that your label could be viewed 42% more than plainer labels nearby.

2 Engage the Brain.

Now that you have a consumer’s attention, the best way to hold it and convert it into a desired outcome (like a purchase or a positive opinion of your brand) is to make the brain think and engage with the product or package. This can be achieved through emotion, information, priming, heuristics (helpful decision-making shortcuts) and curiosity.

The report delves into the detail of these tools of engagement but here are just a few pearls of wisdom:

In human decision-making, emotion trumps reason. We may not want to admit it but we tend to buy with our hearts and then justify our decision with our heads.

Humans are hardwired to notice emotion and the use of an emotive word like ‘love’ or ‘pride’ or adding an emotive image such as a heart or happy face are simple but effective ways to increase consumer engagement, association and ultimate investment.

In the study, an emotive image made people spend 13% longer looking at the product and adding an emotive word like ‘enjoy’, encouraged participants to look at a label for 10% longer.

There is a sudden spike in brain activity when we encounter something that needs to be ‘worked out’. Adding a label with a special message like ‘Just for you’ or ‘What’s inside?’ to encourage curiosity, can really increase response rates.

When a label was tested that evoked curiosity it increased purchase intentions by 43% and the potential for word-of-mouth recommendation by a significant 103%.

Multiple Labels Multiply Positive Results

A very clear and intriguing finding in the study was that the use of multiple labels when shipping items increased positive emotions in the recipient and led to a higher likelihood of customer loyalty and repeat purchase.

In fact, using multiple labels on a shipping package could increase brand love by as much as 129%, perception of quality by 116%, purchase intent by 113% and word of mouth recommendation by 135%.

Small businesses are missing a trick if they only use one plain address label. It turns out that a package can evoke positive feeling toward a brand just by adding a few extra carefully designed labels.

Fiona Mills added:

“While we don’t recommend businesses stick labels on their packages for the sake of it, there is a clear business case for going above and beyond a simple plain address label.

An address label, a company brand label, a return address label and a friendly special message label will give enough space to get across the important information, your brand, your professionalism and your heart for your valued customer.”

Influencing Future Purchase Behaviour

The special message label, in particular, will help attract attention and can influence future purchase behaviour. Examples of this include adding labels that say things like ‘Open me’, ‘See what’s inside’, ‘Handmade with love’ or ‘Just for you’.

Meanwhile, personalising your messages will make your customer feel even more special. When a mailing envelope in our study included the participant’s name, they spent 11% longer looking at it than average and were 10% likelier to look at it first.

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