Service attributes are driving the purchasing decisions of packaging containers, materials, equipment and supplies, according to research conducted by Priority Metrics Group (PMG), Roebuck, S.C.

PMG conducted more than 40 proprietary research projects on behalf of packaging suppliers (materials, containers, equipment and supplies) over the past two decades. After interviewing more than 4,000 purchasers, PMG identified how buyers of packaging rank performance and which of the categories are of higher importance.

“Some companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars perfecting their product offering. But, unless that innovation is dramatic and disruptive, what determines whether or not the sale will be made or the business retained are service attributes,” says John Barrett, president, PMG. “A better mouse trap – if it does not bring added revenue or enhanced profit – will collect dust.”

Packaging buyers identify the most important as responsiveness, communication, customer service and accessibility. Product attributes such as product quality, product performance, product line, equipment, systems and even innovation are of lesser importance.

“It may come as a surprise to many in the packaging community that business is won and enduring competitive advantage achieved by building and maintaining strong personal relationships between the buyer and vendor,” adds Barrett. “Product quality and performance are more easily duplicated by using the same equipment to produce the packaging components or buying from the same raw material suppliers. Service performance is much more difficult to replicate and consequently can lead to sustainable advantage.”

These relationships occur at multiple levels—senior management (business relationship), mid-management (communication, accessibility) and operational (responsiveness, customer service). Product improvement and innovation should be centered on delivering lower cost to customers.