While the advice of the sage is not to judge a book by its cover, that isn't how customers look at the goods they are presented with in-store. Packaging plays a large part in the buying decision, so one of the easiest ways to generate sales is to make your packaging more attractive. Packaging does more than just protect your product in transit from factory to outlet - it markets your product. Here are some hints on how to use packaging to the best advantage.

Use packaging to engage the customer's attention

Packaging can make a product stand out from its surroundings on the retailer's shelf and get noticed. The power to draw attention operates through the aesthetics and obtrusiveness of the package design. Carefully consider the colours, fonts and font sizes used on the packaging. These are what initially attract and engage the consumer.

Packaging can be made to look larger by using the right colours and simple, bold design work. You can pick up some useful ideas from checking how competitors package their product. Considering the role packaging plays in grabbing the consumer's attention and encouraging sales the advice of a graphic artist can be a worthwhile investment.

The shape of the packaging can also be used to make the product stand out, but there is a trade off - retailers may refuse to stock awkward shaped packaging that doesn't stack securely, that is difficult to process at the checkout or that simply consumes too much of their valuable shelf space.

Ensure packaging connects with the customer

The average consumer spends just 2.6 seconds making a decision whether to pick up your product or not, so your packaging needs to be targeting the right audience with the right message. Are the buyers primarily male or female? Do they come from a younger or older age bracket? Are they likely to be time poor or shoppers with time to spare?

Different demographics have different purchasing hot buttons. For some the 'environmentally safe' or 'reusable container' label will do it. For others it will be the amount of fat in the product, the guarantee of product security or maybe even the ease of opening the package. General social trends drive consumer preferences and the savvy packager keeps abreast of these trends so they can change labelling, package design and packaging materials to appeal to changing interests.

Packaging can be designed to evoke an emotion in the customer so as to give the product an aura such as exciting, sexy, or whimsical. The graphics on the package can be used to place the product in a particular lifestyle setting that appeals to the target demographic.

Let the packaging inspire confidence in the product

For some products, a picture of the item on the packaging really is worth a thousand words. It can overcome some of the uncertainty in the decision to buy by letting the consumer see just what it looks like. The package is also the place to display your product's guarantee.

Many items claim ease-of-use as a selling point. Others come as easy-to-assemble DIY kits. Consumers will be more convinced of these claims if they can see for themselves just how easy the setting up or construction will be. Even if what's on the outside only outlines the more detailed instructions inside, or gives an assurance that it is easy to install or operate, it will provide a degree of reassurance for the customer.

Packaging can present an impression of the quality of the product inside, regardless of price. Packaging with faded lettering or colours, amateurish design work or strange typeface, outdated graphics, and cheap construction convey an impression of low quality or poor value that reflects on the product itself.

Design the package to provide a sense of security

A whole raft of laws regulate the design of packaging of potentially dangerous goods such as flammable materials and medicines. Meeting the technical specifications is of course mandatory. Another influential class of laws that affect packaging relates to labelling and cover information from the weight, to chemical constituents, to place of origin. This information provides the consumer with a sense of security about the product. The clever marketer may find that some of this information represents a hot button for particular consumers segments and is worth emphasising.

The package around a product is a lot more than just a container to hold and protect it. For smaller manufacturers the package may represent the most prominent advertising vehicle they have for their product. It can also be their only means of combating products that have been given greater shelf space or are more easily recognised brands. Well crafted packaging is a marketing tool of first rate importance-your 'silent salesperson'.