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The Unboxing Experience Goes from Differentiator to Must-Have: What Ecommerce Brands Need to Know

All of us remember the experience of opening presents on Christmas day.

It’s the excitement and anticipation of not knowing what is inside, and wanting to savor the moment.

In other words, this is ‘unboxing’; the excitement experienced by the clever and attractive presentation of consumer items.

In recent years, unboxing has gone from being a seasonal pleasure, to an online fad, to a powerful ecommerce marketing tool.

In fact, unboxing has become such an expected experience in the industry, that Instagram accounts like ThingTesting report out on how products are package and round that up into the overall customer and venture capital review of any ecommerce company.

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@pleinoslo – melt-in-your-mouth vitamin films ???? – Founded 2018 in Oslo & New York ???????????????? – Price 299 NOK for single purchase (1 month supply) or 249 NOK for subscription ($36 USD/$30 USD) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ???? from me: I saw Plein on Instagram a few months ago and thought the product looked amazing. Plein’s vitamin supplements come in three types; the pink one is for bone support (vitamin D3 & K2), the yellow for immune system (Vitamin D3, 15ug selenium and antioxidants) and black one is a film of 15mg caffeine. The product looks a lot different from any other vitamin that I’ve seen; you place the postage stamp sized ultra-thin oral film on the inside of the cheek and it dissolves within a couple of minutes after being in contact with saliva. It’s honestly super easy; it melts away, no need to grab a glass of water, and it’s packed in portable packaging so you can just grab one anywhere on the go????‍♀. The films were a bit more glossy/plastic-like than I had thought but also leaves a fresh minty/lemony taste. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ???? from a VC: Plein has through minimalistic design managed to build what looks and feels like the only fashion company in the vitamin aisle. And true to that – the only places to get your hands on Plein is through their own channels or in selected niche boutiques and collabs with leading Scandi brands such as @haydesign. The Plein branding really is stunning but I’m always interested when I see people doing something differently, not only on brand positioning side but on a product level. I’d have to get more information about the production behind these films, which are made of Norwegian algae, to understand how defensible this side of the business is. But it’s v exciting to see a European brand in this space. @seed @ritual @thenue_co are killing it in the US on the branding side, none of them ship to Europe. ???? Btw – I’ve managed to get my hands on a pack of @seed :) product in #thingtesting – review coming in a few week’s time. Any other vitamin/supplements companies I’ve missed? ????

A post shared by thingtesting (@thingtesting) on Sep 29, 2018 at 5:37am PDT

If you want to make a lasting impression on your customers, your packaging and presentation is a vital ingredient.

Does the Unboxing Experience Matter?

This boils down to a pretty simple question.

If you were a customer who ordered something online, which is going to make you feel more valued: your purchase arriving in a generic cardboard box, or in attractive, bespoke packaging?

The product within is exactly the same, but the perception between these two examples couldn’t be more different.

In the former, it is just a ‘thing’.

In the latter, it takes on the positive attributes of the brand itself; attention to detail, high value, and a great service experience. This is what turns customers into repeat business.

It’s been proven that people are naturally drawn to products and packaging that looks good.

Out of any of our senses, visual stimuli has the greatest impact on our perceptions.

A study from 2013 found that attractive packaging stimulates the reward-seeking areas of the brain that are associated with impulse purchasing.

Plain packaging, on the other hand, garners very little response.

In sum, making a positive impact on your customers’ purchasing decisions is impossible without considering product presentation.

What a Great Unboxing Experience Can Do For Your Brand:

1. It helps your brand tell it’s story.

If you aren’t leveraging your brand’s unboxing experience to the fullest, you’re missing out on a brilliant opportunity to express yourself.

Unboxing is about much more than making your products look good; it’s about crafting your brand’s narrative.

Your narrative is integral to communicating successfully why customers should choose you over alternatives.

This is about emotion as much as what your product or service offers.

Simply listing the selling points of your offering isn’t going to make you interesting or exciting.

Your brand narrative is effectively the answer to the question “Why should I care?”

A great brand story includes:

  • How your brand got to where it is today.

  • What you are aiming to become.

  • What makes you different from everyone else in your industry.

  • What you guarantee your customers.

Refining your unboxing experience will go a long way to helping you craft a powerful brand narrative.

Instead of just words, you are giving customers tangible proof of your values.

Because unboxing takes place in the ‘post-sale’ phase, it also avoids the risk of coming across as a cold-hearted sales pitch.

You already have your customer’s money, so anything extra you give them falls into that all-important ‘value-added’ category.

It shows that you value your customers and your interactions with them, which breeds trust and belief in your ethos.

2. It drives customer loyalty.

In ecommerce, customer loyalty drives business success. ‘Last’ impressions are just as important as first impressions.

Product delivery is effectively the last point of contact that your customer will have with your brand, so make it a memorable one!

From an economic perspective, long-term customer relationships are much more profitable than having to spend resources attracting them from scratch.

But building these partnerships isn’t as easy as it sounds; according to a study by Bain & Company, between 60% to 80% of customers don’t return to the same company from a product or service, even if they were previously satisfied.

This is because brand loyalty isn’t simply about whether the product or service is ‘good’.

In an increasingly competitive retail market, there are a dozen brands who are probably making as ‘good’ a product as you.

What brings your customers back is when you offer that extra ‘wow factor’ that sets you apart from the crowd.

You might have an excellent product that your customers are happy with, but it’s very difficult to capitalize on this if you don’t give them an experience that is unique.

A great unboxing experience is like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae; everything else might have been great, but it’s those little extra touches which put you head and shoulders above the rest.

3. The opportunity to go viral.

Let’s face it, putting together a great unboxing experience can get expensive.

When your package might only be seen by one person, or by one household at the absolute maximum, it can feel difficult to justify the cost.

But what if your efforts had the potential to be seen by a virtually limitless audience?

In the world of Social Media, this potential is very real.

Social Media and unboxing are virtual bread and butter.

‘Unboxing’ has become its own genre with a cult following on sites such as YouTube.

Some specially dedicated channels develop huge followings, with views that reach into the millions.

According to Dotcom Distribution, 35.3% of consumers had seen an unboxing video in 2015. In 2017, this had risen to 36.8%.

Why? Because we love to live vicariously through those who are engaging with our greatest desires.

It could be the latest iPhone or Adidas sneakers, or even just the pleasure of the unboxing itself.

It engages with those primal consumer desires that brands have to tap into in order to be successful.

This makes it an incredibly friendly way to get your brand out there.

An image or video of someone ‘unboxing’ your product can allow your brand to reach entirely new markets, which may have been difficult to reach or discover otherwise.

4. It gets influencers excited.

Influencers have quickly become a vital weapon in the arsenal of marketing strategy.

Consumers have become increasingly mistrustful of traditional advertising techniques, which are commonly misleading.

By contrast, influencer marketing is cheaper, more targeted, and more likely to lend a brand credibility if the influencer is seen as an authority in a particular industry.

Because it’s effectively a modern version of ‘word of mouth’ marketing, you need to pull out all the stops to ensure you make a favorable impression.

It’s important to remember that influencers are not the same as a celebrity ‘endorsing’ a product.

There are overlaps, but influencers are for the most part ordinary people who build their large followings and business from being perceived as trustworthy.

This means they are unlikely to promote a product that they don’t believe in.

A strong unboxing experience is an excellent way to build a rapport with influencers that could lead to strong partnerships, as personalizing their initial experience with your product will win you major points from the outset.

As we previously mentioned, content based on the unboxing format also has the potential to get your brand a lot of exposure.

If this is applied in the context of influencer marketing, then you have a powerful formula that is highly beneficial to your brand.

Creating the Perfect Unboxing Experience

1. Use branded boxes.

To create a successful unboxing experience, the box can’t simply be an ordinary box.

It has to be YOUR box.

If it’s not clear at the first glance who the package is from, you will lose a lot of that initial drama and anticipation you can leverage.

This can be an uplifting experience as one surprised customer noted on instagram.

via stuartfrank333

The Beer Advent Calendar from Beer Cartel is a true example of an unboxing experience that is interactive — and it lasts for a whole month.

Day after day in the month of December, the sipper returns to the box and discovers their new gift. It’s a process that will create memories and build inherent brand recognition.

Ensuring that your branding is consistent, from browsing the product selection, to the moment of purchase, to receiving the product, helps to build your all-important brand story.

2. Use unique packing material.

Branding your internal materials will help to tie together your design.

However, this isn’t just about aesthetics; if you have fragile products than run the risk of getting damaged, this is your most important consideration.

Increasing consumer awareness about sustainability has also given brands a new consideration where unboxing is concerned.

Using materials that are not recyclable could cause your brand to be regarded as ‘wasteful’, and customers may share their unboxing experience for the wrong reasons.

In the reverse, using sustainable products will go a long way to helping your brand to cultivate an image of strong ethics and social responsibility.

In a business primarily catered to honing in on one of our senses — taste — DiBruno Bros is also capitalizing on sight with simple packaging tailored to their brand’s aesthetic. Pretty but not wasteful, the padding inserts make the unboxing experience a little fun.

via dibrunobros

3. Think about product presentation.

Your presentation inside the box is just as important as the outside!

Chucking your product in the corner of the box isn’t going to build a curated image.

This requires thinking about the size and shape of the product, and of the boxes you are using.

The use of packing material and dividers within the box can help manage the placement of your products.

via mysilkyskincare

Bliss does a great job of using bubble packing material that follows their color scheme and using #thisisbliss to encouraging sharing.

Remember: a great unboxing experience is one that your customer will be dying to share online.

To get some inspiration, consider looking up keywords such as #flatlay or #unboxing on Instagram to see which layouts have gotten the most attention.

4. Consider giving a free sample.

As mentioned near the start of this article, it’s a ‘value-added’ perception that you need to cultivate for a great unboxing.

Those little extra touches are some of the most important.

Since the ultimate goal of great service is to ensure repeat business, free samples are an excellent way to encourage this behaviour.

Via bonbonbonchocolate

Bon Bon Bon does special giveaways of their chocolate that contains an assortment of their various products which is delivered in their fun boxes and includes other fun goodies.

Reciprocity is a powerful instinct, so as well as making your customer feel valued, it helps to re-activate the love of your brand that led them to that initial purchase.

5. Add a touch of personalization.

It’s easy to underestimate the effect that a handwritten note or other personalization technique can have in making your customers feel special.

Placing them inside your packages is one of the best ways to get across just how much you value their patronage, because it’s a clear investment of time.

Additionally, offering unique customization options is a create way to make your customers unboxing experience feel more like Christmas.

Via bonbonbonchocolate

Again, Bon Bon Bon does a great job of allowing customers to enjoy their chocolate in a personal way.

Although this time investment is seen as the reason why only small businesses can engage in this activity, this doesn’t have to be the case.

So-called ‘big’ businesses who engage in ‘small’ business activities of this kind can win themselves a great reputation.

6. Include important inserts.

Inserts are a targeted way of retaining customers, have a bigger impact than if you simply emailed the same information.

For example, you could email customers a 15% off coupon in thanks for their purchase, but it’s far more likely to be used if you give them a physical invitation in a more personalized setting.

Other fun additions, such as branded stickers or new product brochures, are a great way to keep your brand in your customer’s sights after the sale has been completed.

Hailed as the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle, LARQ ships their sleek water bottles in minimalistic packaging without the use of plastics or excess padding.

Each water bottle comes with an infocard about the product. True to their mission of sustainability, the packaging remains effective while not wasteful.

via perkinsboston

Examples of Branded Packaging Experiences From Ecommerce Brands

Here at noissue, our customers frequently engage our services to help create powerful unboxing experiences and a point of difference for their brands.

As such, we’ve seen some fantastic designs in our time.

Here are a couple of brands who have gotten their unboxing experiences down to a fine art:

1. The Marshmallowist

This boutique UK-based company became famous for being the nation’s first producer of gourmet marshmallows, but have also won significant praise for their luxurious packaging.

Their custom-designed tissue adds a dramatic flair to the unboxing process, as well as giving some protection to the contents.

The cohesive color palette on both the boxes and wrapping make for strong visual branding, as well as a cheerful and eye-catching design that is in line with the brand’s playful product range.

2. Curated and Hampered

Curated and Hampered design luxury gift hampers, meaning that product presentation is obviously crucial to their offering.

As a high-end brand, their customers are likely to have high expectations of product display; by playing off how hampers allow people to ‘discover’ new brands and products, they give customers a memorable unboxing experience though subtle branded boxes and special inserts describing each product and how it can be used.

This helps to craft a powerful brand narrative of expertise in ‘gifting’ and attention to detail which they enjoy sharing with their customer base.

Executive Summary

To wrap up (pun intended!): The unboxing experience that you offer your customers says much more about your brand’s ethos than you might think.

It’s an excellent way to improve your customer service offering, as well as an invaluable tool for your marketing and branding efforts.

For ecommerce brands, success is dependent upon giving your customers a memorable experience that will keep them coming back.

How you choose to present your product can be the difference between offering something unique, or something that can be bought anywhere.

If you want to be the latter, reviewing your unboxing offering is a great place to start.

Beth Owens avatar

Beth Owens is a digital marketing assistant and content writer at Her main topic areas include e-commerce, social media marketing and the art of excellent branding.