The Unboxing Experience: How Premium Packaging Can Boost Your Brand
You’ve probably heard the term “unboxing”—quite simply, unboxing is the practice of filming or taking a photo of yourself opening a package from an e-commerce brand and sharing that video on the internet, typically to YouTube or social media.
It’s a simple premise that anyone with a camera phone can easily participate in. And for e-commerce brands, the payoff can be absolutely massive: Providing your customers with a great unboxing experience can boost your content marketing efforts, drive engagement, increase sales, and ultimately create a loyal brand following.
The numbers speak for themselves. There are currently 1.6 million videos (and counting) on YouTube devoted to the practice, with popular channels drawing in as many as 2.4 billion views. According to Google, unboxing is anything but niche: popularity is growing by 57% a year.
Unboxing videos allow customers to serve as e-commerce brand ambassadors without feeling like they’re shilling for a brand—they’re just sharing their experience with their friends, family, and followers on social media. On Instagram, for example, unboxing-related posts get shared an average of 95 million times per day.
Curious but worried your product isn't a fit for the buzzy unboxing industry? Have no fear: these user-generated videos span across industries, from toys and collectibles to fashion and beauty to electronics and even groceries.
The product can be anything: Unboxing is about the package. And at Pregis, you know that's what we're all about!
What do packaging choices convey about a company and its products?
We set out to answer that question in a first-of-its-kind study in partnership with the University of Wisconsin. The objective: To understand how different protective packaging mediums influenced pricing perception and emotions experienced when unboxing.
As retail continues to shift from physical stores to digital, the unboxing experience in consumers' homes is replacing the store experience. Over the years, the retail store experience has become a science which includes branding, placement, merchandising, personalized service, music and even scent. But many retailers have failed to replicate that euphoric in-store experience with home delivery, potentially putting customer lifetime value at risk.
The study results demonstrate how parcel packaging choices are major influencers in delivering a customer experience which elevates the value of the product and the e-commerce brand.
In our study, 60 participants were split into two groups of 30 each. The study participants ranged in age from mid-20s to late 30s-a desirable demographic for online retailers, and an age highly likely to share the aforementioned unboxing videos to their social channels.
While both groups of 30 unboxed the same product-a bamboo bowl, chosen because it could ostensibly range in price from $15 to $200-each group received their bowls in different packaging. Participants saw only their own packaging and were not aware that there was a different option. One package, best described as "economy," consisted of a plain brown box with white polystyrene foam for inside protection and clear carton sealing tape. The other packaging could be considered "premium," with a white box, clear inflated hybrid cushioning featuring a square pattern to protect the contents, soft white foam wrapped around the bowl, white carton sealing tape on the exterior, and even a "thank you" sticker inside the package.
The takeaway was clear: How the exact same product is wrapped has a significant impact on how its value is perceived.
Premium packaging is a clear differentiator, scoring 76% higher in terms of attractiveness to participants. Premium packaging also scored an impressive 56% higher than economy packaging in terms of perceived prestige. Lastly, cost: The premium package product was perceived as having greater value than the product in the economy package-a difference of 32% between the two groups.
Which companies are currently doing premium packaging well?
While unboxing is about the customer's experience receiving and opening a package, creating a great unboxing experience starts with the premium packaging itself. We've rounded up a few brands who are doing it right.
Brands that ship food products, for example, often use protective packaging solutions like those offered by Pregis. Thrive Market, for example, relies on protective elements to make their farmers-market-to-front-door business model a reality. Branded brown cardboard on the outside, the interior shows a branded, wallpaper-like design (more on those branded elements later!). The box is divided lengthwise to protect items from damage. Breakable items like glass jars are wrapped in biodegradable packaging, an expression of the brand’s values (interested in using sustainable packaging solutions? Pregis has you covered).
Birchbox, a beauty sample subscription service, created an unboxing experience so spectacular there are nearly a quarter-million unboxing videos on YouTube dedicated to Birchbox alone.
Birchbox demonstrates how to brand an experience. For subscribers, opening and unwrapping each month’s samples is the main draw of the company. Birchbox packages differ every time, and so does the box decor. Inside, the layout is dependent on the contents, which also change monthly. Birchbox, not its subscribers, decide on the content of each box—meaning each month’s box is a surprise, and opening a Birchbox package is truly like opening a present. To keep with this theme, the boxes include internal wrapping paper to coordinate with the branded box.
Any “best of” packaging list would be remiss without mentioning Apple, a brand famous for incorporating great aesthetics into their products. According to Ordoro Blog, Apple even has an ‘unboxing room’ where designers experiment with packaging. Unsurprisingly, the unboxing experience they create is gold-standard, with 2.35 million ‘unboxing iPhone 6’ videos on YouTube alone.
Notably, Apple's unboxing experience is very structured. Unboxing begins on the outside of the box, where a clean, minimal appearance carries the Apple brand to the customer before even opening the box. Inside, the product lays screen-up, with chargers and accessories nestled neatly underneath.
The joy of unboxing videos, and likely a major driver of their popularity, is that they tap into the child-like anticipation we all feel for something shiny and new. As e-commerce becomes more and more popular, the unboxing experience needs to replace the experience of shopping in a store.
Want to get in on the trend? Here’s how to get started.
As e-commerce becomes more and more popular, the unboxing experience needs to replace the experience of shopping in a store. Use every element of your packaging to brand the unboxing experience. Choose a protective packaging material that aligns with your branding - printed air pillow, colorful cushioning material or paper to support your sustainability messaging.
Highlight the main product: Once opened, your packaging should display the product prominently. Take a cue from our Apple example and hide the excess: Organize any accessories and documentation simplistically underneath the main product.
The Little Things
Consider including a return label in the box: 92% of customers will repeat purchase if the return policy is easy.
Other extras: Adding a personalized note goes a long way by helping your customer feel valued (sellers on e-commerce platforms like Ebay and Etsy do this all the time, helping to build brand loyalty through a human connection). You could also include marketing materials in your package, inspiring a repeat purchase.
Or better yet, use the packaging materials to help support a cause-based marketing campaign that can help your customers get involved in your social responsibility efforts. Check out Pregis’ Inspyre.
And don't be afraid to promote social sharing! Include your brand's handles or relevant hashtags throughout your premium packaging elements to inspire a potential unboxing video and capitalize on the free advertisement it can provide.
What To Avoid
- Oversized boxes: Try to more closely match the shipping box size with your product so there is not an excess of dead space, requiring an unnecessary amount of packaging material.
- Foam peanuts: Choose packing materials made from recycled materials or easy-to-recycle materials, and avoid being overly wasteful (may we suggest air cushions?)
- Complicated packaging: Assure your product packaging is easy to open, minimizing frustration and maximizing the joy of an unboxing experience.
- Damaged boxes—or worse, damaged goods inside. Damage is the single biggest turn off for a consumer!
Get started delivering joy to your customers through an unforgettable unboxing experience: Download our Unboxing Experience Playbook right here. You can also reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877.692.6163. Happy unboxing!