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4 Ways Great Unboxing is key to Ecommerce Success (and 5 ways to go about it)

No Comments    |        |    February 7, 2023    |    Reading time 8 minutes
Unboxing experience and ecommerce

What is the unboxing experience?

Simply put, the unboxing experience is a term now widely used to describe the process of unpacking a product by a consumer. Gaining popularity ever since its inception in 2006, ‘unboxing’ has become an on-line phenomenon thanks to consumers filming themselves doing the unpacking and then uploading the results for others to watch, which they do in numbers TV networks can only dream about.

Initially, it was children who embraced the unboxing trend and, in part, this is explained by the fact that watching something being unboxed is rather similar to being told a simple story: there’s a clear beginning, middle and end as well as elements of surprise, fun and not least, that very important imaginative investment. Of course, then there’s the similarity between unboxing a product and opening a birthday or Christmas present. You might know what’s inside, but that doesn’t detract from the excitement of the big reveal.

But… it’s not just children who like reading stories and opening presents. This is why the unboxing experience has become a vital consideration when running an e-commerce business. Ignore your customer’s inner child and their capacity for anticipation at your peril and have a look at the results of this recent study if you need any data-driven convincing.

4 major reasons why the unboxing experience is vital for your e-commerce business?

Generally, watching an unboxing experience doesn’t provide a potential consumer with a detailed review of the actual product, so why exactly are consumer unboxing experiences proving so pivotal to the success of e-commerce businesses?

Branded packaging cartoon coffee company unboxing experience

1: A marketing tool whatever the product

The great thing about the unboxing phenomenon is that it suits every type of e-commerce product out there. In order for it can be delivered safely and securely to the customer, a product - whatever it is, whatever its shape, size or target audience – must always be packaged. And where there’s packaging, there’s unboxing and unwrapping: extra bonus: packaging can be branded (more on that later).

2: A physical connection and an emotional investment

Consumers don’t just assess whether a product has met their expectations or not. Consciously or subconsciously, they’re also judging whether or not they’ve had a good experience when buying that product. Alas! An e-commerce consumer isn’t able to visit a retail store physically, so the connection which leads to a customer’s all-important emotional investment is harder to achieve. Unboxing though, creates an alternative way of providing this investment; in an online world, it’s a ‘touchpoint’ between retailer and consumer.

3: A way to build brand image and loyalty

A product’s packaging is one way in which a company can easily and cost-effectively display its values and vision as well as its product’s purpose. It has been proven that personalised, unique packaging is more likely to cement customers’ trust in a business, strengthening loyalty and driving repeat purchases. For the longevity of a product and business, a good unboxing experience which displays a company’s branding to the fullest is incredibly important. What’s more, well-considered packaging not only makes for an excellent unboxing experience, but it also validates a product’s worth; it lets customers know that they’re right to place their trust – and their money - in a particular company.

4: An unbiased opinion - it’s not the company pushing the product

Unboxing is a means of advertising whether the experience is uploaded onto YouTube and Instagram or simply passed along through word of mouth. It’s advertising with a difference, however. No salesperson is being pushy or piling on pressure, no money is being spent on cleverly constructed adverts or window displays. It’s the consumer who’s effectively doing all the work; they’ve identified a need or want for a product and they’re giving an unbiased view. An unbiased review, if positive, adds immeasurably to the validity of a product.

And again, watching a product being unboxed gives a potential customer a stronger connection with a company than they could ever get from merely reading a review. This is because the unboxer is sharing an experience not only with the product, but also with a brand or a company. Of course, the flip side is that the consumer controls the narrative - not so good if the review is in any way negative. But e-commerce businesses who have faith in their products can take five proactive steps to ensure that their consumers only ever enjoy a positive unboxing experience

The five main ways to ensure an unboxing experience is worthwhile.

1. The right packaging

If an unboxing’s going to be successful, the first thing to get right is the packaging; it has to be perfect for the job. Above all else, it must protect the product on its journey to the consumer, but at the same time, it also needs to be efficient and considered. The wrong size box risks causing damage to the product(s) or requires unnecessary and expensive void fill. Excessive packaging infuriates customers who feel it’s wasteful and inconsiderate. Not a good way to promote a brand.

Happy customer good unboxing experience

Nowadays, there’s no excuse when it comes to finding the correct box, container, envelope, mailer or wrap: there’s something out there to fit every size, specification and budget. Many packaging solutions, such as our very own FlyPak, come with clever, integrated design features like variable height capability and inward folding flaps negating the need for those pesky packaging peanuts or environmentally damaging bubble wrap entirely.

2. Easily opened

Once the package is in the hands of the customer, the product inside must be readily accessible. After all, it’s difficult to film yourself opening something if both of your hands, a Stanley knife and brute force are all required. Packaging has come a long way since the days of shoving an item in any old box, cocooning it in Sellotape and hoping for the best. Take the ‘seal and peel’ envelope as one example. So easy to close, it’s also a doddle to open with its single zip-like feature which guarantees both the security of the parcel in transit and the ability to be opened in seconds with no mess, no fuss and no wrestling with sticky tape.

3. Printing possibilities

First of all, then, packaging needs to fulfil a function (i.e., sent safely, opened easily), but that doesn’t mean it can’t be attractive and personalised. Packaging which is visually stimulating resonates with customers far more than plain, generic cardboard. Attractive packaging also helps a business and its products become memorable, ensuring that brand’s unique personality stands out in a sea of competitors. It’s been proven time and again that packaging design not only persuades customers to purchase a product, it also persuades them to do so more quickly and this goes for functional packaging too. And where unboxing’s concerned, one thing’s for certain: a beautiful package is far more compelling to open.

A cost-effective, simple way to achieve attractive packaging is have a design printed upon it. There are many ways to print a box and packing companies who truly understand the demands of e-commerce will provide printing options to suit every budget. Whether a company goes for high-speed, low-cost flexographic or a more luxurious 7-colour litho, whether they choose to have one side of the box printed or all six (as well as the inside), printing possibilities are definitely worth looking into because they maximise consumer engagement.

4. Product Presentation, including Die Cutting and Embossing

Having established that the outside of the packaging is important, it would be churlish to neglect its inner components. After all, during an unboxing, the packaging in its entirety is on display. This is where structural features come into their own. Not only are they vital to protect products during transit, but the very fact that they hold products in place means that those products are then presented in the best way possible when the consumer sees them for the first time.

But these inner tabs and inserts can supply a magical marketing opportunity too. Thanks to the wonders of die cutting and embossing, they’re also able to contribute to the theatre of the unboxing experience.

Die cutting is a process where a ‘die’ is used to cut through cardboard on a press. It’s a fast, highly effective technique enabling mass produced items – like cardboard boxes – to be customised according to bespoke specifications. It’s a highly stylised, impressive way in which businesses can show off their creativity, demonstrating the value they place on their products and ultimately, therefore, their customers.

Embossing is a process very similar to die cutting, but it stops short at punching out a shape and instead, presses a design into the surface of a cardboard material. By means of applying pressure, the design has a raised pattern and this technique can be used to create a variety of textures, including logos and other decorative elements. The great thing about embossing is that not only is it visually appealing, but it also makes the cardboard more tactile, which serves to enhance the unboxing experience itself and not just the overall design.

Along with die cutting, embossing creates a lasting impression. Both increase the value of a product in the eyes of a consumer and create a memorable and pleasurable unboxing experience. Something else to bear in mind: a well-designed embossed or die cut pattern will draw attention to important product information such as logos, discreetly complementing the aesthetic and other branding elements of a business. And we hate to mention it again, but it's so good, we feel we must: FlyPak. This little box could have been specifically designed for die cutting or embossing. Its wings are solid cardboard so lend themselves beautifully to having unique, layered designs that can't be replicated with standard tissue paper or void fill material. Check out the designs we've done for Three Mobile and Vodafone if you want to see exactly what we're talking about.

5. Biodegradable and recyclable

Increasingly, consumers are making conscious decisions about products they buy on-line based on the sustainability of a company’s packaging. It’s a given these days that packaging must be as environmentally friendly as possible and it’s never just a case of choosing sustainable products, but also making sure that the packaging materials used are as efficient and as least wasteful as they can possibly be. The bottom line is that if it can’t be reused or recycled, it must be biodegradable and marked as such.


The bottom line on unboxing

There are industry wizards out there who claim that the standard unboxing experience has had its day. They say that it must now evolve and they cite leading brands who are already trying out innovative, technology-driven, cutting edge approaches to continue to amaze and surprise customers. This is what consumers deserve, they say, if businesses want them to part with their hard-earned cash.

For the rest of us mere mortals, even though it’s always a good idea to have one finger on the pulse of the future, standard unboxing remains a powerful took for e-commerce. It can generate well-deserved excitement for a product, making it stand out in the marketplace; it can raise consumers’ awareness of a brand, gaining their trust, loyalty and emotional investment; ultimately, it will convince consumers to champion a product on-line and off-line. There really is no better endorsement.

If you’re interested in talking about how The Packaging Club can help you create the best unboxing experience for your clients, including recommendations on bespoke design and digital printing, contact us today. We would love to have the opportunity to discuss all things unboxing with you.

This article was written by...

Jo Hilton

I studied at the University of St. Andrews and have an MA in French and German. For a number of years, I worked for a Swiss financial institution and lived in Hamburg, London, Zürich and NYC before retraining as a primary school teacher and settling with my family in Cambridgeshire. When I'm not at school, I write content for various blogs and edit academic research articles for clients at ETH Zürich and the University of Munich. I'm also in the process of completing a Masters in Crime and Thriller writing at the University of Cambridge, so behind me you'll find a trail of fictional dead bodies and actual biscuit wrappers.

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