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The Psychology of E-commerce Packaging

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Psychology behind ecommerce packaging and delivery

Unveiling the Emotional Journey of E-commerce Packaging: In the digital age of e-commerce, the journey of a product from an online store to the customer's doorstep culminates in a pivotal moment: the unboxing. This experience, often overlooked, plays a crucial role in shaping the consumer's perception and relationship with a brand.

It's not just about unveiling a product; it's about triggering a spectrum of emotions. From anticipation to joy, and at times, even disappointment, the psychology behind e-commerce packaging is as complex as it is fascinating.

In this article, we delve into the emotional resonance of e-commerce packaging and how it shapes the consumer experience.

Table of Contents

The Anticipation and Reward of Unboxing

Artist illustration depicting The Anticipation and Reward of Unboxing

The act of unboxing a product, seemingly mundane, is laden with psychological nuances. It begins with anticipation – a key driver of customer excitement. As the customer unwraps their package, there's a sense of intrigue and speculation. What will the product look like? Will it meet their expectations? This moment of suspense is crucial, as it builds up to the ‘reveal’.

Neurological Reward

  • Satisfaction of Curiosity: When the product is finally unveiled, it fulfils a psychological need for completion of knowledge. Whether the product matches or exceeds expectations, this revelation offers a neurological reward, a sense of satisfaction.
  • Mirror Neurons at Play: Watching unboxing videos,, customers vicariously experience the unboxing through mirror neurons. These neurons replicate the emotions and sensations of unboxing, even when it's through a screen.

Shared Experience

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Unboxing transcends being a solitary activity. It's a shared experience, especially popularised through social media and unboxing videos. The viewer becomes an active participant in the narrative, enhancing the sense of connection with the product and brand.

This phase of the customer journey, therefore, is more than just a practical process; it’s an emotionally charged experience that can significantly influence the customer's perception of the product and brand.

The Evolution from Brick-and-Mortar to Digital Unboxing

Illustration of a brick and mortar store selling on the high street on the left hand side of the store, with a dispatch area and ecommerce orders being shipped to customers all over the world in the right hand side

The rise of e-commerce has revolutionised the retail landscape, shifting the focus from in-store experiences to digital interactions. This transition has profoundly impacted how customers connect with brands, particularly in the context of unboxing.

Reimagining the In-Store Experience

  • Physical to Digital: In the past, brick-and-mortar stores were the primary avenue for creating memorable customer experiences. Now, with more consumers shopping online, the unboxing moment has become the new 'in-store' experience.
  • First Physical Contact: For many customers, unboxing is the first physical interaction with the product and, by extension, the brand. This moment holds the power to shape their perception and loyalty.

Unboxing as the New Frontier

  • Enhancing Brand Connection: In the absence of a physical storefront, the unboxing experience becomes a crucial touchpoint for brands to connect emotionally with customers.
  • Creating Moments of Joy: The unboxing experience has the potential to recreate the excitement and joy that were traditionally part of in-store shopping, now delivered to the customer's doorstep.

This shift highlights the importance of innovative and thoughtful packaging as a tool not just for protection and presentation, but as a critical element in building brand identity and customer loyalty in the digital age.

The Enthralling Impact of Unique and Branded Packaging

Illustration showing the various ways high quality custom printed packaging can encourage customers to engage and share through a plethora of online channels

In the e-commerce era, the packaging is not merely a protective shell; it's a pivotal branding tool. Unique and branded packaging takes the unboxing experience from mundane to memorable, turning it into a key player in customer engagement and brand storytelling.

Elevating Brand Perception

  • Standout Design: A package that stands out for its design, colour, or branding elements immediately captures attention and sets the stage for a positive unboxing experience.
  • Brand Identity: Thoughtfully designed packaging conveys a brand's identity and values, creating a lasting impression that extends beyond the product itself.

Social Media: The Amplifier of Unboxing

  • Digital Word-of-Mouth: UPS data from as far back as 2013 shows that nearly 40% of consumers would share a picture of an online order via social media if it came in a unique, branded, or gift-like box. This statistic underscores the significance of packaging in the age of social media.
  • User-Generated Content: Customers sharing their unboxing experiences on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter become brand ambassadors, amplifying the brand's reach and authenticity.

By leveraging the power of unique and branded packaging, e-commerce businesses can transform the unboxing experience into an effective marketing tool, enhancing customer engagement and creating a viral brand presence.

Vector illustration of people being extremely happy with their e-commerce packaging unboxing and delivery experience. Lots of smiling faces and bring happy colours.

Cognitive dissonance in e-commerce arises when the customer's experience fails to align with their expectations. This psychological discomfort is particularly impactful in the context of packaging and unboxing experiences.

When Expectations and Reality Clash

  • Damaged Deliveries: Receiving a damaged product due to inadequate packaging can lead to immediate customer dissatisfaction, eroding trust in the brand.
  • Environmental Disappointment: Packaging that falls short of environmental expectations can also cause cognitive dissonance, particularly among eco-conscious consumers.

The Psychological Impact

  • Loss of Brand Loyalty: Such negative experiences can significantly impact the customer’s perception of the brand, potentially leading to a loss of loyalty and repeat business.
  • Brand Perception: The unboxing experience is often seen as a reflection of how much a brand values its customers and the environment. Failure in this area can tarnish the overall brand image.

Understanding and addressing these risks is crucial for e-commerce businesses. It involves not only ensuring the physical safety of the product but also aligning packaging practices with evolving consumer values and expectations.

Conclusion: Embracing the Power of Positive Packaging in E-commerce

Custom printed packaging unboxing experience for Space NK - bespoke crash lock cardboard boxes for cosmetic and fashion retailers.

The journey of an e-commerce package is more than a logistical process; it's a psychological expedition that can deeply impact the customer's experience. From the anticipation of the unboxing moment to the joy of discovering a product presented in thoughtful, sustainable packaging, every aspect plays a crucial role in shaping customer perceptions and emotions.

Celebrating the Unboxing Experience

  • Creating Moments of Joy: Thoughtful packaging design not only protects the product but also turns the unboxing into a delightful experience, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Sustainability and Satisfaction: Aligning packaging with environmental standards not only meets customer expectations but also contributes to a positive brand image.

The Future of E-commerce Packaging

  • The psychology of e-commerce packaging teaches us that every detail matters. It's not just about delivering a product; it's about delivering an experience.
  • Brands that recognise and invest in the emotional journey of their packaging are poised to build stronger connections with their customers.

The power of positive packaging in e-commerce is undeniable. It's a journey that begins with a simple click and ends with a smile, a share, and a lasting impression. To ensure your products are part of this joyful journey, consider bespoke packaging solutions tailored to your brand's unique needs and values.

Tailored Solutions for Your Brand

  • Interested in creating bespoke packaging that resonates with your customers and enhances your brand experience? Visit The Packaging Club's Bespoke Packaging Services to explore our custom packaging options and collaborate with our experts to bring your vision to life.


  1. Rutledge, P. (2020). "Why Do Kids Love Unboxing Videos?" Psychology Today. Psychology Today Article
  2. Gaenzle, A. (2021). "The Power of Packaging & The Psychology of Unboxing." AnthonyGaenzle.com. AnthonyGaenzle Article
  3. Berden, C. (2019). "Unboxing the Experience: The Influence of Unboxing Experience on Consumer Product Satisfaction and Word of Mouth." University of Twente. Berden's Thesis
  4. Total Retail (2013). "The Psychology Unboxing." Total Retail Article
  5. UPS (2013). UPS data referenced in ComScore Study.

This article was written by...

Nathan Calvert

Nathan is Head of Digital at The Packaging Club. He has worked in the packaging sector for over 15 years across food, consumer electronics, FMCG ecommerce and more, both directly in-house or as a freelance consultant.

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