“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an anachronism of a bygone age. We do this all the time.
It happens when someone buys a product and shares it with their followers on social media. Yet many brands are only just catching on. It’s called the unboxing experience, and it can make tremendous things happen for your business.
Case in point: the unboxing experience has become an integral part of eCommerce. Unboxing images and videos are shared daily on social media and people want the packaging to be unique, fun, branded, and personalized — ideally, all of the above.
It would be crazy not to stand out and make an impression, right?
If you play your cards right, your eCommerce business’ unboxing experience can help build brand recognition, and who knows, maybe even help you go viral. There are many different ways to create a killer boxing experience. Use the ideas below as a springboard to win the unboxing war.
The Matryoshka Doll Method
Like the famous Russian matryoshka dolls (and their doggo counterparts), this method creates surprise by psyching out customers into thinking they’ve opened their package when in reality there’s an extra box standing in the way of what they just bought.
What’s great about the box in the box method is it creates a fun, exciting moment of delayed gratification. You open the first box, expecting to see the product, and there’s still one more to go — or maybe more. Even for the grumpiest and Grinchiest of customers, there’s still a feeling of Christmas morning as you open up your box.
The Memorably Unconventional Box
Weirdly shaped boxes might be a pain in the butt to ship or store. They also could make for an unforgettable unboxing experience merely because of their shape. Keep in mind you may have to pay an extra buck thanks to the increased dimensions for shipping.
The Minimalist Branding Method
Minimalism has really become part of the design zeitgeist in recent years. We see it everywhere in real life, and also in eCommerce. If it’s a big part of your brand’s look, it can be worth investing in some sleek, minimalist branded packaging.
Your brand logo. One color. Maybe a sticker to seal the whole thing, or a subtle accent mark such as a line or a box around the logo.
Rebar does a fantastic job of making its product recognizable — not just because it cleverly lists the ingredients on the front of the packaging, but because of the bold color palette and straightforward design.
It’s hard to envision what that could look like, but some designers out there have already pondered how to make products self-contained within the packaging. A great example of this is the foldable, travel-friendly duffel bag or backpack. Can this idea be applied elsewhere?
The Maximalist Branding Method
Maybe minimalist isn’t right for you. Maybe your brand is flashy, in which case, it deserves an unboxing experience that’s as flashy as what you sell. If your brand is ostentatious (think Desigual vs. Gap), then maybe some matching packaging could add a bit of spice to a purchase made by someone who likes to stand out. They might like you more if you stand out, too.
Metallic and/or shiny stuff
This won’t apply if you’re selling another run-of-the-mill product made in China and competing at the margins of Amazon’s buy box. However, if part of your branding revolves around your location as part of marketing, why not get creative and incorporate packaging that’s either made locally or ties into a well-known feature of where your company is based? A classic example of this idea in action is those Italian red wines encased in special baskets (believe it or not, the word for this basket is a fiasco). Adding a special twist that’s unique to the place your product comes from is a great way to separate yourself from the crowd.
The environmentally friendly version
Yes, it’s important to keep your packages protected so they don’t arrive damaged. In a world where bubble wrap comes shipped in bubble wrap and awareness of the damage of fossil fuels is rising, customers want eCommerce brands to be more eco-friendly.
To green up your unboxing experience, there are a few things you can do: Use recyclable or reclaimed materials for packaging; provide reusable packaging that doesn’t need to be thrown away after receipt of the product; or (bonus points for this) create packaging that is multiuse and will have a second life as an everyday object used by your customers.
100% recycled materials.
A multitude of companies, such as Ecoenclose, offer 100% recyclable boxes. Cardboard boxes are made from recycled paper and can be easily recycled. The only downside to a plain cardboard box is that it doesn’t exactly wow the eyes. The solution: Get creative with the design! Just because it’s cardboard doesn’t mean it has to be cube-shaped.
A carbon fee to offset the cost of shipping and supply chains.
This doesn’t seem like something you can incorporate into the unboxing experience, let alone the design of your packaging, but actually, it’s possible. At checkout, give your customer the option to pay an extra fee that goes toward covering the cost of CO2 emissions of your supply chain — from sourcing raw materials to shipping the finished product to customers. You can donate the fee to a rainforest conservancy or other similar cause, and then include a little note reminding your customer that they made a little bit of a difference.
Why worry about recycling our product packaging when you can just toss it out, worry-free, and let it slowly decompose back into the ground? Certain types of paper packaging use organic chemical treatments that allow them to be thrown out with other compostable items such as food waste. There are some pretty stylish-looking jars made out of cardboard, too.
Here are several ideas for reusable eCommerce packaging that can be adapted for future use:
Sack that doubles as a reusable shopping bag
These cubes can later be used for storage. A great example is the hardy plastic cubes that bedding usually comes in.
While they’re especially popular for enclosing preserves and pickled vegetables, you can store smaller items such as jewelry or phone earbuds if you like.
The thoughtful touch
A great way to get your customers’ love, affection, and social media shares are by providing a little something extra. The beauty of adding a thoughtful touch to the unboxing experience is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
This one has been around for a while, but it’s still a powerful, authentic, and cheap way to leave a mark. You can even pay someone else to crank ‘em out if you’re too busy to do it yourself.
Photo of you/your co-founder/your dog/whoever the office mascot is
Paired with a handwritten note, nothing warms the heart of a customer like knowing they are supporting a family-run small business. Even if you’re a bigger, more established company, you can include something like a goofy company holiday photo. Alternatively, a snap of your hard-working office doggo is a great way to show how thankful you are for the customer’s loyalty.
A coupon to your store for the next purchase.
You can’t go wrong with a discounted offer, especially if it’s for the same or a related item, which not only encourages repeat sales but tells your customer you value their loyalty.
A lighthearted guide or instruction manual
If your product actually requires instructions, a la IKEA, this is an expected item and not so much part of the unboxing experience as it is simply a mandatory component of the product. That doesn’t mean you can’t make instructions fun for customers to read. Inbox’s instructions toe the line between giving practical advice and making you smile. Even if you sell a product that doesn’t require assembly, such as novelty beer mugs, it might be fun to include a short, illustrated “manual” that lists the steps for using said beer mug:
- Crack open a cold one with the boys
- Pour into mug
Even if it’s the same thing every time, seeing a message from you right as they open their package should hopefully bring a smile to their face. Dove has done this with chocolates, so there’s no reason you can’t do it with whatever you sell.
This takes a bit of elbow grease, but how cool would it be to buy something and then have a scannable poem, video, or 64-bit video game — anything that’s light-hearted, fun, and potentially viral — waiting for you on the company’s website?
Unbox your way to success
Whatever you do to make your unboxing experience memorable — whether that involves using ostentatious printed wrapping or giving your customer a reusable tote with your logo on it — will ultimately pay off by increasing your brand’s recognition. As long as it looks like you put thought into it, your products should deliver that extra oomph as they’re unwrapped from their packaging and Instagrammed into memory.
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