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Effective unboxing experiences as an advanced marketing strategy


Published on: Jan 22, 2017

How to create an impactful unboxing experience for your brand that will delight your customers

For e-commerce companies, shipped packaging is the most direct contact with the customer. At the same time, it is a marketing opportunity that has been very underutilized by retailers.

When was the last time you thought about packaging and the unpacking experience for your products? For many online retailers, the answer is usually: never. Packaging in e-commerce is purely a necessity to protect the most important thing in the transaction with the customer – the product. However, online mail order is constantly changing. As customers’ habits and expectations change, a complete brand experience that goes beyond the actual product and turns shopping into a customer experience is becoming much more important.

Here, we show you the importance of a branded unboxing experience and the tools and resources you need to make an impactful impression on your customers that they will want to share with friends and family.

What exactly is a branded unboxing experience?

A branded unboxing experience is a well-designed selection of packaging and shipping materials that allows for creative presentation of your products. The purpose of this is to create additional value for your customers and your company by creating a memorable experience that customers will want to share.

In e-commerce, unlike brick-and-mortar retailers, stores have far fewer touchpoints with their customers, and therefore less opportunity to impress and win them over. It is therefore important to turn every existing touchpoint into a brand experience that differentiates you from your competitors and leaves a lasting memory with your customers.

Fashionette, for example, is one company that sees the unboxing experience of the customer as an integral part of the shopping experience. Here, in addition to specially designed shipping boxes they also use hand tied bows and branded tissue paper. The joy of the new product is thus awakened as soon as it is unpacked and a feeling is created of being part of something special and exclusive.

Obviously, a lot of manpower and energy goes into creating an unboxing experience to really wow the customer. But the effort can set your store apart from countless others.

What makes the branded packaging experience so important?

One of the most important components of building a long-term, successful, sustainable brand is achieving lasting customer loyalty. This topic is often covered in the trade media because it is almost always cheaper to motivate a customer to buy again than to attract completely new customers.

In a recent survey by Dotcom Distribution, it was found that 52% of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases from an online retailer if it uses premium packaging.

The study also found that 4 out of 10 customers would share a photo on social media if the product came in special packaging.

“The value of premium packaging goes far beyond the online customer experience and other marketing effects. The experience extends the online ordering experience to include the actual unwrapping of a beautifully packaged item and potentially leads the customer to share that experience on social media. Such a combination of online reviews and personal recommendations fuels customer loyalty and leads to higher brand awareness.” – Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution.

People simply love to share experiences. Satisfied customers post pictures and videos, blog posts spring up. This helps the company get its name out there and generates numerous links, which boosts any SEO efforts without any additional effort.

How to develop the Packaging Experience concretely

Numerous elements can contribute to a well-crafted, branded packaging and unboxing experience. You don’t have to consider all of them, but you should be aware of all of them to bring about the best possible experience and add the most value for your customers. Strategically choosing one or more of the elements below can then lead to a significantly improved and more effective experience for your customers.

Here is a selection of elements for you to consider:

    • Packaging board – The most important element is the main packaging. Usually, white or brown shipping boxes are used because they are cheap, durable and reliable. However, the shipping box offers the greatest opportunity to create an imposing first impression. However, it can also be relatively expensive.
    • Packing Paper – Wrapping your products in special papers can generate extra excitement during the unboxing experience. Possible here would be specially printed or colored paper.
    • Fillers – Traditional fillers are polystyrene bales, foams or bubble wrap. But while bubble wrap evokes childhood memories for many, it is visually rather unattractive and tends to be unsuitable for branding. Alternatively, colored cardboard with logo imprint or colorful Styrofoam could be used, for example.
    • Stickers – Stickers can be used in many ways. If you are using tissue paper, stickers can seal the ends of the paper or serve as a branding element in place of a custom-created (and expensive) cardboard imprint. Stickers are versatile and inexpensive.
    • Advertising material – Advertising material does not have to be boring or intrusive. Here we do not mean the standardized advertising leaflet, but a personalized insert that suggests products tailored to the customer. In this way, the customer does not feel slain, but is happy about suggestions that actually interest him.
    • Business Card – A business card does not have to list the company’s contact information in the traditional sense. They are an inexpensive way to include small promotional messages in the package. For example, the card can include appealing marketing phrases, offer a discount on the next purchase, or serve as a coupon that your customer can pass along. A thank you note or instructions for use are also conceivable. The possibilities are almost endless and can be realized for little money.
    • Invoice – It is quite normal that a shipping item is also accompanied by an invoice, but the way the invoice is presented leaves a lot of room for improvement. So think about when and how you present the invoice to your customer.
    • Handwritten note – It may be difficult to scale, but especially as a startup, there’s a lot to be said for including a handwritten note to the customer. It adds a personal touch to the shipment and makes your customer aware that there are real people behind the brand here.
    • Adhesive tape – Transparent tape? These days you have a choice of countless colors that can dialogue with your company’s own shipping box and brand color scheme, or even be branded yourself.
  • Gift – A small gift can be a great surprise for your customers and a special treat that makes the overall experience all the better. Choose a small gift that will cheer up the customer instead of carelessly ending up in the corner.
  • Sample – Depending on the customer profile, you can also think about including product samples in the shipment that would tend to cross-sell so that your customers become aware of other offers from your company.

Cost of a branded packaging & unboxing experience

One of the biggest hurdles to a custom branded shipping and packaging solution can be the associated costs, consisting of time and material prices. Make the decision about this based on your average sales and revenue per order so find out what you can afford and which options add the most value to your business and especially your customers.

Custom-made shipping boxes are the most expensive factor in creating a branded unboxing experience. For custom printed boxes, be prepared for a minimum purchase of 500+ and a cost of 2-20€ per box.

However, creativity can save you money and achieve the same results. Consider printed tape or already-designed colored boxes from certain vendors like Ratioform. Here colored cartons can be purchased for under 2€ each, even for small purchase quantities.

If you want to further customize the brand experience for your customers, you can have stickers printed with your logo at vendors like Typographus . Personalized package inserts, for example, can be designed via adnymics and added to their customized package.

In almost all cases, of course, the larger the quantity purchased, the lower the unit price will be. So plan strategically which elements you want to use and order larger quantities to reduce costs.


Creating an effective experience that excites your customers can significantly help your business stand out against your competitors. Not only will this generate repeat sales, but it will also attract new customers through word of mouth. Andy Dunn, founder of Bonobos, sums it up:

“At the end of the day, you’re not working to build an e-commerce business, you’re working to build a brand that uses e-commerce as its primary sales channel.”

Not just packaging materials, but personalized messaging after the purchase is complete creates engagement with the customer. Communicate in your corporate design instead of handing over the customer contact to the shipping service provider and show your customers that they are important to you even after the purchase. This is how you make the customer journey perfect.

So take some time to rethink your current shipping and packaging methods. Observe how much you spend on it so far, how big your orders and your profit margins are on average. This will help you figure out what else you can do to create a better experience for your customers and turn them into happy repeat buyers with referrals.

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