August 30, 2019
  |   Ecommerce

How to Create an “Instagram Worthy” Unboxing Experience

What do online orders and your birthday have in common? They both seem like they take forever to arrive, but elicit great anticipation and excitement. Now imagine showing up to your birthday party and seeing an “It is your birthday” sign hanging on the wall—it’s generic, disappointing, and forgettable. It’s the same feeling when you receive an online order packed in a brown box sans branding, with generic bubble wrap or packing peanuts inside.

In Blue Acorn iCi’s customer experience study, we found that the majority of brands miss the mark when it comes to packaging and the unboxing experience. In fact, only 8% of the brands in the study delivered an on-brand, premium packaging design.

What is the Unboxing Experience?

The unboxing experience starts the moment the customer sees the package on their front doorstep. You bring the package inside, open the box, inspect the product, and look for further information inside.

The first unboxing video you watched was likely from an influencer or YouTube star. However, the phenomenon has been adopted by everyday consumers sharing their experiences with their hundreds or thousands of social media followers. As a result, almost every product has its own unboxing video—whether it’s good or bad packaging design. 

How you package your products gives your brand an opportunity to carry the brand identity into the consumer’s home. The unboxing experience is your brand’s final opportunity to connect with the customer inside their own home and shine among your competitors.

The Next Frontier in Ecommerce: Unboxing Experience

First, consumers wanted to buy everything online, then it was how fast the order could arrive. Now it’s about the elevated experience and what the consumer gains. “You have an opportunity to really impress your customers. Customers will go on a brand website now, and if you just put something into a box and send it to them, there is a moment of disillusionment,” said Wayne O’Connor, VP of Ecommerce Operations at Blue Acorn iCi.

When ordering from an online marketplace, the only expectation is that the item arrives in one piece. Consumers don’t expect to find branded stickers, surprise gifts, or even a return slip in the package. For brands, the unboxing experience ends in one of two ways: the customer is either disappointed, or they’re going to be pleasantly surprised and feel more connected to the brand. Consumers expect a commitment from a brand in the form of a relationship, which means a higher quality packaging design and experience.

“The unboxing experience is the new frontier of ecommerce…Your retail associates are no longer at checkout stands talking to your consumers in a store on a regular basis. The bulk of the consumer communication you have is through your unboxing experience,” said O’Connor. If done right, the unboxing experience enhances brand loyalty and improves repeat purchases.

For more insights in creating the Complete Customer Experience—from homepage to returns—download our latest report here.

What Do I Include in the Box?

The moment a consumer sees their package, you want them to immediately know where the box is from. Your brand can accomplish this instant recognition by designing the outside of the box with brand colors or the logo. The inside of the box is where you can get more creative.

Branded Tissue Paper, Tape, or Stickers

When choosing the packaging materials, think about what will align with your branding as well as the industry. For example, one of Blue Acorn iCi’s clients—a baby food manufacturer—designed the outside of the box with the brand’s logo and colors. Inside the box, shoppers will find dark blue tissue paper, protective packaging, and a white box interior to reflect the cleanliness of the product. By picking packaging materials that reflect the same aesthetic (think: color scheme, logo, images, etc.), you ensure the branding maintains cohesiveness.

Marketing Inserts

Unlike emails, packages have a near 100% open rate. Take advantage of this opportunity by including targeted messaging inside the box. The type of marketing you add could be around an upcoming promotion, product launch, or based on recent purchases. For example, if a customer ordered a pair of jeans, include a promotion for a shirt that complements the item.

Surprise Gift

Adding a free gift in the package is one of the easiest ways to add a personal touch and pleasantly surprise a customer. It could be a free sample, a handwritten note, or something as simple as branded stickers. For example, YETI includes stickers in their packages—now you see them on laptops, cars, or water bottles.

Return Label

Returns are part of doing business, which is why this process should be as frictionless as possible for the customer. If done right, you can use returns to increase returning customers. Start by including the return label in the box—eliminating the need for the customer to go online, request a return slip, and find a printer to print out the label. 

For The Funnel: an ecommerce podcast, we interviewed Wayne O’Connor, VP of Ecommerce Operations at Blue Acorn iCi, about enhancing the post-purchase customer experience. Listen to the full podcast episode on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.

How to Leverage Unboxing in Your Market Strategy

When walking into a brick-and-mortar store and purchasing an item, at a minimum, you will receive a branded shopping bag. Often stores will offer free gift wrapping and add a coupon in the bag to encourage repeat purchases. When the customer walks out of the store with the branded bag, they immediately become a walking billboard for the brand.

Unfortunately, the majority of brands lack this same level of detail for their online shoppers.

Creating an unboxing experience is as much a marketing process as it is a fulfillment process. If a customer took a picture of the box and posted it on Instagram, what message would you want it to convey? Unlike the shopping bag at brick-and-mortar stores, unboxing images and videos can reach thousands of potential customers within your target audience.

Tip: In the box, ask your customers to share their unboxing experience using a specific hashtag. With the hashtag, you can track the images and videos and repurpose for your own marketing campaigns.

Is Freight Giving You a Fright?

When talking to our clients about packaging, of course, we start with the most exciting part. We walk through Blue Acorn iCi’s Unboxing Lab, create the design, and choose the marketing inserts. But freight plays a huge role in shaping the ultimate unboxing experience and keeping the cost down on fulfillment.

Freight is a costly endeavor, but working with a vendor for fulfillment allows you to share freight rates with the total volume of the vendor rather than your brand’s volume. This is a huge cost-saving and allows the brand to turn those savings into benefits for their customers, such as free or reduced shipping.

When choosing a fulfillment vendor, look for ones that can handle both B2B and D2C ecommerce packaging. What’s the difference? With B2B freight, the items are typically packed on a pallet which means they never turn on their side or move around during transport. The item goes straight from the truck to the shelf. That is not the case for D2C ecommerce packages. These packages go through conveyor belts, tumble in the back of a truck, and are placed on someone’s doorstep. A lot can happen to the product in the box from shipping to arrival, requiring a more thoughtful and strategic design.

When engaging experts to properly manage the logistics and help determine what packaging works best for your industry, you can focus on building and strengthening your customer relationships in addition to creating the best products. Blue Acorn iCi has the experience and resources to provide you with the recommended options to best serve your needs based on your product and industry. If you would like to learn more about our packaging and logistics services, reach out to us here.

Shannon Abel
After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn iCi’s Media Marketing Specialist, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. She also produces and hosts Blue Acorn iCi's podcast, The Funnel. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.
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