The street shopping experience has been marching toward an inevitable demise for some time. The events of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing numerous offline enterprises to close their doors for good, have merely danced on its grave. The online realm is increasingly becoming the exclusive domain of shopping and with it the unboxing experience that brands provide.

Naturally, safety plays a substantial role in a consumer’s decision to move to an online shopping lifestyle. Convenience will almost conquer all, however, and 24/7 availability of goods and services has been name checked as the primary perk of online shopping.

There is more to the online shopping experience than the unwillingness to circle for a parking spot, though. When the doorbell rings and we spot the familiar uniform of a UPS delivery driver, we all feel a little thrill. It’s like Christmas has arrived early, and the opportunity has arisen to unwrap our latest trinket.

This is quite the rush that can quickly become addictive for consumers. 69% of Americans have now embraced the internet revolution, with a quarter of the population admitting to shopping online at least once a month. With the holidays rapidly approaching, a memorable unboxing experience is an opportunity for online retail merchants to enjoy a memorable – and lucrative – festive season

The Age of Instant Gratification

If patience is a virtue, the internet has made sinners of us all. Online shopping, in addition to streaming services and similar modes of entertainment, has changed the way we live. We are living in a world of instant gratification, constantly seeking our next adrenaline rush. Online retailers have been forced to adapt in order to manage this.

In the 21st Century, reacting to the needs, expectations, and desires of a customer is no longer enough. Yes, consumers want to feel that they are being heard. If suggestions and recommendations go unheeded, it’s likely that business will be taken elsewhere. There is certainly no shortage of online merchants vying for our hard-earned dollars. A retailer is now expected to anticipate what a customer is looking for.

We can thank Amazon for this. The steady rise of the Bezos empire has made next-day delivery and price undercutting of the competition an everyday expectation. What’s more, an Amazon customer will be met with a barrage of recommendations for their next shopping high based on previous purchases. Millennials and Generation Z, in particular, have never known a world without this omnipresent online behemoth lying in wait to satisfy every consumer desire.

Naturally, however, not every business can hope to match this strategy. Amazon is the biggest e-retailer in the world for a reason; the P&L column of the company can comfortably sustain any number of loss leaders. That doesn’t apply to every – or, indeed, many – smaller merchants. The expense of next-day cross-country shipping, coupled with product pricing that barely turns a profit, will plunge many companies into the red before you can say, “what do you mean I have to wait 72 hours for this? Get the FTC on the phone!”

Businesses can make up for this supposed shortcoming in other ways, though. It’s a matter of tapping into another side of human psychology; namely, the fascination with unboxing. Amazon enjoys success because they have paired their steady build in reputation with a very particular shipping and packaging strategy. Essentially, this boils down to pick it, pack it, and ship it.

Sure, there’s still that aforementioned initial tingle of excitement when a package arrives on our doorsteps. There are little pomp and ceremony to Amazon’s packaging, though. It’s a non-descript brown box that is torn open in seconds. That’s hardly the stuff dreams are made of when preparing an elaborate unboxing video for the social media generation. To truly capture the imagination of a consumer, unboxing a new purchase should feel like an event in itself.

The Power of Branded Unboxing

Branded unboxing is where any brand can find their niche and carve their way into the hearts and minds of consumers. Whether your business offers a subscription service or a more conventional pay-on-demand model, unboxing is king. Making a consumer feel like they are part of the shopping experience is what brings them back time and again.

Admittedly, some shoppers will prefer the simple model adopted by Amazon. There are arguably advantages to keeping branding and boxing basic and unremarkable. It protects the privacy of a shopper, for example. They may not want the mailman, their spouse of their neighbors to know where they are spending their money.

Equally, a beautiful and carefully crafted box could perform a siren song for opportunistic thieves. A plain brown box could contain a process bracelet, or it may be housing three bags of rice. Anything more precise will clearly display that value lies within.

Such individuals are arguably outliers in human psychology, though. People purchase luxury goods for a reason – it’s a way of demonstrating status. Take a trip to NYC and you’ll spot a tourist from ten paces. They’ll be ones that are proudly and prominently displaying their Little Brown Bag from Bloomingdales, likely having made a purchase exclusively to obtain this celebrated packaging. In many respects, this skilled manipulation through marketing could be considered a primitive form of the unboxing experience.

We previously discussed how consumers want merchants to anticipate their desires and act accordingly. This where the art of unboxing comes into its own. Remember, anything an online seller provides can probably be purchased from Amazon. In doing so, it will also likely be cheaper and delivered faster. If the consumer does values privacy and simplicity, that will be enough to tempt them into purchasing from the biggest kid in the yard. There’s little you can do about that.

The rest of your customer base, though? They’re the thrill-seekers that we previously profiled. The shoppers that are looking for an experience in their purchase. This can provide online retailers, especially those in direct marketing, with an opportunity. If you take the time and effort to create a bespoke and tailored unboxing experience, your customers will forgive you for charging an extra $5 and making them wait an additional two days for shipping.

Building Brand Ambassadors Through Unboxing

Earlier in this guide, we discussed the psychology of the unboxing video craze. Yes, people really do spend countless hours on YouTube watching strangers open their mail. However, those doing the unboxing are not just narcissists, convinced that everybody wants to check out their latest delivery from Birchbox. More often than not, these individuals are brand ambassadors.

Brand ambassadors are arguably the cheapest and most efficient way to generate awareness and interest in your product. Obviously, a brand ambassador will expect something for their efforts. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, even if they would have been posting videos anyway. You don’t need to part with a salary, though. A money-off coupon or an additional gift in their next box will usually be enough.

As we mentioned, countless people are watching these unboxing videos. They will continue to be posted until that changes, somebody’s product has to be the star of the show. Why not yours? Just a minor outlay can potentially get thousands of new eyes on your product and social media profiles. This means that customers will find you, rather than vice versa. That will save a great deal of effort and money on marketing campaigns – as well as helping you to build a customer profile.

Designing Shipping Packaging to Impress Customers

Having established that unboxing is an experience; you’ll need to make your packing as impactful as possible. This means, from a design perspective, there is plenty to consider. Your aim is to stand out from your competitors and bring joy to anybody fortunate enough to receive your product.

Things to take under advisement when creating a design include…

  • Utilizing the color pallet of your brand. You can use this unboxing opportunity to boost awareness of your business. Color is the first thing that will be noticed, so you can create an instant association.
  • Consider the texture of the packaging. The tactile sensation of opening the box impact your customer’s experience.
  • Be careful about packing the box with small pieces of filling. That may look pretty when you pack the box, but by the time it opens you may just end up making an inadvertent mess. A customer’s joy at unboxing will quickly sour if they immediately need to vacuum.
  • Consider how your client could re-purpose your box and build the design around that. A well-made and aesthetically pleasing box can hold toys, toiletries, make-up stationery, underwear, and much more besides.
  • Bear in mind that ethical shopping is becoming increasingly important to consumers. Forging a partnership with a manufacturer that specializes in sustainable packaging is ideal. This way, you can make your eco-friendly considerations part of your offering to conscientious customers.

The Expense of an Unboxing Experience

OK, there’s an elephant in the room that cannot go ignored any longer. We have talked up the art of unboxing – but how will you go about it, and perhaps more pertinently, how much is it likely to cost? Your consumers may value experience over outlay, but they don’t need to keep the lights on at your business.

The approach to creating an unboxing campaign really depends on your priorities. Let’s consider that a regular, plain delivery box costs between $0.80 and $1.10 per unit. A more decorative box will clearly cost more than that. If you’re looking for a custom design featuring your business branding – which, really, you should be to maximize the unboxing experience – expect to pay around $3 per box.

Obviously, there are caveats here. The more boxes your order, the cheaper they’ll be per unit. Different manufacturers will also have their own pricing structures. Shop around to find the best deal. In doing so, however, consider the other expenses that your unboxing campaign will occur.

For a start, you have to think about the 3PL business that you bring in to aid with the fulfillment of orders. Some reputable companies, like Ameriworld, will increase your invoice when customized packaging is used. Next, you’ll also have other considerations, such as filler for the box. The tissue will both protect the contents of your package and add to the drama of unboxing, delaying the big reveal even longer. For maximum impact, however, you’ll want to use a company like Noissue. They’ll do a great job, at printing your logo or design on the tissue and you can customize it, and order it online, but again, good work costs money.

When the dust has settled on your specialist packaging campaign, you can really see if your ROI made it worthwhile. Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and consumers will not change the habits of a lifetime overnight. It’s down to you if you’re comfortable speculating to accumulate.

Equally, you have to watch your numbers over a prolonged period. Ensure that business doesn’t spike due to an initial novelty factor, only to spiral when a competitor launches its own unboxing campaign that captures your customer’s attention. Becoming locked in a war of attrition over packaging is rarely the best use of anybody’s time.

Like all business decisions, it’s a case of weighing up the pros and cons. Consider the investments you have made, in terms of finance, effort, and emotional, and ask yourself if it was all worthwhile. Keep your finger on the pulse of your market and make sure you are monitoring your analytics to learn how many orders came from referrals, from unboxing videos, and by how much did your social engagement grew. If you don’t have the time to launch and manage the unboxing experience of your product, consider companies like Retailbound that offer Influencer Marketing services. Social listening is a practice that every company has to excel at but it’s even more relevant when launching a new product. Once you’ve done so, you’ll have a clearer picture of the ROI of the new packaging campaign and you can decide how to approach it in the future. Maybe you’ll keep it for the holidays and special occasions, or perhaps you’ll design a new packaging for every season of the year.

The decision is yours, but it’s also that of your customers. Give them something to think about, you will be remembered. Unboxing brings the gift of experience and excitement to online shopping. That, in turn, is likely to inspire consumer loyalty. When we consider that returning customers spend up to 300% more than new shoppers, that is hardly something to dismiss.

This guest blog was written by Ameriworld, a Miami-based 3PL. If you are looking for a 3PL partner to warehouse and fulfill your orders, check them out at