How to Design the Perfect Unboxing Experience [Step-By-Step]

By Jake Rheude
13 minute read | Last Updated: June 14, 2018

The personal touches of an unforgettable unboxing experience can provide a great customer experience and grow repeat conversions.

You can only market so much.

Your website, store pages, social channels, and ads are only going to reach a certain number of people with what you do.

The trick to growing beyond that boundary and increasing conversions is turning to another source of photos, kind words, and shared posts. A source of user-generated content.

For ecommerce brands, one of the best sources for user-generated content is an unforgettable unboxing experience.

One of the best sources for user-generated content is an unforgettable unboxing experience. Click To Tweet

If you’re not familiar, unboxing is the act of opening a package and showing the world what’s inside through photos and (more commonly) video of the entire process. Properly packaging your product is like giving someone a birthday present every time they order from you.

When there is an element of surprise or it feels like the box was packaged and prepared with love, users tend to respond in kind.

We’re looking at unboxing because it can help you gain significant attention, whether that’s customers talking nicely about you to their friends or even them showing off the entire experience to the world. This good impression is strong for both word-of-mouth advertising and creating a bit of envy — getting a lead to think “I want that too!”

You increase your chance of getting a repeat purchase thanks to the delightful experience and increase chances of additional conversions when an existing customer shares that same delight.

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In many cases, this experience is filmed and uploaded to popular YouTube accounts or shared on Twitter and Facebook. These videos put as much emphasis on exploring the box and wrapping as they do the products — sometimes the creator will even split the two and have videos that just focus on the box.

The trend has been around for years, but that doesn’t mean interest is waning. In the fourth quarter of last year, Tubular Insights notes unboxing videos generated more than 500 million views. That’s higher than the year-end norm.

Creating a unique, compelling experience around opening your products is a perfect way for ecommerce brands to find new followers and build interest. It also allows you to tap into the “celebrities” who unbox.

You’ve Probably Loved Unboxing Since You Were a Kid

Unboxing builds on our desire and enjoyment around the unknown. It plays up how something is lurking just beneath the surface and is likely a big payoff. Even when you know what you’re getting, there’s still an excitement when it comes to the reveal if time and care have been taken to make the reveal part of what we already liked.

Unboxing builds on our desire and enjoyment around the unknown. Click To Tweet

This aspect of the experience holds true, even if the unboxing method is unconventional.

Think about it this way. In the early 90s, one of the many “mystery” toys that came in a package you had to dissolve to reveal was the “Trash Bag Bunch.” The concept of unboxing them was a key part of its appeal to kids and of its early marketing. Take the 30 seconds to enjoy some pure nostalgia and see how a goopy, almost gross dissolving of slime excites even before the toy is revealed.

The best way to show you the impact and popularity of this particular unboxing option is to stick with YouTube and look at recent videos of adults doing the exact same thing:


Head down to your local toy store and you’ll still be able to find tons of mystery toys for almost any leading toy brand.

unboxing experience

One of the more popular items seems to be a Pusheen mystery box.

Spend a little time on YouTube, and you’ll discover a myriad of children and adults ripping open boxes to discover what’s inside and loving every minute of it. It bleeds over into other common YouTube categories around makeup and clothes hauls, as well as some of the sub-culture realms like ASMR unboxing. You can even see some people spend up to $20,000 for a mystery box and wrack up more than 7 million views while they do it.

Adrienne Appell, the Director of Strategic Communications for the Toy Association, recently told
Newsweek to expect the trend to continue.

Getting Started with Your Unboxing

The great news about all that hype is you can easily tap into it to help boost conversions without having to make significant changes to your operations, and it works just as well when people expect specific products instead of a mystery box.

You’ll want some marketing knowledge about your target customer and a little design experience or help, but building a better experience is something most companies can do themselves — or can hire a partner to do for at a nominal cost.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and start thinking about the things that they’d enjoy. It’s okay to be a little cliché here and focus on glitter and sparkles for that princess feeling or leather and rough-woven materials for the burly touch. Brainstorm what they’ll love.

It’s also the perfect time to think about what they’ll hate. Here’s the number one answer to that: packing peanuts. No one likes those, so get rid of them right now. Those peanuts raise a larger point as well. You want to create an experience that customers will enjoy repeating. So, minimize the mess and cleanup associated with opening your package.

Once you’ve got those ideas and thoughts ruminating, it’s time to apply them to the anatomy of your box and unboxing experience.

The Box Itself

Those plain old cardboard boxes are great for shipping goodies and protecting them. But, they’re no longer your only option. You can add your logo to a standard box, design a completely custom box inside and out, or choose any spot in between.

unboxing experience

Companies like Packlane allow you to create extremely customized shipping boxes.

There are a few big considerations here. First, you want to stick to brand colors and logos. Design your box’s exterior in complex or simple ways, and you’ll really stand out. This is especially true if you’re targeting younger folks in the city.

More apartments have mailrooms and package rooms, with front desks collecting packages for residents to pick up. If that’s true for your market, then not only does your customer get a cool box but everyone in line behind them waiting to get their box sees it too.

Exteriors are the perfect place for large designs and bold colors. Do some testing to make sure things are easy to see even if they get a little dirty because things happen in the mail. Finish off the exterior with some branded tape, which gets your name and logo out there a little extra.

You can also decorate the inside of the box. It’s printed in much the same way as the exterior, and it signifies class and style. This may cost you a little extra so that it might be a better option for more expensive shipments.

The ROI Conversation

Custom boxes can cost from a few cents to a few dollars extra, based on how fancy your box gets and the volume that you order. So, figuring out if this is a good option for you requires understanding that cost and your potential (or achieved) conversion increase.

Your aim is to create a compelling experience that users will decide on their own to share, or something that’s good enough for you to partner with an influencer on YouTube or social to have them share to their audience. Remember, many of these YouTube unboxers are professionals, so you’ll have to trade free products or pay a small fee in most cases, and you’ve got to have a great box for them to open or it damages the influencer’s brand.

If you’re focused on conversions, you know that it can be hard to attribute secondary marketing to any particular sale. That said, unboxing videos can quickly generate tens to hundreds of thousands of views when done right. Retailers see about a 9% higher conversion rate with video on their own site, so even if we half get just one-hundredth of that, you’re looking at about 90 people interested in a purchase for every 100,000 video viewers.

If a customer likes the experience of opening your product, they’re more likely to order from you again Click To Tweet

While the overall gains depend on your margins, it’s likely that an increase of a few cents per box will be offset by an additional 90 customers. A compelling experience has the chance to generate multiple videos and shares, expanding its reach. Plus, if a customer likes the experience of opening your product, they’re more likely to order from you again, increasing their customer lifetime value.

Packing for Presenting

Your filler material can be lame and boring, but it doesn’t have to be.

Again, no one wants packing peanuts. What they will like is nice tissue paper or crinkle paper and any efforts you take to minimize packing materials. When a box is snug and products are lightly filled-in around, then you’re doing great.

These materials also give you a terrific way to share your brand again. You can stick with brand colors or get paper with your specific logo and slogans. It reinforces who you are and gives your sale a premium feel. Don’t take this for granted. A positive experience here can aid in client retention.

Crinkle paper is also a nice touch that has some added benefits you might not think about. It protects materials and keeps things from mixing, plus it can absorb moisture if you’re shipping something with ice or if your warehouse is in a location that gets a bit humid sometimes.

unboxing experience

There’s no shortage of color options either.

You can tout your green street cred too because many jurisdictions will allow you to recycle crinkle paper if it uses post-consumer recycled material

Hide and Seek

Things shouldn’t hide in a way that makes them hard to find. You don’t want a part or package or element sitting in tissue paper and getting thrown out, only to be needed next week. A company that’s great at this — and a bit promoter of the whole unboxing trend — is Loot Crate.

A lot of their boxes include small trinkets. So, they put these items in the center of the box, surrounded by other products. In most cases, everything is wrapped together with large tissue paper, so there aren’t any crumples or spaces for small items to hide.

Loot Crate also provides photos and magazines to show what’s in each box, making it easy to see if you’ve pulled out everything that is included.

unboxing experience

All in one box and easy to find, means enjoying each item as you pull it out.

There’s another side of this coin that you’ve seen the last time you bought a phone from companies like Apple or Samsung. When you open the box, everything emphasizes the phone itself. You experience the device right away from the moment the lid is removed.

All the extra accessories, documentation, stickers, goodies, and everything else is located underneath, usually packed in a separate section of the same box. The excess is hidden, so you get an amazing eyeful of what you want. It highlights the main product, and the proud display is designed to make the audience excited.

Personalization Is Possible

If you’re using a warehouse management system or order process system — or if you’ve got an
ecommerce fulfillment partner — you have a tool that’ll automatically create orders for your team. In many cases, these include customer details and printed materials.

One easy and effective way to give the unboxing experience a big “Wow!” is to add a custom note on top, right when the customer opens their box. You can use your online order form to capture a name or a gift message and put it right there.

At the end of the day, most products are sold on the concept that they’ll improve someone’s day. Click To Tweet

Show off your brand’s personality and have a little fun or share a story. Even if you’re something a bit more serious, express the values you have. At the end of the day, most products are sold on the concept that they’ll improve someone’s day (for any myriad of reasons). Highlight that, and you’re working to create a connection with the customer, which can help increase repeat sales and how they feel about you.

The Extras They’ll Love

The bottom of the box doesn’t have to be boring. Even if your product sits atop cords and accessories, you’ve got a little extra room down there. Use it with a bonus to help encourage an additional sale.

This can be as simple as you want: from a “thank you” note to a return label, free trial, or a postcard that asks them to share their experience on social media with a certain hashtag.

You can give things away or just take a moment to have something that says you care. This is like the personalized note we mentioned above but doesn’t necessarily have to include a name. The good news is that you can test out multiple options across different packages and see which resonates most with your customers.

Inserts and marketing material are a great chance to brand.

A Couple Things to Avoid

Quick question: why did Amazon have to create Certified Frustration-Free Packaging?

Quick answer: because struggling to open something is a giant pain and makes us never want to order from that seller again.

Don’t annoy your customers. Packaging can do just that if the box is way too large for the item inside if there’s no easy seam or way to open a box, if the whole thing is wrapped up tight in tape, or if you used those foam peanuts.

One negative experience can sink multiple sales, and that includes negative experiences with boxes. Some 95% of peoplewill share a bad experience with others.

Here’s the thousand-dollar recap for you. Boxes can be fun and colorful, and people like that. Personal touches and a “thank you” as well as coupons improve how people perceive your company. Everyone hates excessive tape and foam peanuts, so avoid these like the plague. Imagine you’re the one getting the box and build from there.

You’ll be in great shape to provide a great customer experience and grow repeat conversions.

About the author: Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

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