Getting a load of the unboxing phenomenon

With the summer retail season already in full swing, retailers around the country will, no doubt, be packing in the preparation to take their purchasing power up a notch. However, while good products and a great customer service will, of course, be top priority, the choice of packaging, particularly amid the rising popularity of unboxing videos online, could add that all-important ‘wow’ factor for those looking to stand out. Here, Andrew Smedley, Divisional Manager at Antalis Packaging, explores how e-commerce companies can create packaging which ‘wows

High street retailers have, for decades, fought tooth and nail to provide the ultimate in-store shopping experience for customers. However, times are changing. As a greater number of sales continue to shift online, retailers are now turning their attention to the online experience where the channel may differ but the goal remains the same – to create a memorable shopping experience that brings customers back time and time again.

And not to be overlooked, packaging is coming to play an instrumental role in this. After all, in the absence of a brick and mortar physical shop, it is often the first point of tangible contact for the online customer – get it right it can a brand experience at home, get it wrong and it can leave tarnish your brand completely.

Unboxing uncovered

To understand the importance of packaging, we need only look at the recent explosion of unboxing videos online, which are estimated to receive 10 billion views per month. The result is a powerful tool in every retailer’s marketing armoury – and one which is only going to get bigger.

A recent study by consumer trends analyst Future Foundation, revealed that 22 per cent of British adults said they had watched a video of a product being opened or displayed out of its packaging online.

What began with children on YouTube filming themselves taking toys out of their packaging, has now turned into a multi-billion pound business – with high-end retailers such as Chanel and Hermes piggybacking on the unboxing phenomenon to raise brand awareness and loyalty.

In terms of best practice, a good example is Birchbox, an online subscription service offering samples of cosmetics and beauty products which are packaged differently every single month – from the layout and packaging material through to the internal décor, each month is given a completely new theme brought to life by packaging. Cue an excited and engaged audience waiting to see their next unboxing fix – so much so that there are almost a quarter of a million YouTube unboxingvideos dedicated to Birchbox alone.

Clearly then, with the right choice of packaging, a retailer can not only look to enhance their brand experience but even become an overnight internet sensation, creating a huge customer reach that traditional forms of marketing could only hope to replicate.

Back to basics  

In terms of choosing the right packaging, it is, of course, important that retailers get the basics right. First and foremost they must ensure their packaging is easy to open, use, dispose or return as consumers are now just one click away from sharing a poor packaging experience online.

Next up, creating the ultimate unboxing experience to ‘wow’ your customer starts with the box itself, which represents the biggest marketing opportunity. Firms should consider digital print on their packaging, particularly when using corrugated boxes, which allows full colour designs, marketing messages or seasonal promotions.

For example, Dollar Shave Club, a US grooming retailer that provides cheap, quality shaving blades on subscription, often delivers its products in boxes emblazoned with quirky slogans such as “shave time, shave money”. The message not only reinforces brand identity but is also designed to engage with the company’s target market of young males.

Injecting the ‘wow’ factor

The good news is that creating packaging with the ‘wow’ factor can also be achieved with subtle additions that won’t break the bank, but can make all the difference to customers. This includes using materials like custom printed tape, personalised greaseproof paper or coloured tissue paper to add an extra level of mystery and excitement for the unboxing experience.

For example, the Antalis Geami WrapPak now includes coloured tissue paper with a unique 3D honeycomb structure with all paper cells locked firmly in place – reducing the need for any tape or glue. The result is not only an unparalleled level of protection and an environmentally friendly option, but also a beautifully presented wrap for products that permeates a sense of luxury.

Also, using branded labels/stickers or custom printed sleeves on the outside of the box is also worth exploring, as are personalised retention and suspension packs.

Packaging with a conscience

Another area gaining traction is the use of sustainable packaging. Earlier this year, a survey by consumer goods multinational Unilever found that more than one in five (21 per cent) of people said they would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing.

A good example of leveraging this trend can be found with clothing giant Zara which packages online deliveries in recyclable materials with a catchy slogan that promotes recycling. Smartly designed yet firmly sustainable, Zara’s packaging promotes its green credentials in a way which is edgy and cool, and guaranteed to appeal to its target audience.

However, it’s not just about the choice of material but also how it’s used. Retailers must rationalise their packaging to include the right range of products and box sizes to prevent overuse.

In recent years, for example, a number of online retailers have repeatedly come under fire from customers for using huge packages to deliver small items, including a lipstick sent in a box the size of computer. An automated box sizing machine, like the one employed by Antalis, can help eliminate the need for void-fill all together.

Products as a souvenir

In the cut-throat world of online retail sales, it’s easy for companies to focus solely on price but a much better strategy is to view packaging products as potential souvenirs by using factors other than price to help you stand out from competitors.

Snack box subscription firm Graze encourages customers to keep the boxes its products are delivered in, which can then be refashioned as a plant pot.

Persuading the customer to repurpose either the product or packaging in this way means the brand stays at forefront of their minds, therefore a great way to instil brand loyalty.

For many online retailers, packaging came out of a necessity for protecting the most important thing, the product, and usually involved choosing the cheapest option available to get the job done. However, as ecommerce evolves and as consumer habits shift, it’s vital for retailers to create a customer experience that extends beyond the product itself by choosing packaging that reflects the brand.

To discover how to ‘wow’ your customers and create the ultimate unboxing experience, book a free smart audit with one of Antalis’ packaging experts.

To find out more, visit or call one of the Antalis packaging experts on 0370 241 1466.