eCommerce businesses have few touchpoints with their audience compared to their brick and mortar counterparts. So, it's vital that online brands take every opportunity to build a personal connection with their customers.
The biggest touchpoint in eCommerce? When the order finally arrives at their doorstep. This makes the post-sale period critical to your customer retention efforts.
Your customers have been eagerly awaiting their purchase for days or even weeks. This makes a memorable brand experience upon delivery the key to creating a lasting impression.
So, how do you achieve this?
Using branded packaging in eCommerce is an easy way to give your customers an unboxing experience that secures their loyalty to your brand.
What is 'Unboxing?'
'Unboxing' is where consumers unpack or 'unbox' a consumer product and document the process through photos or videos. Once an online fad, unboxing content has become an absolute goldmine for marketing professionals. By encouraging customers to share their brand experiences online, it creates a ton of free publicity.
But to create an unboxing that consumers want to share online, it needs to be a compelling piece of theatre. Customized additions, such as branded packaging, free samples, and personal notes, turn the unpacking of an online order into a moment to be cherished.
In a time where our attention spans have never been shorter, unboxings are engaging because they allow us to live vicariously through others. It’s a testament to how modern consumerism is about more than just the product - it's also about the experience that surrounds the act of purchasing.
A Brief History of Unboxing
Unboxing videos have been around since the earliest days of social media. The first video (a Nokia cellphone) was made in 2006. Tech still remains one of the largest genres for unboxing videos. But unboxing has since expanded to include just about any consumer product.
The growth of ‘unboxing’ as a search term (Google Trends)
Of course, the origins of unboxing as a ritual go back much further than this. Beautifully packaged consumer items have a lot in common with festive holidays such as Christmas and birthday celebrations. They evoke those familiar feelings of anticipation and excitement that we get when receiving a gift - even when it’s something we have purchased for ourselves.
With the growth of visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, unboxings have gained a new focus as a powerful marketing strategy. It’s a clever visual pitch that speaks of the customer experience you offer as a brand. It also gets your products in front of hundreds of new eyes.
As consumers express a greater desire for unique and engaging retail experiences, unboxing and branding have become inseparable. A plain shipping box simply won't cut the mustard.
Why? Because it’s impossible to have a well-crafted unboxing with no brand presence. Your identity as a retailer is what turns the exercise into meaningful brand storytelling. This is why branded packaging in eCommerce is a vital ingredient to create an unboxing experience that encourages repeat business.
Why Branded Packaging in eCommerce Matters
The post-purchase experience is an area that is often neglected in eCommerce. Branded packaging is more costly than using stock shipping boxes. So, many eCommerce businesses feel that it’s simply not worth the investment.
After all, if your customer has already made a purchase, why does it matter how the package looks when it arrives?
But if you only view packaging as a means to get your goods from A to B, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to influence brand perception.
Branded eCommerce Packaging Fills the Gap in the Customer Experience
In eCommerce, the relationship between the brand and the customer is entirely virtual. The tangibility offered by brick-and-mortar stores is difficult to replicate in online retail. This is where a memorable unboxing experience is vital to building a personal connection with your customer.
“You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special. Packaging can be theatre, it can create a story.” Jonathan Ives, Chief Designer of Apple.
Apple understands the power of custom packaging better than almost any other retailer. The flawless white shipping boxes that house their products are a marvel of design and simplicity. It’s what makes the brand so cohesive and able to create drama around simple products.
Most importantly, this ensures that customers of their online store can still have a fully immersive brand experience. In fact, unveiling a new iPhone or Macbook is so iconic that Apple products are an unboxing category in their own right.
In sum, using branded packaging in eCommerce turns the moment of delivery into a tangible encounter. This is the key to leaving your customers with a lasting positive impression.
It enhances your brand image
In the age of Instagram and Pinterest, branded eCommerce packaging has been perfected by luxury brands. Why? Because it’s a marketing strategy that justifies premium pricing.
When a retailer charges more for a product, they need to attract customers in ways that their competitors will struggle to match. Moreover, price-conscious consumers will expect that a higher price point entitles them to ‘value-added’ extras.
Branded packaging is one of those powerful value-added extras which signifies to your customers that they have invested in a premium-level experience. It’s appealing because it feels exclusive - they are buying a lifestyle, not just a product.
Tiffany & Co is a case study in its own right on how premium packaging can become inseparable from the brand itself. Their robin-egg blue boxes garner instant recognition, and are so iconic that aficionados can buy miniaturized boxes as china ornaments.
Tiffany’s ‘Blue Box’ has become a byword for refinement, class, and sophistication. And that’s without even seeing what is on the inside.
As a result, consumers have come to associate branded packaging in eCommerce with high-end and brands. According to Dotcom Distribution, 45% of consumers say that 'gift-like' packaging makes a brand appear more upscale.
This is something you can leverage in your favor as a small business. Providing a premium unboxing experience massively shapes your customers’ perception of your brand.
By making a purchase from your brand feel like a high-value investment, you giving yourself a real edge over competitors.
It Helps You To Retain Customers
The art of retaining customers in eCommerce is tricky, to say the least. This is even more true for smaller and less-established brands.
According to Forbes, 60-80% of customers do not return to shop with the same brands, even if the customer experience was positive. As consumers, we are simply spoiled for choice in terms of where our money should go. There are so many brands to choose from that we rarely go back to the same place twice.
Just delivering the goods in a timely manner isn’t enough. If your brand interactions have no ‘wow factor’, they are unlikely to make repeat purchases.
But retaining customers is more than just good business - it creates a much more sustainable marketing strategy. Acquiring new customers can cost up to five times more than retaining your existing base. There's no question that retainment strategies are a far better use of your marketing spend!
Branded packaging in eCommerce doesn't simply make products look nice - it’s a customer retainment strategy in its own right.
To build lasting brand loyalty, you need to show that you are willing to go the extra mile. The time investment that goes into creating an attractive unboxing is a sure sign of a brand that values its customers!
Creating a Branded Packaging Experience For Your Unboxing
There are many types of branded eCommerce packaging to choose from when building your unboxing experience. If you want to create that ‘wow factor’ when your customer opens the package, you need to consider how best to highlight your product.
Your external packaging is a really important site for branding. When your customer receives their order, you want them to know immediately who it's from. This helps to build anticipation for the rest of the unboxing and ensures maximum engagement with your brand.
Custom printed shipping boxes can be very costly, both due to the amount of ink required and high MOQs. If your average order sizes are small, boxes also may not be practical. Mailer bags are a better option for smaller and lighter weight products. Because they are less bulky, they also help to reduce your shipping costs, another important consideration.
Using custom tissue paper to wrap your products adds another exciting step to your unboxing ritual. It adds to the feeling of your customers receiving a ‘gift-like’ purchase, as well as protecting more fragile items. You can also use tissue paper to line the inside of your shipping boxes, which creates a very upscale vibe.
Tissue offers a large area for surface design. This makes it the ideal place to put more elaborate branded designs, as Violent Tinsel has done.
Custom stickers are an easy and low-cost way to bring branded packaging into your eCommerce operation. They also have a lot of different uses, such as sealing gift wrap or decorating the interior of your package. You can also get creative by including them as a freebie for customers.
Tape is already a must-have in order fulfillment to seal up cardboard boxes and the like. Swapping this for customized packing tape is a very economical way to liven up plain exterior packaging. if branded boxes are too costly or impractical, this is a great alternative. You can also put it to use in decorative ways too, as shown above by illustrator Jacqueline Colley.
Nothing says ‘value-added experience’ like when a brand treats its customers to a small thank-you gift. Showing how much you value your clientele is an essential part of building brand loyalty and trust. It’s also a great way to promote ‘cross-selling’ i.e. promoting other product categories, by choosing samples based on what customers have bought previously.
eCommerce can often feel like an anonymous and mass-produced experience, especially when we are using vast online marketplaces. Small businesses can capitalize on their closeness to the order fulfillment process by including personalized notes within their orders.
In essence, you are showing customers that they are worth the time investment. There is no better way to build a personal connection than on these foundations.
Branded Packaging in eCommerce: Our Top Picks
Cosmetics giant Glossier has already developed a cult following through its compelling content marketing. But it’s their high-end unboxing experience that sets them apart in an intensely competitive market.
Their branded packaging for eCommerce orders aims to capture the same brand experience as their concept stores. The use of their signature pink is instantly recognizable. The message on the interior of the box is an affirmation of their commitment to high-quality skincare. Meanwhile, their branded stickers are a nice value-added extra which helps to show off their fun and quirky side.
The Book Playbox
This example of cohesive eCommerce branding comes from one of our very own customers. The Book Playbox is a subscription box business that sells creative play and reading activities for young children. They have worked hard to bring this ethos of fun learning into their unboxing experience.
From the box’s exterior with its youthful primary color accents, to the quote written on their custom tissue at the bottom of the box, all elements speak about play as a vehicle for discovery. It's a memorable and compelling unboxing experience that customers can look forward to, month after month.
So, take this time to think about your own unboxing experience. Is your current approach tailored for your brand, or is it fairly generic? Will it excite customers, or be quickly discarded or ignored? It's worth thinking about how you can use branded eCommerce packaging to increase engagement and better reflect your core brand values.
Creating a memorable brand experience starts with crafting your narrative. How do you want your customers to receive your product? As seen by the unboxing craze, branded packaging in eCommerce provides a massive opportunity to increase your audience share. Use it as a part of your marketing strategy, not as an afterthought!