Online shopping is a big deal these days, and if you’re in the business of delivering products or services to customers, creating a memorable experience for your customers as they unwrap their order can make all the difference to your business’ following, and its financial success. According to Statista, global retail eCommerce sales hit $US2.3 trillion (yes, that’s trillion, with a ‘t’) in 2017, and they are projecting it to grow to $US4.88 trillion by 2021. That’s a big pie — and there’s a lot of competition to get a piece of it. So how do you make your mark in such a huge space? One trend that has gained some serious traction is the “unboxing experience”.
Now, if this is the first time you’ve heard the term and you’re thinking “un-what-now?” allow me enlighten you…
The Evolution of the Unboxing Experience Phenomenon
Once upon a time, way back in the early 21st century, anything we might have ordered from a catalog, or through the internet, would have arrived at our door either in a plain brown box, or one emblazoned with the branding of the local courier or postal service.
We thought little of it. After all, we were more interested in the contents than the wrapper.
Then one day, a light bulb popped up over some enterprising individual’s head: What if instead of using a box with someone else’s branding, I used my own? How would that affect my customer when they received their parcel? What about when they were unwrapping it? Would they pretend it was Christmas?
Like all great ideas, the principle is very simple.
Think about how much money you spend on gift-wrapping — for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and so on. It’s a natural extension to apply this same idea to the parcels you send to your customers. They get the feeling of being valued that comes with a beautifully presented “gift” (even if it is one they’ve bought themselves), and you get to enhance their experience of and connection to your brand. It’s win-win.
It’s this sense of excitement — of theater — that has turned unboxing into a social phenomenon. The rise of the “social influencer” — someone who reviews certain types of products for their followers — has had a huge impact on the audience reach of small and large businesses alike. Just search #flatlay and #unboxing on Instagram and YouTube and you’ll discover followings that number in the hundreds of thousands. (I even found one unboxing video while I was researching this article that had 1.1 million views.) A well-thought out and on-brand product fulfillment and packaging process can see your brand catapult to superstar status.
(Note: Many companies target social influencers in their marketplace and send them products in exchange for being featured in one of the influencer’s next videos or photo stories. If this idea appeals, make sure you research the influencer or influencers you want to reach out to, before getting in touch to make your offer.)
What Makes For an Exciting Unboxing Experience?
Central to your product’s unboxing experience is the packaging. You don’t necessarily have to go to the expense of having boxes, satchels and paper designed and printed — clean, simple lines; carefully and strategically placed messages or stickers; thoughtful inclusions. All can be just as effective as long as they reflect your brand’s essence and values, and add to the customer unboxing experience. Here are some great examples we’ve seen of the KISS principle in packaging with the #unboxing experience in mind.
- Branded boxes and satchels — if it’s in your budget, explore the possibility of getting your packaging branded; if it’s not, use things like stickers, packing tape and other lower-cost options (which can also take up less storage space in your office or warehouse).
- Branded tissue paper or packing — choose a color or print that connects visually with your brand.
- Free samples — what companion products do you sell that your customers might be interested in? Base your selection on what they’ve already bought, and include the “gift” with a little note. Add a ribbon to complete the message.
- Invite a friend voucher — include a card with a special discount code that your customer can use on their next purchase or gift to a friend.
- A themed letter or personal note — check out the #unboxing photos we took from our recent delivery from The Castle Company and birdsnest.com.au
- A secret surprise stash of candy — my stationer uses repurposed boxes to ship my order (reflecting their “reduce, reuse, recycle” values). It’s not pretty, but when it arrives, my kids come running, and we crack that thing like a walnut. Why? For the secret stash of lollies he’s included with my order. Sure, we want the stationery, but the bonus treasure hunt trumps it every time.
A Personal Unboxing Experience Story: A Wrist Rest Fit For a King
The unboxing experience doesn’t happen by itself. You need to plan what the experience will be, document the full process and train the warehouse team on how to pick, pack and deliver orders so the unboxing is a magical experience.
Our CTO recently purchased a wrist rest from The Castle Company that gave him a delightful product delivery experience. There were four simple components.
- First impressions count — the packaging box featured fun, themed artwork that aligned with the company’s brand.
- Tissue paper — displaying both form and function, its color suited the theme, and it protected the product during shipping
- A letter — went above and beyond the rudimentary enclosure note with care instructions, to engage with the customer as a wealthy patron of their humble wares, continuing the sense of fun the brand is trying to enlist its customers in
- The product — which is the whole point of the transaction, but which we’ve now ascribed so much more value to as a result of the unboxing experience. It’s not just a wrist rest. It’s an artefact with its own story to tell.
Brand link established. Mission accomplished. Our CTO’s wrist now feels like Lord of Westeros.
Turning Your Sales Fulfilment Process Into A Killer Unboxing Experience
Once you’ve decided the sort of unboxing experience you want to give your customers, it’s time to think about how you can integrate this into your sales fulfilment processes. The steps need to be consistent and cost effective so you can get the best results. (And remember, it will be an evolutionary process, so include steps that involve reviewing practices and costs, as well as getting in touch directly with your customers to see how they experienced your new approach to shipping.)
Thing to think about #1
What things do the warehouse staff need to be aware of when picking and packing orders? For instance, which type of box will they use for a particular type or number of products? Do you want them to wrap the product in a particular way? What inclusions do you want them to put in, and how should they position them? (For example, the letter you want them to see first up, or the lollies you want them to hunt for.)
Thing to think about #2
A great unboxing doesn’t have to break the bank. Simplicity is key. A well-placed sticker on a beautifully wrapped product can work wonders. Check out our Birdsnest.com.au experience.
Another Personal Unboxing Experience Story: Taking Good Care of Their Chicks
Not one to like missing out, our CEO recently had a magical unboxing experience with a clothing order from birdsnest.com.au. As well as the product (always remember it’s the product that has priority), the birdsnest team combined simple packaging with some little extras.
- a branded satchel
- a branded, re-usable bag
- color-matched tissue paper, fastened with a branded message sticker
- the latest copy of the company’s magazine
- a “Welcome to Birdsnest” note with a reward code for the next purchase
- a “Free delivery” reward code card
- a handwritten note.
So what’s the big deal?
My humble stationery delivery is an excellent case study. Not only do I feel a stronger personal connection with a supplier I’ve never met, I feel like — no, I know — I’m a valued customer. I’m not just another consignment number being pushed through the turnstiles. I’m highly motivated to buy from him again, and I’m regularly giving his business a shout out whenever someone I know is looking for a new supplier.
How much would that kind of customer loyalty and advocacy be worth to you?
And it’s not just the final delivery destination you need to think about. Self-branded packaging can be the ultimate in free advertising, as others along the package’s pathway are exposed to your brand, further building awareness and recognition.
Of course, creating a memorable unboxing experience isn’t the only thing you need to do to build your business’s profile and brand recognition. Good customer service, ease of ordering, efficient delivery, and getting the order right are just as important as ever. But think of the unboxing experience as another customer touch point; another opportunity to surprise and delight them, and have them wanting to come back for more.
If you haven’t thought much about your packaging and delivery process beyond the practicalities, then hopefully we’ve inspired you to think a little further and start considering making #Unboxing part of your sales and fulfillment processes — no matter if you are a B2C or B2B business.