Brand packaging for eCommerce: the unboxing phenomenon

The importance of packaging

For eCommerce businesses, shipping and fulfilment represents the most direct customer touchpoint. We are seeing more and more retailers investing in packaging to create a more memorable and shareable experience for customers. Especially in an eCommerce environment, it’s important to pay attention to the few physical touchpoints available to maximize brand recall and set yourself apart from your competitors.

Packaging is a key part of the buyer experience, creating a first impression of what the product will deliver. It also provides an opportunity for you to encourage customers to tell others about their purchase and to shop again.

Nothing demonstrates the importance of packaging quite like the rise of unboxing videos. This category of online content truly took off in 2014, although the first example of it dates back to 2006. Unlike many other internet trends that fade away as quickly as they appear, unboxing videos are still being made. If you search ‘unboxing video’ on YouTube, there are almost 100 million results. Notably, there is no restriction on the type of products being unboxed. Videos made within the last week include Hello Fresh groceries, Chanel handbags and new iPhones.

Audience interest

So, what is it that draws in viewers to this type of content? Often, the audience simply wants to get more information about the product and the post-purchase experience. By vicariously experiencing the purchase through a video, the audience is brought much closer to the experience mentally. Helping viewers to visualize their own purchase more realistically makes them more emotionally invested, which can push them to continue to checkout or not. According to Think with Google, most viewers of unboxing videos are considering purchasing the product in the video, although there are certainly window-shopping viewers as well.

Unboxing videos are similar to the concept of ‘try before you buy’. They help viewers to gain as much information as possible before committing to spending their money. If they are happy with what they see in the video, it can fuel the sense of anticipation about the product. Although most brands are aware that realistic photography is their friend in reducing the rate of product returns, consumers may still want to see more photos and videos from customers rather than brand-generated content.

Like customer reviews, user-generated content can provide greater social proof as it is considered more trustworthy than sponsored or brand output. However, brands sometimes use influencer collaborations to raise product and brand awareness through the influencers base of subscribers. There may be a trade-off between trustworthiness and reach in influencer marketing.

Designing branded packaging

Now that we’ve established why unboxing videos are so beneficial to consumers and brands alike, let’s look at how to get your product into one of these videos. It goes without saying that hype around certain products will always generate such videos, as people are already intrigued about the product. Building attention for your product meanwhile, is a greater feat.

Some brands use packaging as an opportunity to further personalize the customer experience to generate attention. Including a thank you note is a simple way of expressing genuine gratitude to your customers, whether they are new or loyal. Sneaker brand Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL) demonstrate this well by thanking their customers for their purchase, acknowledging whether this is their first, second or more purchase. They also offer a 10% discount code in case the customer would be interested in ordering again. Showing that you are aware of and value your loyal customers in this way is a simple but effective brand-building tool that helps to forge a human connection that can be especially lacking in an eCommerce environment.

One of the most important elements of your packaging is how well it fits with your brand values. Major eCommerce retailers have received unwanted social media attention for their oversized, space-wasting boxes with plastic padding. Ensuring that your packaging is sustainable is crucial for brands that claim this is one of their driving values, but more broadly it is expected from all companies as conscious consumerism is becoming the norm. Packaging should be designed for disposal by the end-user in mind. Excessive or non-recyclable packaging can harm customer’s perception on your brand, even if you have a great product.

Your brand identity can also be translated into the aesthetic of your packaging. Glossier is one of the most Instagrammed beauty brands thanks to the carefully curated and consistent design of their products and packaging. When the company first launched, the simple but recognizable pink padded zip-lock bags that their products come in were all over social media. Inside their boxes, customers receive a sheet of branded stickers, social media handles and positive affirmations like ‘Skin first. Makeup second. Smile always.’

Where some companies see packaging as a logistical requirement, Glossier has managed to create a trifecta of utility, fun and branding. The result is a highly memorable display that extends their digital branding into the real world.


Here are 3 key features you can’t ignore:

  • Personalization: acknowledging your customer’s name and their loyalty to your brand is an easy win with modern CRM systems and automation.
  • Be creative: increase your brand recall and stand out from the crowd by experimenting with different aspects of your packaging, especially if you have a core brand value specific to your company.
  • Social media call-to-action: social media handles and hashtags can encourage people to tag your brand in their post about your product, raising brand awareness and market visibility.