How Brands can Create Engaging Unboxing Experiences That Take the Place of In-Store Shelf Branding

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According to a PMMI study, 95% of consumers state that packaging significantly affects their online purchase. Furthermore, almost half of consumers share their experience on social media. While attracting and engaging consumers through packaging has always been an effective way for brands to advertise their product, the growth of ecommerce is changing consumer expectations. This is because direct-to-consumer (DTC) or ecommerce-only brands make a crucial tradeoff: they lose the branding moment on the shelf in the retail store setting in exchange for the suitability of selling exclusively online.

In order to still actively engage their customers, most DTC or online retailers focus largely on the unboxing experience. To successfully create an engaging unboxing experience that rivals in-store shelf branding, there are many effective strategies that brands can implement, including consistent branding, an engaging product reveal and more.

Keep Branding Consistent

Products sold at retail stores allow customers to interact with the product before they commit to a purchase. With online shopping, however, customers do not have the opportunity to physically touch the product to determine whether or not they want it before buying it. By only referencing online product images, consumers scan ecommerce websites for the most accurate high quality product shots. For example, they may think the product is much larger than it actually is or that it is made from a different material. The key to merging expectations between what a customer believes from what they see online and what the physical product truly looks like is consistent brand identity and brand transparency.

If your packaging arrives at the customer’s door and looks nothing like the branding portrayed online, they may question the quality of the product and the reliability of your brand. This results in a negative unboxing experience, and therefore a negative perception of your company.

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On the other hand, a packaging design that makes brand identity a top priority has the ability to create a positive and memorable unboxing experience for the consumer. It not only reinforces the reliability of a solid brand but gives your company a chance to show customers what your brand is about. For example, if you want to show that your brand values sustainability, using naturally colored packaging material, as well as reusable materials, can convey this.

Design a Product Reveal That is Engaging

When done correctly, an unboxing experience can be leveraged as an effective marketing tool. In today’s digitally-connected world, unboxing experiences are frequently filmed and shared on social media. What differentiates the successful unboxing experiences that entice others to buy your product from the rest? One key element is the product reveal. When a customer receives a package in the mail, they will be excited to open it up and interact with the product.

To optimize the consumer’s engagement with the packaging, your brand can leverage the customer’s curiosity by creating a suspenseful product reveal. A successful unboxing reveal should be both thoughtful and intimate, creating a clear brand differentiator from competitors. This can be achieved by revealing product in a layered experience or by neatly presenting products in modular inserts.

Make Your Packaging Functional

During the unboxing experience, the customer will interact with every part of the packaging. Therefore, your brand should ensure that opening the packaging is seamless in order to create a pleasant unboxing experience. In order to do this, you must consider:

  • Can the consumer open the closure easily? A package that is difficult to open may leave the customer frustrated, leaving a negative impression of your brand.
  • Are there multiple layers to the packaging? If so, creating a sleek design where the various pieces can be set aside neatly will make the experience run smoothly for the person opening it. Additionally, in order to avoid confusion on what to do with the pieces, make sure your unboxing design is intuitive to the customer.
  • Is the messaging on the packaging purposeful? Printing messaging on your packaging can be extremely effective. Messaging that is in line with your brand can help further convey your brand identity, while instructions on how to open the packaging can create a more seamless, and therefore pleasant, unboxing experience.

In short, not all unboxing experiences are created equal. In order to create an unforgettable unboxing experience for the consumer that effectively rivals the traditional in-shelf retail experience, ecommerce brands need to strongly emphasize brand identity and design the packaging in a functional and engaging way. By employing these strategies, your brand has the opportunity to create delight, anticipation and excitement. Furthermore, your company can enjoy exciting results: customer satisfaction and potential brand loyalty.


Corey Gustafson is President of JohnsByrne, a custom packaging and print solutions provider since 1959. The company partners with major brands in health and beauty, food and beverage and consumer products. With a culture built around innovation, quality, design and speed, its offerings span value-added folding cartons, specialty packaging and high impact direct mail.

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