The Anatomy of a Sustainable Unboxing Experience
Unboxing is critical in branding and marketing, but only if done right.
If you have been on the internet in the last decade, chances are you’ve seen an unboxing video.
On the surface, it seems like just another bizarre internet trend. On the contrary, the unboxing experience has become essential in retail, especially e-commerce. Let’s take a look at the facts:
- Seventy-two percent of Americans say a product’s packaging design influences purchasing decisions.
- Unboxing has become a top content format on TikTok, with relevant videos generating over 12.6 billion views.
- Eighty-nine percent of people surveyed in Wyzowl’s Video Marketing Statistics 2023 said that watching a video has influenced their purchase of a product or service.
- The top 15 YouTube unboxing channels have received billions of views.
E-commerce companies would do well to hop on this lucrative bandwagon. But, successful unboxing campaigns aren’t as simple as they first appear. Not only must you create a strategy to encourage creators—ideally those with a large reach—to film an unboxing of your products, but you need to do what you can on your end to ensure that the unboxing experience can be entertaining. The creator can only do so much; if the packaging is bland, the unboxing video will be, too.
Creating branding isn’t the only thing you should think about. Excessive packaging constitutes a significant part of the e-commerce sector’s environmental footprint. Packaging is often made with virgin materials, unrecyclable, and covered in plastic. Brands sometimes opt for more packaging to create a better unboxing experience, resulting in unnecessary waste.
However, customers want to support sustainable companies. Loads of studies support the idea that customers will pay more and remain loyal to businesses that can demonstrate environmental responsibility. If your company wishes to seek out the marketing powerhouse that is unboxing videos, you also need to ensure its packaging showcases a commitment to sustainability.
Overwhelmed? There’s no need to be. In this article, we help you crack the unboxing code by covering the following.
- What is an unboxing video?
- How can unboxing help your brand?
- Is unboxing still popular?
- How to achieve a successful unboxing campaign
- The newest trend: packing videos
- Why sustainable packaging matters
What is an unboxing video?
Simply put, unboxing videos are when a customer removes a product from its packaging on camera, often while discussing aspects of the packaging and giving the viewer a breakdown of what it’s like to open and use the product themselves. The intent is to allow the viewer to live vicariously through the video creator and experience the second-hand excitement of receiving and opening a much-anticipated package.
Although the most popular videos feature products like iPhones or video game consoles—products with launch dates eagerly awaited by millions worldwide—there are unboxing videos for every imaginable product. If you can purchase it, you can find an unboxing video.
How can unboxing help your brand?
If you align yourself with the right influencers, unboxing can change your business overnight. Ideally, you’d find content creators with a large following who also take the time to delve into the unboxing process. The key to a solid unboxing video is helping the viewer get that same dopamine hit as they would if they received the package. Then, they’ll be encouraged to seek out your business and experience the unboxing process for themselves.
When influencers showcase what they’ve ordered and how it arrives, it impacts your brand in the following ways.
- Acquisition: It helps customers see exactly what they’ll get when they order from a brand, building trust even before they make an order. When they witness an unboxing on TikTok or YouTube, especially from a content creator they admire, they are likelier to buy your products.
- Conversion: Influencers will provide thoughtful commentary about their experiences—how their expectations were met, exceeded, and things they wish were better—which will help potential customers visualize their unboxing experience. This alleviates any unease a customer might feel about purchasing from an online shop. Instead of checking out the products in a physical store, they can gain a firsthand experience of the unboxing process.
- Retention: These videos create a sense of community; those who follow and love your brand will encourage others to do the same. Because customers can see exactly what they will get from your brand, they are far less likely to be disappointed and more likely to stay with your brand long-term.
Even the smallest brand can benefit from this trend. Improving your packaging and unboxing experience will help your brand image, customer retention, and, most importantly, your bottom line.
Is unboxing still popular?
By now, we know how fickle the internet can be. Something trendy even two years ago might be seen as obsolete today. Because unboxing videos first became popular in the mid-aughts, it’d be easy to believe that they have gone the way of planking, the Ice Bucket Challenge, and other fads of yore.
However, unboxing remains an essential piece of social media marketing and entertainment. Between 2022 and 2023, unboxing videos have grown by 57%. However, this doesn’t mean that unboxing videos can be done the same way as they were back in the day. A successful unboxing campaign needs to fulfill modern expectations.
How to achieve a successful unboxing campaign
A solid strategy that reaches the right viewers is the key to achieving a successful unboxing campaign. It’s not one-size-fits-all. You must develop an approach that works for your business and targets the right customers. However, we do have some tips to help you strategize a campaign that gets results.
1. Find the right influencers and customers to unbox your products
Just because someone opens one of your packages and posts it online doesn’t mean it will automatically convert into sales. You need to align yourself with trusted influencers and creators with a large reach of your target clientele. Take your time to research potential collaborators and determine if they’re the right fit for your brand. As you search for collaborations, keep your expectations realistic. Of course, you want to be featured by the top influencers with millions of followers, but their reach comes at a considerable price. Seek out influencers whose numbers will fit your budget.
2. Invest in gorgeous branded packaging that your customers will love to unbox on video
As an e-commerce company, your first physical impression is your packaging. Well-designed packaging will influence consumers’ opinions of the product. This is even backed by data. According to a 2019 study in partnership with the University of Wisconsin, a product wrapped in premium custom packaging was rated higher than its identical but plainly packaged counterpart in 76% of instances. The better-packaged product was also ranked as being a better value.
A branded experience from start to finish shows that you care about the details and that nothing about your business is generic. Don’t just provide a box with your logo on it. Invest in custom tissue paper, custom notecards, or custom stickers, too.
Custom packaging with your design is the first step in a premium unboxing experience that will give your customers the best possible first impression and keep them returning for more.
3. Make your packaging easy to open
No one wants to watch a video of someone struggling to peel through layers of tape. Well-designed product packaging facilitates content creators by making it easy to create an entertaining video. Influencers will be excited to promote your product and work with you if your gorgeous packaging can gain more views. As you make your packaging easy to open, think about ASMR. Today’s social media users love comforting sounds. Ensure your packaging makes a satisfying rip rather than an accosting squeak.
One simple way to create a better user experience is to ensure your poly mailers have tear strips. These will keep the package secure while enabling a super-easy opening experience. And best of all, tear strips often make a satisfying tearing sound that viewers will love. (Psst… our poly mailers have tear strips. Check them out if you need to make the switch.)
You should also ensure that you pack boxes in a way that scissors or a box cutter won’t damage the products inside. Place a custom notecard or protective piece between the box opening and the products inside. Or, wrap the products in corrugated bubble to fully protect the goods.
4. Use personal touches
While the unboxing experience is greatly enhanced with premium packaging, one of the most effective ways of improving customer perception and retention is with a simple personalized touch.
The most common strategy is to handwrite or sign a thank you note to include in the box. It adds a distinctly human touch to the otherwise impersonal and anonymous online shopping experience, reminding your customers that you and your brand are more than just a website.
It doesn’t have to be a complete, hand-written note, either. Include a newsletter to let your customer know what your company is up to, profile one of the workers that packaged the product, or include a joke or compliment on the inner packaging. Personalizing the unboxing experience makes each customer feel special- like they’re doing a good thing by buying from you.
5. Encourage creative reuse of your packaging
If your packaging is good enough, it can become a free advertisement in and of itself. For example, if a customer uses your sturdy, branded shipping box to take something to a party, everyone there will be exposed to your brand and wonder about the exciting box.
If you want to go the extra mile regarding reusability, encourage your customers to use their boxes to donate to charity. Organizations like Give Back Box provides customers with a prepaid shipping label to fill their boxes with donation items and mail them to those in need.
6. Add layers to extend the unboxing experience
The best thing about unboxing videos is when there’s surprise after surprise. It’s no fun if you open the package and it’s all there to see. Create a journey for content creators and their audience, building up to a climax they can’t wait to witness.
If the person ordered multiple items, place the less expensive, less exciting products first, leaving the main event for last. Keep upcoming products hidden by using ornament paper shred or GreenWrap to hide and protect each piece. If your products don’t need protection, tissue paper, kraft paper, or hemp twine with some greenery or embellishment can make things pop.
As you create your layers, make sure that your packaging remains minimal. Not only is minimalism the design trend of 2023, but those who look for sustainability in their products will also prefer minimalism for its environmental value.
7. Use sustainable packaging
Excessive packaging is one of the most significant environmental impacts of e-commerce (alongside its carbon footprint associated with shipping). Because sustainability and ecological issues remain at the forefront of your customer’s minds, you must ensure that your packaging is sustainable and circular.
Choose paper or recycled packaging when you can. We’re not just saying this as a company specializing in sustainable packaging; the data proves it. According to PR Newswire, about 72% of Americans prefer products with packaging that can be easily recycled or reused. The same study found that 74% of those in younger generations are more likely to choose one product over another based on its sustainability. If modern e-commerce companies wish to compete, they need to do what they can to be more sustainable, starting with their packaging.
The newest trend: packing videos
Your unboxing campaign shouldn’t be your only focus when creating packaging for online audiences. In recent years, another trend has emerged that customers and e-commerce companies can love: packing videos.
Unlike unboxing videos, packing content is when the e-commerce company packages a real order on camera. This trend has skyrocketed in just a few short years. As of August 2023, the TikTok hashtag #packingorders had 11.3 billion views. Companies will typically offer an option for their customers to opt into the experience, allowing them to be featured on the business’s social media channels. It’s a win-win: the customer gets 15 seconds of fame, and the company can get high-performing content from their sale.
Packing videos are ideal for new e-commerce companies that might not yet have the budget to collaborate with influencers with a large reach. Instead of negotiating with unboxing influencers, they can create their own content instead. The same strategies outlined above apply, but the packaging process is done in reverse.
Why sustainable packaging matters
Unfortunately, the rise in unboxing culture can lead to some truly egregious examples of excessive packaging. All those layers and custom touches often result in even more waste than function. As you create beautiful and interesting packaging to open, ensure your business isn’t contributing to our planet’s waste and overconsumption problems.
And while ecological concerns should be compelling enough to prioritize eco-friendly packaging, keep this business rationale in mind: environmentally-friendly packaging is great for business. If sustainability is one of your business's core values, your packaging should reflect that. Likewise, if your customers are likely sustainability-minded, they’ll notice if there’s a disconnect between your claims and your packaging. That consistency between your brand’s values and packaging should be central to the customer experience.
That said, we recognize that balancing aesthetics, a layered experience, and the eco-friendliness in your packaging is incredibly challenging. But, the balance is achievable. Here are some ways to be sustainable without sacrificing user experience:
- Look for 100% recycled materials wherever possible.
- Make sure your packaging is the right size for your products.
- Add just enough layers to protect and achieve your brand goals.
- Include messages to your packaging to help your customers understand why you chose the materials you did, why you avoided unsustainable materials, and how to recycle your packaging responsibly.
- Consider the sustainability of your ink, and print with algae ink when possible.
- Consider making a bold and innovative change to your packaging and showcasing this change to your customers. For example, switch from clear poly bags to EcoBand Paper Product Wrap. Let your customers know why and ask them to share their feedback on social media.
100% recycled, 95% post-consumer waste. Fully customize style, size, strength, and branding, ensuring your product fits perfectly.
Min. 100 units
100% recycled, 50% post-consumer waste. Thin-film recyclable, tear strip for easy opening, second adhesive strip for reuse.
Min. 500-1000 units
100% recycled, 97% post-consumer waste. Creasing for expandability and premium presentation. Ideal for shipping textiles.
Min. 500 units
100% recycled, 20% post-consumer waste. Certified sustainably sourced 10# paper protects against scuffing and dust.
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Bonus: Unboxing videos we love
Now that we’ve gone over some ways you can strategize your packaging for unboxing videos, we want to help you visualize how exactly this might work. Here are a handful of unboxing videos with elevated brands we work with at EcoEnclose.
Bedrock Sandals has built a passionate community of customers who love showcasing themselves on various awesome adventures, sporting their minimalist Bedrock Sandals
Armoire is a great clothing rental subscription business that matches clothing to each subscriber’s unique style and needs.
Kinder Beauty is a monthly subscription service sending the best clean makeup, skincare, and more.
We’d be remiss not to mention ourselves! We are so proud and lucky to work with such incredible brands that have set up their own YouTube channels and TikTok accounts for the primary purpose of helping teach their community and customers about sustainability.