How to create great unboxing experience in e-commerce

Unboxing video trend

When was the last time you received an old-school offline gift, wrapped in paper with ribbons, with a hand-written card inside? Can you remember your feelings when you started to unwrap the present? This excitement, desire to look inside. You're an adult now, but you're still thrilled. That feeling is an instrument for your business.

The topic we are dissecting today can't be called the main when it comes to e-commerce. Indeed, who cares about the package when you struggle to find new customers?

But creating great unboxing experience is a marketing tool you can use to make your clients happier, to spread the word about your e-commerce business, to stand out from the crowd and cause positive changes that can't be tracked by Google Analytics.

In this article I'm going to explain how unboxing experience can work for your business, list its stumbling blocks, touch some other important points and show some nice examples of merchants that are doing it right.

Why should you do this?

It works. How?

  • Unboxing experience is a direct touchpoint between a product and a customer. It's an important factor that's missing in e-commerce due to its virtual nature.Harry Selfridge was one of the first merchants to put goods on display at his stores so customers could clearly see, examine and touch them. He did it because he was upset by the tradition of small English shops where all the goods were hidden on shelves and you had to ask a shop assistant to show you anything.A part of this experience can be created by great product presentation on the website. And the package creates a bond between the customer and the brand.
  • A wisely created package can even decrease product returns. It's all about value proposition; a good package says 'it's worth it, you've bought a great product, it's special'. This message eliminates customers' disturbance when they think they shouldn't have bought it.
  • Think Christmas. Gifting and receiving gifts have deep routes in ancient society rules; receiving a gift, if to stick to the historical understanding of the subject, means you receive appreciation from a community member, which means you're safer and you have a familiar connection.Add a relatively young but also very powerful experience of a child receiving a gift, a manifestation of unconditional love from his parents, and we've got a powerful pattern of emotions: appreciation, safety, love.In fact, product packaging is closer to this psychology than you might think at first.
  • Personalization is also one of the important vibes a great package is broadcasting. We are living in a world of big numbers where a person might feel as a tiny part of a business machine, which can be disturbing. Getting rid of this feelings makes your customer happier.Here's a quote from a redditor sharing his great unboxing experience:
    'Like damn. It felt so personal and extraordinary.'
  • This is, probably, one of the most material things you can actually measure: people will share their experience. They will write reviews, post Instagram and Facebook pictures and even shoot videos, which gives you additional coverage.

Unboxing videos trend

A survey done by Google shows that one in every five consumers has watched an unboxing video. And 62% of those people watched it because they were researching that product.

Here’s how the interest in unboxing videos has grown over time:

People are shooting thousands of videos on unboxing literally everything:

But can this help your business? Sure it can.

1. People are going to share their unboxing experience with your brand.

2. People read and watch unboxing articles and videos while researching products.

3. You can boost your coverage by making the first step and connecting with bloggers and journalists.

Building great unboxing experience

Structure of unboxing experience

First of all, it really depends on what you sell, your own products/brand or resell items from several brands. The second case can be more complicated, as you probably will need to ship the items in the package they came to you in. However, if you are serious about improving you customer experience, there's always a way out.

These are the components of unboxing experience according to out physiology:

  • how you feel it (emotions)
  • how you touch it
  • how it smells
  • how it looks

We're missing the sound here, but for now it will be too much, right?

Building blocks of unboxing experience

The list is long so you can pick a couple of factors from it - of course, using them all can be excessive.

  • Box
  • Laying out

It's important how you place products inside the package. Ideally they shouldn't be in a mess. Think of shop windows and how they arrange products in baskets and boxes.

  • Card

No need to say a personal card wins the day. Everyone loves to feel special!

Here's some feedback from a real merchant on this approach:

  • Tissue paper

Lots of opportunities here. You could use single color paper to match the box, or the ribbon, or make use of numerous variants paper manufacturers offer. Here's a box from Julep; they used a nice tissue with glitter:

  • Fillers

Usual box fillers are foam items, air pillows, bubble wrap, or cut paper. If your items are fragile, paper won't help, but you can use color bubble paper instead!

  • Stickers/ribbons

These items are used to hold the tissue paper. They are extremely cheap but make your parcel look like a true present.

  • Business card
  • Promo (coupons, discounts, loyalty program invitations)
  • Receipt

Think great eating places - an envelope or a receipt holder is a tradition. Louis Vuitton receipt envelopes are very simple, but make a good impression. They also are usually printed on quality yellow branded paper:

  • Tape

If you're using box tape, look at color or branded variants, their price is almost the same as for clear tape, and your carton box will look much better.

  • Gift

Adding small gifts to bigger orders is a known practice, and you should definitely try it.

  • Samples

Many companies are doing this, and you should do too if you sell items that have samples. Moreover, very often it doesn't cost anything for you because suppliers often ship free samples so merchants could distribute them to raise interest in new products. Only make sure that the samples are at least close to the interests of your customer, it means that you need to have a look what the shopper has ordered, what's his age and gender.

  • Envelope

Envelopers are cheap and can be used to store any paper sheets with information. It is wise to provide a branded envelope for items that are supposed to be stored, like warranties or receipts.

  • Something to extend unboxing experience

This could be a piece of paper inviting to visit an URL or your social media accounts, download an app with the help of a QR code, or invitation to leave a review, or to participate in loyalty program. In other words, something that offers to connect with your brand once more. Wantable asks for feedback with a card:

  • Bag
  • Scent

Some products may have an unpleasant scent (for example, new shoes or clothes smell badly if they were packed right after they were produced). To reduce that or just to make your customer smile, put something with a nice scent into the box. It could be petals, some dry lavender, a tiny soap bar, or you could just drop a couple of scented water onto the box or the paper tissue. Make sure the smell won't spoil the product itself - it is not advisable to use perfume for food or children items.

  • Catalog
  • Treats

Candy? Yes please. Treats upset only those who are on a diet.

  • Product safety

Remember that unboxing experience is important, and product safety is crucial. Air bags are not the cutest filler, but they will keep a perfume bottle safe. A customer won't be happy with a broken bottle and a dozen of samples inside the package.

  • Easiness of unboxing

Make sure it's easy to unpack the items. Remember that your customers shouldn't apply the Hulk power to open the box or the plastic package and actually get the product. Because these things go viral:

  • Return label, warranties
  • Description card

It's nice if there's a possibility to include a card with the product description if it's your own brand and no instructions come with the items. See how BeautyBox includes cards with descriptions on their products in each box:

  • Other details

I often buy shirts, and in most of the cases they have lots of tiny sharp pins to hold everything in place. Once I received a shirt with small plastic clips instead. What a relief when you know you wouldn't hurt yourself unboxing the item!


It's hard to give any advice on how to leverage the product price and package expenses, as this is always the matter of a particular case.

But there's one thing you should think about: your great package doesn't have to be expensive. There are lots of companies that offer package materials, and it's always cheaper in bulk.

Typical mistakes of packaging in terms of unboxing experience


More is less. According to Sealed Air e-commerce Survey, extra packaging can be annoying and may force people to think they paid too much:

In other words, the package should be enough to keep the product safe and to call for positive emotions. Overdecorating or using too many materials can scare your customers off.

Providing nice package for a segment of customers

If you decided to provide custom package for your customers, make sure all of your clients will be able to have this unboxing experience. In other case, those who received a plain package are likely to be offended if they find out someone got a better 'present'. We are all children somewhere deep inside.

Providing package perks just to check the box

Here's the case from my own unboxing experience; I ordered a line of cosmetics marked 25+ (a moisturizer, a face wash and a toner), and the box was generously filled with anti-wrinkle product testers marked 45+. Seriously? Just wrapping products in tissues and throwing in some unnecessary items or testers isn't going to work.

Not matching the size of the package and the item

Irony is the least you can actually receive by putting a small item into a huge box. Also, the product can be damaged, or delivery will cost more.

Unboxing experience trends

'Green packaging'

Offering green package is not only a way to tell that your brand actually cares. It's only an opportunity for the customer to feel connected with the idea of ecology. What's more, 'green' material tend to look stylish, representing the 'natural' trend. More and more companies offer their services on creating sustainable package.

Green package usually is made of recycled materials, that also can be recycled or don't damage the environment. Dell is using bamboo packaging and explains why:

Reusable packaging

In fact, I'm using these Puma Little Clever Bags myself - and it was a great experience unboxing their shoes. Puma combined green and reusable packaging and made it a signature of their brand. They reduced the amount of material spent on the box and packed it in a bag that can be reused - or simply used for shoes storage.

As some other companies, Puma gives advice and instructions on how you can reuse their packaging.

Final steps

Now when you feel like jumping in, what to do? Create a test shipping box, design it with care and combine elements with a bit of style. And test it on your nearest and dearest - will they be happy to receive it?

Giving the word to you! Have you been experiencing anything great with receiving goods from online shops? Do you provide anything special at your store?

April 9, 2015
April 17, 2015
March 12, 2015
April 9, 2015
I think this discussion also could be useful
Ksenia Dobreva
April 9, 2015
Thanks, Anastasia! A great addition, indeed.
Martin Lindeskog
April 14, 2015
Ksenia: It was interesting to hear that Apple has a special packaging / unboxing room. Your post gave me ideas on stuff to include in my future tea boxes.
Ksenia Dobreva
April 14, 2015
Thanks for your feedback, Martin! So glad you found tips that'll work for your business.
Megan McCausland
November 16, 2015
Hi Ksenia, Thanks for this very thorough post! I just wanted to get FunPak on your radar in case it's helpful next time you write about unboxing or green packaging. It was invented after our founder's dog almost died from eating a traditional packing peanut. FunPak is fun-shaped (dog bones, hearts, shamrocks, logos, etc.) loose fill that is biodegradable, static free, and nontoxic.
Ksenia Dobreva
November 19, 2015
Hey Megan, thanks for sharing your story! I had the topic of green packaging in mind and will definitely look at what you offer while getting ready for the blog post. Cheers!
November 27, 2016
Ksenia, thank you for inspiration! The tip to put smth with a nice scent seems to be so easy and genius idea!
Alexandra Zhos
November 28, 2016
Thank you, Kasia, glad to hear so positive feedback!
December 29, 2016
Good stuff! Of course, a unique packaging helps to memorize your brand and gain customer’s confidence. But make sure that your creative box will ‘survive’ after the long delivery trip. Once we tried some gentle packaging and when the customer received the parcel it was completely smashed.
Alexandra Zhos
December 30, 2016
Wow, it seems like your box design was too creative for this 'cruel world' of delivery. Be careful next time:)
January 17, 2017
Interesting and worse to read article, thank you for the work you’ve done!
Ksenia Dobreva
February 10, 2017
Thanks for reading, Garry!
Tom Huetz
October 25, 2018
Great article! Is there a follow up available or coming soon? So much has changed with regards to Frustration-Free Packaging and SIOC (Ship in own container) with regards to Amazon.
Shipping Boxes
April 1, 2021
Your article has proven useful to me. It’s very informative and you are obviously very knowledgeable in this area. This topic has interesting and solid content.
Vladimir Derachits
April 2, 2021
Hi there, thanks for sharing your opinion! We're glad to know the article was helpful for our readers.
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