Unboxing: your secret marketing weapon

Nothing sparks excitement and anticipation quite like a gift. Grasping the contours of a package fuels our curiosity. What could it be? The sentiment explains why ‘unboxing’ is such a potent marketing tool — there’s something alluring about the element of surprise.

In recent years, the unboxing phenomenon, in which people film themselves unpacking a new purchase, has exploded. Google research indicates one in five people have watched an unboxing experience online, and a YouTube search of ‘unboxing’ turns up 71 million results.

Unwrapping tech gadgets is a popular theme (Apple products are particularly popular), but any product is ripe for unboxing. If it can be bought, it can be unboxed.

There’s a lesson here for online retailers. Packaging serves a practical purpose — it encases the product and primes it for storage and shipping — and it can elicit an emotional response to a product or brand. It is also the only physical connection an e-commerce retailer has with its customers in the purchasing process. Woefully underutilised by many online merchants, packaging can provide customers with an opportunity to interact with a brand and its values.

Make it memorable

Amid a sea of competitors, online retailers must find ways to stand out and add value to their offerings. Competition on price can only go so far. How can they convince customers to stay loyal, rather than shop around?

There’s a fairly simple solution, and it’s not even that expensive — invest in memorable packaging. 52 per cent of consumers are likely to return to an online vendor that provides premium packaging.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers can create an atmospheric shopping experience in simple ways: they can play music, experiment with aromas and lights, and reconfigure store layouts. Online retailers have fewer tricks up their sleeve, but they too can create a memorable, multi-sensory experience.

This is where premium packaging comes into the picture: textures, colours, and intuitive design can elevate the retail experience. Kerry Pietrobon, founder of online fashion boutique Harlow, believes adding a personal touch can “bring a boutique feel to the online experience”. The packaging itself is “really beautiful”, inspired by the meticulous attention to detail shown by overseas stalwarts such as Net-a-Porter. Each Harlow customer receives a custom-designed postcard with an inspiring message that is personally signed by Kerry and her partner Angelo. “We know it really makes a difference,” Pietrobon says. “We get heaps of emails from customers saying, ‘This has really cheered me up, you made my day!’”

A powerful marketing weapon

An unboxing strategy can offer small businesses a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors, increase the value of their offering and enhance customer loyalty. That said, unboxing videos and images shared on Instagram also serve more practical ends. In a recent survey, 66 per cent of buyers of beauty products used unboxing videos for research to see and get a feel for the product before they ordered it. Review-based videos of beauty products more often than not also take packaging into consideration when advising their viewers on whether to purchase.