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How to design a shareable unboxing experience [+ 4 actionable tips]

illustration of a person unboxing their ecommerce purchase with a social media frame around it

For all the talk about influencer marketing, it’s easy to forget that in ecommerce, every customer is an influencer in their own right. 

Each order that you fulfill has the potential to make or break your brand. That’s why a growing number of merchants are turning to the medium of unboxing experiences to drive growth and enhance the customer experience.

But where a great unboxing experience in the pre-internet age would be seen by one person, it can now be shared online with millions. This potential for greater reach has made unboxings an attractive investment for small businesses. 

According to Square‘s 2021 Future of Retail study, 74% of merchants plan to improve their unboxing experience this year, with ‘wrapping products to be more eye-catching’ (34%) and ‘product samples/coupons’ (31%) ranking as top priorities. 

But nice packaging and freebies alone are not enough to create that all-important first impression that consumers are eager to share online

Surprised? For every perfect unboxing experience we see on Instagram, there are a dozen more that never made it from a customer’s doorstep onto our feed. 

It’s not because the experience wasn’t enjoyable. 

It’s because many ecommerce brands haven’t mastered the art of designing an unboxing that’s fit for the social media era. 

In this post, we’re going to explore how your brand can create the ultimate shareable unboxing experience that your customers can’t wait to share with your followers.

Let’s begin!

What is an unboxing experience?

An unboxing experience is a post-purchase ritual where the customer unpacks their online order after delivery. Brands can amplify this experience through the use of value-added extras during fulfillment, such as branded packaging, tissue paper, custom inserts, and free samples. 

The purpose of unboxing experiences is to make customers feel valued and emotionally connected to a brand. By designing a bespoke, gift-like package that surpasses a regular ecommerce delivery, merchants can leverage the anticipation that customers feel when receiving an online order. This enables merchants to stimulate brand recognition and strengthen customer loyalty – and increase the odds of a customer sharing their experience online.

Why unboxing experiences matter in the age of social media

Social media is where consumers discover brands and products

We’re long past the age of consumers discovering products in-store – or even via online search. Today, many of us are turning to algorithm-curated social media feeds for the best recommendations. According to Statista, 58% of Millennials agree that social media feeds are a better place to find new products than online searches. 

When a first-time customer is increasingly likely to stumble across your brand on Instagram or TikTok, a recognizable brand identity has never mattered more. In the same way that in-store customers are enticed by an attractive floor display, unboxings and branded packaging experiences are how online merchants can hook in social media users. 

An unboxing video or photo snapped by an excited customer is the perfect introduction to your brand’s ethos. Ecommerce packaging isn’t simply a way to keep your products safe in transit; it’s your best ticket to successful lead nurturing. 

The power of social proof

Word of Mouth (WoM) marketing is every bit as important online as it is offline. When consumers are comparing products, looking for reviews or recommendations is a key part of the shopping journey. A 2021 study by BizRate Insights found that 91% of respondents read at least one online review before making a purchase.

So, when customers post favorable content about different brands and products, other social media users will be paying attention. In fact, almost a quarter of millennials and Gen Z say that a lot of social media ‘likes’ or positive comments would make them more likely to buy a product.

A memorable unboxing experience that your customers are eager to share is the perfect way to build the credibility your brand needs to acquire new customers. Getting to see through the eyes of happy recipients is a powerful value proposition that helps to inspire brand loyalty even before a purchase has been made.

The rise of social commerce 

Social commerce has shifted social media platforms to the very center of the online shopping journey for many consumers.  Nearly half of internet users between the ages of 18-34 (millennials and Generation Z) have made a purchase on social media. 

For ecommerce businesses, this means that your feed is the new online store. If you want to secure sales through this lucrative channel, premium content and high-quality product presentation are a must to entice customers to put items in their shopping cart. 

Unboxing experiences and social commerce are a dream combination for brands. Users only have to tap on an image to see the items displayed and be taken straight through to your in-app store to make a purchase. In sum, unboxing imagery enables you to turn views and shares into conversions.

The psychology of social sharing

But what is it that makes us want to share content online?

To answer this question, we need to go way back to before social media was invented. In 1966, an Austrian psychologist named Ernest Dichter wrote an article in the Havard Business Review about what motivates people to talk about brands and products. His findings were as follows: 

Product Involvement (33%). Customers have such a pleasurable experience that they want to share it with others.

Self-Involvement (24%). Sharing this information makes customers feel validated and knowledgeable.

Other Involvement (20%). Sharing allows the customer to help others with their purchasing decisions.

Message – Involvement (20%). The brand messaging is so valuable/informative that it has to be shared.

So, what do you get when positive product experiences, customer participation, and the desire to share informative/interesting information are rolled into one?

That’s an unboxing experience in a nutshell – if you can pull all of the pieces together.

What makes an unboxing experience ‘shareable’?

But an unboxing campaign isn’t just about posting an unboxing video or photo on Instagram and calling it a day. You might have shared it online, but it’s not necessarily shareable.

Confused? We’ll explain.

Your brand can go all-out with its unboxing experience and add all the goodies. But a branded box filled with tissue paper doesn’t guarantee that your customers are going to share it.

Why? Because custom packaging on its own isn’t a call to action. To make social sharing as natural an impulse as opening the box, you need to build this into the brand narrative you’re trying to communicate.

So, what exactly is a shareable unboxing experience?

A shareable unboxing is when an unboxing experience is designed from end to end to encourage customer participation in your brand’s story. All the elements, from packaging materials to inserts, are carefully considered to enhance engagement and persuade customers to share the package with their followers.

4 Tips for designing a shareable unboxing experience

So, how can you create an unboxing experience that your customers want to talk about on social media?

It’s easier than you might think.

Designing a shareable unboxing experience doesn’t require you to up-end your current strategy; it’s about making subtle additions to your product packaging that put customers in a mind to share and talk about your brand. 

Here are 4 actionable tips to make your brand’s unboxing more shareable:

1. Make it easy for customers to link with your marketing channels

Your brand has a narrow window after your customer opens the box to get that all-important share on social. Customers want to start enjoying their purchases, and anything that slows this down will add friction to the post-purchase experience.

If you want your customers to post about their unboxing experience, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to become brand advocates. 

 By adding social media handles and branded hashtags on your packing materials, you can boost the likelihood of customers talking about your brand.

imajanation purchase with a social media card included

Stickers are a great focal point in your packaging design (especially if you’re using contrasting colors). This makes them the perfect place to add social media handles, as shown here by Imajanation. They’ve also put them on a separate insert, in the case that a customer ends up unpacking their purchase first.

packaging for Lootcrate’s subscription box

LootCrate has taken this a step further by printing instructions for sharing the unboxing experience on the inside of the lid. This makes it one of the first things that customers will see when they open the box, boosting the brand’s chances of a successful share.

a branded hashtag stamp from city scout
A branded hashtag stamp from City Scout.

If paying for a custom box or packaging is a bit too much for your budget, there are other ways to bring your social media channels to your customer. Buying a custom stamp of your social media handles or hashtags, for example, is a great way to give generic packaging a touch of your brand.

2. Adding a personal touch

Personalizing the unboxing experience is important under any circumstances, but especially when you’re wanting to boost social media shares. Nobody wants their unboxing experience to feel as though it’s rolled off an assembly line! 

Showing that you see each customer as an individual is the key to building an emotional connection with your customer that results in repeat purchases – and increased sharing activity.

a purchase with handwritten note from petit nomade

Adding a handwritten note is a great way to increase the perceived value of a purchase. Petit Nomade has done a great job of referencing the specific items contained in the order, leaving their customer in no doubt that this message is intended for them.

preprinted handmade notes from cait handmade

Handwriting a note for every order adds quite a bit of time to the fulfillment process, which won’t work for every business. Using pre-printed inserts that you can add a quick note to is a great workaround, as shown here by Cait Handmade. 

By taking the time to personally ask your customers to share their unboxing, they’re far more likely to reciprocate.

3. Give customers an incentive to share

This one is pretty simple. If you offer some low-hanging fruit in the form of exclusive discounts or giveaways, customers are much more likely to share their unboxing experiences.

When customers advocate for your ecommerce business on social media, this gives your branding and marketing strategies a massive step-up. By offering your customers an incentive, you’re showing them just how much of a difference this makes to your brand’s success.

ek stones card offering a discount on their next order in exchange for sharing their unboxing experience

EK STONES have created a strong unboxing campaign by offering their customers a discount on their next order in exchange for sharing their unboxing experience on Instagram. Compared with the valuable exposure they receive from this strategy, the incentive is a minor business cost.

Moreover, using a QR code to direct customers to their website is a clever strategy to remove friction from the repurchasing experience and encourage impulse buys. (Check out our blog on the future of unboxing to find out more on how QR codes are shaping the unboxing experience).

4. Encourage packaging reuse

Packaging doesn’t have to just be packaging. As both consumers and brands alike embrace the idea of a circular economy and eco-friendly practices, there are numerous ways for packaging materials to be pressed into service for further branding opportunities.

Glossier has done a stellar job of building a highly engaged community of beauty lovers who are eager to share their experiences with the brand. They’ve taken advantage of this by curating user-generated content that reinforces how their unboxing experience lives on the lives of their customers – priming their audience to share their own after-the-fact unboxings:

instagram post displaying glossier’s bubble wrap ziplock bag
Glossier’s bubble wrap ziplock bags are a common feature on their Instagram feed.
instagram post showing a repurposed glossier bottle
Glossier is channeling green vibes by showing how bottles can be repurposed in fun ways.

Showcasing how customers can breathe new life into their Glossier packaging increases of odds of them holding onto collateral that reinforces brand messaging. Ensuring that your brand stays top of mind frees up opportunities for more novel and interesting unboxing content.

Interested in adding to your unboxing experience? Whiplash can help 

Creating an elaborate unboxing experience can be a big challenge, especially if you’re a rapidly growing business. You want your order volumes to scale, but not at the cost of losing a post-purchase experience that makes your brand unique. 

By partnering with an experienced ecommerce provider like Whiplash, you can scale your business effectively while still retaining full creative control over your unboxing experience. 

Whiplash offers a full suite of custom fulfillment solutions including kitting and subassembly, ensuring that every order is fulfilled with the same care and attention your customers are used to. Contact us today to find out how we can help you build an unboxing experience with maximum shareability.

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