Birthed from YouTube, the unboxing experience has gained traction in the packaging world, with videos of consumers sharing their unboxing experiences going more viral than the actual product inside. Since the phenomenon has taken off, companies have begun to look for more innovative ways to elevate their customer’s unboxing experience.
“The growth of social media has obviously given unboxing experiences their platform. Without it there wouldn’t be anywhere for anyone to share their individual experiences that everyone around the world could really listen to,” explains The Packaging Experts owner and managing director Paul Marsh.
“If companies want to increase their profile, specifically on social media, they must invest in the box as much as the product. Just like when we see a product selling for around £5 a unit, in a folding boxboard carton. But then see the same product, in a different box, selling for four times as much. This is because those companies at the higher end have got the branding, messaging and the whole packaging and unboxing experience right for the consumer.”
The big Apple experience
“I think specifically, in the last ten years, everyone has set Apple as a benchmark, referencing them and sharing how their unboxing experience makes them feel.”
Marsh would be correct in this observation. Just search ‘Apple unboxing’ on YouTube and you will unlock a treasure chest of videos with influencers sharing their experiences with subscribers. From front-opening iMac boxes to sensory-pleasing easy-peel iPhone screen films – the tech giant has clearly figured out the art of unboxing. But how has Apple got it so right? Apart from the fact that Apple is a household name, its minimalist style is iconic. Its crisp white packaging, paired with the black Apple logo and high-resolution product images, allows customers to view their purchase in 2D before even opening the package. This alone creates enough buzz for reviewers to promote their unboxing experience.
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So what other companies besides Apple create a great unboxing experience?
With its minimalist and iconic bold, black, italic logo taped across the seal of the plain cardboard box, US beauty brand Glossier’s unboxing experience encompasses every aspect of the brand’s values. Once unboxed, customers are greeted by a lithographic printed inside, dressed with the brand’s iconic punch of pink and ‘Skin First, Makeup Second, Smile Always’ slogan, along with the Glossier social media hashtag and handle. The products are encased in a reusable, pink, bubble wrap-style zip top pouch, with a product sample card included. Hidden under the pouch, customers will find a range of colourful stickers, including a sticker sheet and a die cut sticker. The UV gloss added to the individual product packaging highlights the brand’s dewy beauty aesthetic and the metallic silver pouch housing the Solution Exfoliating Skin Perfector adds a striking compliment to the millennial pink branding.
If customers order one of Glossier’s phase kits, the items will arrive in a white rigid box with a snap magnetic closure, with the top decorated with a pink ‘G’ logo and the inside lid decorated with a beauty editorial image. Just like the iconic pink bubble pouch, this box is functional, minimalist and reusable.
2) VIVE Wellness
Upon completing a short online consultation, customers are prescribed their very own monthly curated vitamin and supplement pack. VIVE describes itself as personalised nutrition made simple and say that the pack is designed to sit on your kitchen counter, making it easier for you to remember to take your daily dose.
Arriving in a pastel turquoise tube, garnished with the white VIVE logo and ‘made just for you’ slogan, customers will find each daily dose of their multi-coloured supplements individually packaged and addressed with a ‘Hi [inset name], your daily pack of goodness.’ Circular info cards, in keeping with the pastel aesthetic, are also included in the tube to teach customers about their prescribed pills.
3) Loot Crate
Geek and gaming-related merchandise subscription box service Loot Crate gifts subscribers monthly boxes filled with exclusive goodies tailored to a specific theme, such as the Wizarding World collection. For example, the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets box includes items such as a Mirror of Erised magnet, phoenix badge, Hogwarts or Marauders Map umbrella, and Hogwarts founder’s posters. A Hogwarts-inspired letter, explaining the crate contents, accompanies the loot and the interior of the box is covered with a design of the Chamber of Secrets.
However, the Lootcrate unboxing experience does not start there. Loot Crate’s app allows Looters to check out new crates, take a sneak peek at behind-the-scenes videos, and get a preview of new loot before you can even unbox it. Most recently, the company introduced Loot Lens to the app – an interactive channel and augmented reality (AR) camera app, which allows Looters to visit virtual worlds, via its virtual portal, to record and share virtual loot and their unboxing experiences.
4) M.M. LaFleur
US direct-to-consumer women’s apparel brand M.M. LaFleur aims to create a wardrobe solution for professional women. Customers can visit the company website and buy individual items separately or allow M.M. LaFleur’s dedicated team of stylists to assemble a curated bento box for them.
A M.M. LaFleur Bento Box comes as a roll end tuck front craft box, with a die cut handle at the top, which can be punched in, enabling the box to be held like a briefcase. The website URL has been added to the handle while, on the front, the large brand logo has been positioned on the left and white crop marks to the right indicate where the shipping label sits.
Just like a traditional food bento box, M.M. LaFleur’s comes with different compartments and layers – organised and well presented, just like the brand’s target market. The lid has a poem printed on the inside, which reads: “Crack the code. Take the stage. Rewrite the rules. Lay down the law. Defy the odds. Think on the spot. Break the ice. Cut to the chase. Turn on a dime. Go out on a limb. Knock their socks off. What will you do in your MM? #inmyMM”
After that, a corrugated bento tray is the first layer. In the tray, customers will find a collection of welcome literature, which personally addresses the customer by name, including a dossier booklet comprising of personal stories from professional women. Accessories such as belts can be found inside small cotton drawstring bags, and jewellery in small craft boxes – all reusable and practical. A returns shipping bag can also be found in the tray – pre-labelled for quick efficiency.
The final layer is where the heart of the curated wardrobe lives. Lifting up the top layer, customers will find their clothes packaged in a reusable, silky, semi-transparent sliding zip top bag, which is adorned with ‘M.M. LaFleur New York’ on the front and a large double M logo on the back. After removing the clothes from the bag, you will see they are tied together with a shimmery grey ribbon with thin sheets of tissue paper between each item. Each clothing item has a tag, which explains details on returns, item care and styling advice.
Finally, once the box has been explored, customers can find a small hidden message on the bottom front edge, which says: “Why are you reading this? You must be extremely detail-oriented. We’ve always liked that about you” – just another added sprinkle, of personal connection, from an intentional brand that embodies attention to detail.
So where will the unboxing phenomenon go in the next five to ten years?
There are a number of companies producing new and inventive packaging materials that could potentially heighten the unboxing experience. Mirri, a metallic paper and board division of Celloglass, are working on a range of e-commerce packaging alongside The Packaging Experts. The new venture is something Marsh says has not been done before and will take e-commerce retail branding to a whole other level. And what trends can we anticipate to rise?
“It very much depends on the market that it is suited to,” explains Marsh. “But gone are the days of direct mail. Technology advancements, such as AR and artificial intelligence are going to start to work their way further and further into packaging and point of sale – ultimately enhancing the unboxing experience.
“Personalisation will continue to further the unboxing experience. Whether it’s a box you receive with your name on it, from a fashion retailer, or a specific menu printed to you dietary requirements, from a food subscription service. With personalisation, there is no limit.”
The unboxing experience has shown that it’s not just the product inside which matters. Product placement, how the box opens and closes, what the reviewer see first upon opening, the feel, weight distribution, construction, branding and the ‘bells and whistles’, such as spot UV and foiling, are all the hidden qualities that goes into creating a great unboxing experience. But what is most certain, wherever a company decides to take its unboxing experience, there is definitely a lot to unpack – or should I say unbox?