Does the unboxing experience REALLY matter?
Updated: May 19
I have a confession to make.
For all that we’ve talked about the importance of unboxing on this blog (and in upcoming episodes) I don’t really care whether or not I get an unboxing experience when I shop online.
Considering that Sippin’ in Shippin’ is all about enhancing the customer experience, that statement is probably a bit counterintuitive.
But bear with me; there is method in this madness.
It’s safe to say that unboxings what been somewhat evangelized by industry commentators. There’s article after article promising that a memorable unboxing experience is the key to becoming a brand icon. As consumers, we’ve all been pulled into a perfectly curated, step-by-step unveiling of a subscription box or the latest iPhone (especially when we should be working).
Yet so long as I receive my order on time and in one piece, I’m not going to be heartbroken if the experience isn’t accompanied by a nice bow and a burst of confetti. And I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of consumers would say the same.
This begs the question: In an age where fast shipping and instant gratification are what consumers value most, does the unboxing experience REALLY matter?
The answer appears to be no. But here’s the thing; just because I don’t demand unboxing experiences doesn’t mean I don’t remember the brands who do deliver (no pun intended).
And that, ladies and gentleman, is what makes unboxings so powerful. It’s a relative novelty that most consumers don’t expect in the age of Amazonized retail (click the link for the full lowdown).
So, if you’re an emerging brand, should you stick to the brown cardboard box, or pull out all the stops to give customers a memorable experience?
This is exactly what we're going to answer today.
Finding your value proposition
There’s a popular saying when it comes to the likes of Amazon. You don’t go there to shop; you go there to buy.
But if you’re an independent entrepreneur or retailer, you’re going to have a hard time if consumers don’t see you as a place to shop.
Why? Because the majority of brands aren’t behemoths that are the first port of call for millions of consumers. So, if you can’t differentiate your brand through carefully crafted touchpoints that emphasize exploration and discovery, it’s going to be an uphill battle to forge an emotional connection with your customers.
Because for the mere mortals of the retail world, this is what it takes to build lasting brand loyalty. In a marketplace that abounds with copycat products and wholesale offerings, few products provide the kind of allure that results in a cult following. Unless that product is bound up in a bigger value proposition, it’s difficult to entice consumers who are primed and ready to leapfrog to a competitor.
But does that value proposition have to involve an unboxing experience?
That (sometimes literally) is the million-dollar question.
Are unboxings right for your brand?
As compelling as an unboxing can be, it isn’t a great fit for every up-and-coming brand. To deliver an unboxing experience that resonates with consumers, you need more than just some nice packaging and a thank-you note.
If a customer is buying some filters for their Brita jug, there’s not a whole lot you can do as a retailer to make this purchase exciting. Trying to dress this up with a fancy box is likely to confuse your customer as much as it delights them.
But compare this to a specialty foods retailer that offers gift baskets. In this case, an unboxing compliments the occasion of the purchase and meets consumer expectations for a boutique, curated brand experience.
The takeaway here? Unless an unboxing is underpinned by a distinctive brand story and a product that customers have an emotional connection with, it’s probably not going to create a cohesive experience that drives them to engage further with your brand.
It’s also important to consider that if your unboxings are going to a grand audience of one, the cost involved with the endeavor is unlikely to be cost-effective. Remember those unboxing videos we mentioned? This is the key to elevating your experience from a post-purchase loyalty exercise into a powerful retention and acquisition strategy.
Content is king
Unboxing videos and photos have blown up on social media for a reason - and it’s not because of pretty packaging. It’s a concise, visual pitch of your brand values that can be consumed in bite-sized morsels without challenging our short attention spans.
But our attachment to branded content as a whole goes much deeper; it presents immersive touchpoints for your fans to rally around and share their love of your brand. Where so many entrepreneurs boast similar offerings, community engagement is what gives you a competitive edge - and it’s quality content that builds community.
Whether it’s product tutorials, fun monthly newsletters, or entertaining blogs, it’s these value-added extras that enhance the customer experience and create the emotional connection that drives repeat purchasing behavior.
As we conclude this blog, you're probably asking an entirely different question than the one we started out with: Are unboxing experiences the real loyalty builders, or is it authentic, engaging content?
Just like tequila and lime, it’s pretty much impossible to separate the two. Unboxings ARE a form of content creation, even if they don’t make it onto Instagram. It’s an exercise in tactile storytelling which leaves your customer with a positive impression during that all important post-purchase period.
If unboxings aren’t the best fit for your brand, think about ways that you can leave your customers a trail of digital breadcrumbs leading up to the moment of delivery. Quirky order confirmation emails, product guides, and invitations the join your community are all ways to build a rapport with your customer so that by the time the box arrives on their doorstep, they’re ready to commit - unboxing experience or no.
Stay tuned to hear more about this topic in upcoming episodes of our podcast. Grab that tequila and lime we mentioned and get ready for some more on-point insights to head your way.