For ecommerce businesses, the shipped package represents the most direct touch point and connection with a customer. It also happens to be one of the most underused marketing opportunities.
Packaging came out of a need to protect products during the shipping process, but focusing solely on function means you might be overlooking the potential marketing impact of your packaging. Done well, a branded packaging and unboxing experience is a chance to deliver a functional product and create a memorable moment for your customers.
Table of Contents
- What is a branded packaging experience?
- Why a branded packaging experience matters
- Creating a custom packaging experience
- Resources for custom branded packaging
- Cost of a branded packaging experience
- Make your unboxing experience worth remembering
What is a branded packaging experience?
In total, a branded packaging experience is a thoughtful selection of shipping and packaging materials as well as how you’ve decided to present your shipped products. Its purpose is to provide additional value for your customer and your business by way of creating a positive first impression of your product—ideally, one that’s both memorable and shareable.
Online retailers have fewer touch points to deliver delight compared to physical retail. The advantage of the efficiency of online shopping can come at the cost of the tactile, hands-on experience with a product before making a purchase. That’s why it’s important to pay special attention to the touch points you do have available to create a memorable brand experience for customers and set yourself apart from competitors.
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Why a branded packaging experience matters
Building a long-term, sustainable brand means bringing customers back time and time again. Repeat customers will spend more with your business, and investing in retention and loyalty marketing can move you off of the acquisition treadmill where you’re always trying to find new customers.
A 2016 survey from Dotcom Distribution found 40% of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from an online merchant with premium packaging.
The same study also found that premium packaging makes the brand feel upscale, as well as builds anticipation for delivery.
Fundamentally, people like sharing great experiences they’ve had. Run a search for "unboxing” on Google and you’ll find countless blog posts, images, and videos. Many of those pieces of content were created by customers, further helping brands get their name out there to more people.
Creating a custom packaging experience
Many elements must work in tandem when creating a well-designed branded packaging and unboxing experience, but you don’t have to include every available option.
Rather, decide which potential improvements to your packaging deliver the best experience and most value for your customers. Strategically investing in a handful of these items can go a long way in creating an unboxing experience your customers won’t soon forget.
The most significant element to consider is the main shipping container. Depending on your product, this might be a box, bag, or poly mailer. White and brown corrugated packaging options once ruled as the sole option because they’re cheap, sturdy, and admittedly get the job done, but they may not create the first impression you're looking for.
While the actual package represents the most significant opportunity to create a “wow” experience, it can come at a comparatively high price.
2. Tissue paper
Wrapping your products in tissue paper adds an extra level of excitement by building another layer of anticipation into the unboxing experience. Custom-printed tissue or colored tissue paper are both solid options to consider.
Traditional filler types included styrofoam packing peanuts, foam inserts, air pillows, or bubble wrap. Although popping bubble wrap is a long-cherished pastime for some of us, it isn’t visually appealing and won’t provide a premium feel. Other forms of packing filler worth considering include crinkle paper (colored or brown) and excelsior.
Stickers are a useful option as they’re versatile and fairly inexpensive. If you use tissue paper, a branded sticker can also seal the paper together. Or, instead of custom printing on your box, try using stickers as a way to brand your packages on a budget.
You may also want to include a few extra stickers, paired with a short note, as a way to thank your customers for their purchase.
5. Promotional material or a business card
Business cards offer a cost-effective way of adding small promo pieces to your package. Remember, they don’t have to mimic the aesthetics of corporate business cards.
For example, Dollar Shave Club sends inserts in their packages, including a printed newsletter. Because of the nature of their product, this printed content serves as great bathroom reading material that deepens the brand’s relationship with customers.
You can also include a personal note or special instructions to help customers get more value out of your product—the possibilities are endless and relatively inexpensive.
6. Packing slip
It’s standard to include a receipt or packing slip in your package, but many businesses don’t use this as a branding or marketing opportunity.
At a high-end restaurant, for instance, the receipt is delivered at the right time, usually presented to the diner in an elegant way or inside a closed folder. Place the receipt and packing slip in the package at a point that makes sense, as it's not the first thing a customer necessarily wants to sees when they open the package.
When you print a packing slip on Shopify, you can customize its contents and design by adding or removing elements, like your logo or product images, using Liquid, a template language created by Shopify. You might also consider including a coupon code on your packing slip to encourage repeat purchases.
7. Custom note
Though handwritten notes may be tricky to scale, new businesses are fighting to earn every customer. Connecting with shoppers through a personal, genuine note or card can make all the difference—handwritten messages show customers you care, and that there are real people powering your brand.
Pick the clear packaging tape and keep moving, right? Not necessarily! These days, you have a variety of colorful tape options to complement your custom packing. You can also create branded tape a la Amazon for instant brand recognition.
9. Sample or gift
Based on the customer's current purchase or purchase history, you may also consider including a free sample of another product. Ideally, you'll choose something your shopper is likely to be interested in. For example, if they purchased shampoo, throw in a small sample of complementary conditioner. This tactic can help you cross-sell by introducing a customer to new products.
Resources for custom branded packaging
If you're looking for custom packaging material to create a great branded unboxing experience for your customers, take a look at our shortlist below of some great suppliers of various packaging supplies:
- Custom Boxes Now
- Any Box Today
- Box Geek
- Custom Boxes And Packaging
- Inke (Australia)
- InstaBox (Canada)
Cost of a branded packaging experience
A downside to a custom branded packaging experience can be the associated cost. These expenses include both time and price.
You’ll need to decide based on your average order size and profit margins what options are financially feasible, along with which present the greatest value to your business and customers.
Custom boxes and mailers tend to be the most expensive costs involved in creating a custom branded unboxing experience. To have your own custom printed boxes, you may be looking at a minimum order of 500+ and a cost of $5–$25 per box, while poly mailers will range from $0.25-$3 per printed mailer depending on your order size—but you can order as few as 10 at a time with some suppliers. On top of that, consider that boxes will add more total weight to your shipment than a poly mailer.
If your products don’t need the protection of a box, it can be worth opting for lighter packaging to save on the total cost.
Being creative can help you save on costs and achieve similar results. Consider pre-designed colored boxes from places like Uline. These boxes come with much lower minimum orders and prices, as little as 50 boxes at $2.50 per box.
Another option is to search AliExpress where very similar colored boxes can be purchased with a minimum order of 50 units for sometimes less than $0.39 per unit (depending on size) and free shipping to most countries.
If you wanted to further customize the experience you can consider adding printed stickers with your logo from a service like Sticker Giant or a similar service.
In almost every case, the greater your order size for the various packaging materials, the cheaper the cost. Strategically plan which items to use and place larger orders to bring costs down.
Make your unboxing experience worth remembering
Creating a memorable unboxing experience can be the competitive edge your business needs to not only generate repeat purchases but also attract new customers. Andy Dunn, the founder of Bonobos says it best:
“At the end of the day, you’re not building an ecommerce company, you’re building a brand that has ecommerce as its core distribution channel.”
Take the next few days to reassess your packaging. Consider how much you’re currently spending, your average order size and profit margins and assess what you can do to deliver a better experience to your customers.
More advice on shipping physical products:
- The Ultimate Guide to Shipping During a Seasonal Rush
- How Can I Offer Competitive Shipping Rates as a Small Shop?
- The Beginner's Guide to Ecommerce Shipping and Fulfillment