Why Retail Store Owners Need to Be Thinking About Unboxing (+ 5 Tips to Do It Well)


Anticipation is a big part of the shopping experience.

Whether you go into a store knowing what you're looking for or are just browsing, the reward of finding and buying the perfect product keeps us coming back.

But since the coronavirus outbreak, 43% of US consumers say they plan to do more shopping online. Even if your store is operating at partial or full capacity right now, the reality remains: fewer consumers are shopping in-store.   

"Since the coronavirus outbreak, 43% of US consumers say they plan to do more shopping online." 

Retail store owners need to find creative ways to make up for some of that lost in-store experience. 

This is where unboxing comes into play.

What is an unboxing experience?

"Unboxing experience" refers to the use of creative, experiential packaging to create a memorable experience for customers when they open products that you've shipped to them (or wrapped up for curbside pickup!). 

A unique unboxing experience can replicate the anticipation and reward that customers are currently missing out on. Think of it as a form of experiential retail, except instead of your storefront, you're delivering those experiences via COVID-friendly options like buy online, pickup in-store or local pickup and delivery.

Still not sure if investing in unboxing experiences is worth it? 

Consider these benefits.

What are the benefits of unboxing experiences?

Creating an unboxing experience allows retailers to accomplish several things.

1. Reinforces your brand

Without a doubt, opening any retail location takes incredible planning and execution. A storefront is the physical representation of your brand. But so is your packaging. The good news is you can offer experiential retail through unboxing without breaking the bank

Take Milk Bar as an example. A dessert shop turned internet sensation for its off-the-wall confections, Milk Bar has physical locations on the east and west coast that have become tourist destinations.

Open for delivery-only right now, it’s gotten creative with its “dessert delivery” packages. They’ve created a doorstep unboxing experience that nearly mimics the excitement of that in-store purchase. You’re guaranteed to start salivating when you see their pink logo on the side of the box!

When creating a unique unboxing experience, you can take certain creative liberties. For example, try new taglines, logo iterations, and brand elements you may not have tried before. Your packaging can be an extension of your storefront. This is an incredible asset for retail locations when remote transactions are commonplace.

2. Allows you to tell your brand story in a non-salesy way

When you create a meaningful unboxing experience, you communicate your value proposition in a tangible way. You can reinforce what makes your products special and different during the unboxing.

Coco & Breezy, a sister-owned eyewear brand, is giving off big brand vibes. Its sleek glasses boxes are subtle but powerful sales tools.

Packaging can be a great way to do this type of storytelling without an in-your-face sales pitch.

Include a postcard or attention-grabbing item that helps tell your company history, your brand story, or your core values. This creates a visual interaction with your brand on the customer’s terms as they’re unboxing your product.

3. Makes your customers feel valued

Product packaging can look a lot of different ways, but at the end of the day, it temporarily houses goods and is going to get thrown away or recycled. So anything beyond a standard mailer or box is for an enriched unboxing experience. This communicates value.

The proof is in both the product and the packaging. The delivery of goods is the last step of a transaction, and in a remote shopping experience, this counts for a lot.

Paper Twist, a paper store with a single storefront in North Carolina, gets it. Wrapping subscription boxes for pickup makes your customers feel like it’s Christmas morning.

Being able to show you appreciate your customers through the way you present your products is a key ingredient in today’s market. It’s a value-add, and it goes a long way in encouraging repeat business.

4. Creates curiosity in your other products by cross-selling

In a time when in-store shopping and browsing may be limited, a lot of store owners are struggling to spark interest in other products. It’s not as easy when product displays can’t be meticulously arranged and storefronts are no longer an intrinsic selling tool.

This is where product packaging can be a key ingredient in cross-selling.

Take Lush Cosmetics. It introduced its “handcare kits” during the pandemic to combine its soaps and other products into a single box with a purpose. This exposes customers to products they've never seen before and creates a curiosity in what other kits and timely products Lush has to offer. 

This is all accomplished through market relevancy and product presentation.

5. Fosters customer loyalty and ambassadorship

The way you make a customer feel is a huge part of the sale. But how can you measure that? 

Well, one good indicator of a positive buyer emotion is customer loyalty. Defined as faithfulness and commitment to a brand, customer loyalty drives retained business and repeat purchases.

A lot of consumers think it takes only five purchases for them to consider themselves a “loyal” customer. But well before the loyalty stage, you can make customers ambassadors via digital word of mouth with the help of social media.

The power of the influencer should not be underestimated. The way you present your goods can kindle a sense of pride in your customers that's worth boasting about and sharing.

Packaging is eye candy: it’s “Instagrammable,” it’s shareable, it’s influential.

How do I create a good unboxing experience?

With so many packaging options and elements it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Here’s a list of five tips to help guide you as you make decisions about what type of unboxing experience you want to create for your customers. There are a lot of options, but some things need to happen to make your unboxing experience successful.

1. Use your branding

This is a non-negotiable. What type of box, mailer, or bag doesn’t matter as much as showing that it’s yours!

Even if the only branding you have defined for your company is your main logo, that’s fine. It needs to be front and center. 

2. Focus on functionality and presentation

Never choose frill over function. When it comes to designing the unboxing experience, don’t lose sight of the fact that protecting your product on its way to the customer is the most critical. From there, ask these questions:

  • What do I want the customer to see first when they open the package?
  • Do I want the customer to have to untie/reveal/open a second interior package?
  • Are the products arranged in a way that makes sense and is orderly?
  • How can I jazz up the mundane/necessary elements, like fasteners and clips?

3. Use unique materials and choose sustainability

One way to differentiate your unboxing experience from others is by choosing unique materials. Unique can mean the material composition itself, but it can also mean unique in the way you’ve acquired it.

Get creative and think about sources within your community for packaging. In doing so, you’re reducing the impact of shipping from major suppliers.

When you can, always, always, always choose sustainability.

4. Add personalization

A touch of personalization is the cherry on top. Would you rather receive a package that has a handwritten note addressed to you or a standard printed order receipt form? Enough said.

5. Include samples, goodies and extras

A great time to give customers a little something extra is when their appreciation and impression of your products is at its height. This could be a postcard with a coupon code for their next purchase, a free sample, or a free goodie or piece of swag.

Investing in unboxing as an opportunity to drive revenue 

The impact of COVID-19 on retail stores across the US has been massive. Many store owners face a flurry of critical decisions about the path forward for their companies. Along with this comes the demand to adapt to a pick-up and delivery store model to stay in business.

It's worthwhile to invest in unboxing experiences when there are so many limitations on tailored in-store shopping experiences.

Product packaging is a powerful tool that can help businesses expand its brand story, make customers feel more valued, and encourage more product sales and loyalty.

Is your local pickup and delivery as efficient as it could be?

Learn how Shopify helps retail store owners like you adapt with the times with functionality like local pickup.

Learn more

Retail Unboxing FAQ

What should be included in unboxing?

  • The product itself, including any components or accessories.
  • Printed materials, such as user manuals, setup guides, or warranties.
  • Packaging and protective materials, such as foam inserts, bubble wrap, or cardboard dividers.
  • Promotional materials, such as stickers, discounts, or product samples.
  • Unique items, such as promotional figures, collectibles, or limited-edition items.

What is product unboxing?

Product unboxing is the process of unboxing a product to reveal its contents. It is typically done for products that are new or have been recently released. It involves removing the product packaging, inspecting the contents, and possibly taking photos or videos of the product for promotional purposes. It is often seen in the form of YouTube videos, where people unbox products such as new smartphones, video game consoles, or other tech gadgets.