The Psychology of Unboxing
Last year alone, six-and-a-half years worth of unboxing videos were uploaded to YouTube. These videos show consumers opening packages and removing their contents. The concept sounds simplistic, but consumers find them mesmerizing. Why is that, and what should retailers know about unboxing?
From the Consumer's Perspective
In a post on Etsy's blog, Susan Willis, PhD, says, "The anticipation we associate with the gift-wrapped present is for the unknown object. In anticipating a plastic-wrapped commodity, we imagine the experience of its use since its identity is already revealed."
Consumers enjoy unwrapping packages from retailers because it feels like a gift. The boxes that resemble giftwrap provide a gift-like experience.
In my experience, packaging alone isn't a make-or-break component of the online shopping experience for consumers. It presents a huge opportunity, however. Packaging reflects the aesthetic of the retailer, and thus the shopper. If an item is packaged in something beyond a plastic bag or plain brown box, it feels more personal. The customer identifies with the order if it looks like it already belongs to them — that's a fringe benefit for brands!
Be it fancy tissue paper, branded ribbon or personal notes, the extra touch feels special. Packaging also helps to justify purchasing the product if it's seen as a high-end experience. For example, Australian retailer Wheels and Dollbaby has a cardigan that retails for $200 (USD). While certainly a luxury item, the sweater comes packaged in a small armoire box, complete with patterned tissue paper, branded stickers and a signed postcard from the designer. The cardigan feels special beyond the price tag and helps customers to justify the expense. Unboxing and the purchase process has become an experience to be documented.
From the Retailer's Perspective
According to a UPS survey last year, nearly 40 percent of consumers would share a picture of an online order via social media if it came in a unique, branded or gift-like box. In addition, 52 percent of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from an online retailer that delivers orders in premium packaging. With individual videos generating thousands of views, the numbers speak for themselves. The pressure is on retailers to create video-worthy packages.
Unboxing videos are another component of word-of-mouth marketing and a great way to increase brand awareness and showcase products. Customers want to create and share these videos, and consumers want to watch. Here are three reasons why retailers should make their products and packages "unboxing video-ready":
- The unboxing video trend is an extension of "show and tell" from our childhood. The container gives the first impression of its contents. A beautiful or unique package can build excitement for the items inside, and a gift box establishes the feeling of anticipation we experience when we're about to open a present.
- Unboxing builds "customer experience" — but not in the traditional sense. Consumers want an experience from online retailers similar to one they're getting from brick-and-mortar retailers. Brands cannot create a great customer experience online with the same tools they use in-store — e.g., displays, sales associates, music, lighting, etc. Instead, packaging is an excellent substitute for some of those other pieces.
- Unboxing videos drive customer loyalty. If a customer is willing to go on camera and then broadcast it to the world via YouTube, they see the brand as an extension of their online and offline persona. Retailers should create video-worthy boxes that encourage people to share their experience. After all, retaining customers and turning them into evangelists is more cost effective than acquiring new ones.
The online retailer's job used to end after delivery. Thanks to social media, that's no longer the case. The popularity of unboxing videos underlines the significance of packaging in e-commerce delivery. By implementing premium packaging, be it personalized, branded or gift-like, retailers can improve their chances of being featured in customers' unboxing videos and of enhancing the customer experience.
Maria Haggerty is CEO and one of the original founders of Dotcom Distribution, a premier provider of B2C and B2B fulfillment and distribution services. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration from University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business with a concentration in Accounting. Maria plays an integral role in developing and defining all aspects of the business, including sales and marketing, operations, finance and IT. As CEO, she is responsible for providing strategic leadership, establishing long range goals, and developing strategies for the senior leadership team. Maria has developed the systemic and procedural infrastructure necessary to provide timely and accurate analysis of budgets, financial reports and financial trends in order to assist the Board, senior executives and clients in performing their responsibilities while achieving favorable results. She works closely with the leadership team to enhance, develop, and enforce procedures that will improve the overall operation and effectiveness of the corporation. During her tenure at the Dotcom, Maria has developed an environment of continual improvement by supporting the Senior Leadership Team and their department managers on continuous process, space labor, automation, and financial best practices. Prior to founding Dotcom, Maria was a CPA at Arthur Andersen and was later the CFO of GoodTimes Home Video where she helped grow the company’s distribution business. When Maria is not in the office, she enjoys traveling around the world and practicing her photography skills.