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For ecommerce businesses, the shipped package represents the most direct touch point and connection with the customer, it also happens to be one of the most under-utilized marketing opportunities for merchants. When was the last time you really thought about your packaging and unboxing experience? For many online retailers, the answer is usually never. Packaging in ecommerce came out of necessity for protecting the most important thing, the product that the customer ordered. However, as ecommerce evolves and as consumer habits shift, delivering a complete brand experience extends beyond the product itself and transcends into the whole experience. In this post, you’re going to learn exactly how important a branded unboxing experience is along with all the tools and resources you need to deliver a remarkable experience to your customers that they’ll want to share with all their friends and family. Let’s find out how.
What is a Branded Packing Experience?
Simply put, a branded packaging experience is a thoughtful selection of packaging and shipping materials as well as the deliberate presentation of your products. Its purpose is to provide additional value for your customer as well as your business through the ability to create a memorable and sharable experience.
In ecommerce versus physical retail, merchants have less touch points to impress and wow customers with so it’s important to utilize every touch point you do have to create a branded experience that sets you apart from competitors as well as one that creates a memorable experience for your customers.
TrunkClub is one such company that has taken the customer unboxing experience seriously. To start, instead of choosing a standard box sealed with clear packaging tape, they opted for a custom printed box with a handle that resembles a trunk, closely matching and accentuating their brand. From the moment a trunk from TrunkClub arrives at your doorstep, you know you're in for a great experience and one you probably can't wait to crack open.
Inside the trunk, the contents are thoughtfully laid out to create a presentation and experience when opened. To further build a custom branded experience for their customers, all orders include a handwritten card from a personal stylist explaining the selection of products. It truly makes you feel part of something special and exclusive.
It’s clear that a lot of effort goes into the unboxing experience to make the customer feel excited and delighted, but let's look at why TrunkClub goes to such extraordinary lengths to create this experience for customers.
Why is a Branded Packing Experience Important?
A big part of building a long-term, sustainable brand is bringing customer back time and time again. It's been covered many times before here on the Shopify blog and elsewhere, but it’s almost always less expensive to get a current customer to purchase again than it is to always find new customers.
In a recent survey from Dotcom Distribution they found that 52 percent of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from an online merchant that delivers premium packaging.
In that same study, Dotcom also found that nearly 4 in 10 consumers would share an image of a delivery via social media if it came in a unique package.
"The value of premium packaging extends far beyond the customer experience into residual marketing effects. The experience goes beyond the online order to when the customer actually opens the beautifully wrapped package and shares that experience across social networks. That act of online and social recommendations drives loyalty from your customers and promotes brand awareness." - Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution
Fundamentally, people like sharing great experiences. Going back to our TrunkClub example, if you do a search for "TrunkClub Unboxing” on Google, you’ll find thousands of blog posts, images and videos. Each one of those pieces of content were created by a customer, further helping TrunkClub get their name out there to more people, along with valuable back links to help improve their SEO.
As an example, take a look at this TrunkClub unboxing video. Just one of many that has nearly 50,000 views on YouTube.
What Goes into a Custom Branded Packaging Experience?
There can be many elements of a well-designed branded packaging and unboxing experience. You don’t have to include every single one, however, looking at each element can help you decide which ones deliver the best experience and deliver the most value for your customers. Strategically choosing just a few of these items below can go a long way in creating a better and more memorable experience for your customers.
Let’s take a look at some elements you may want to consider:
Box - The biggest element to consider is the main shipping box. Traditionally, white and brown corrugated packaging options ruled the world as they are cheap, sturdy and get the job done. The shipping box represent the biggest opportunity to begin creating that wow experience, but can also come at a high price.
Tissue Paper - Wrapping your products in tissue paper adds an extra level of mystery and excitement for the unboxing experience. Some options to consider here are using custom printed tissue paper or coloured tissue paper.
Filler - Traditional filler types included styrofoam packing peanuts, foam inserts, air pillows or bubble wrap. Although popping bubble wrap is considered a long cherished pastime of every single person on the planet, it’s not visually appealing and doesn’t do much for your brand. Other forms of packing filler to consider include crinkle paper (coloured), or excelsior.
Sticker - Sticker can be used in several ways. If you use tissue paper, a branded sticker can be used to seal the tissue paper together or it can also be used instead of custom (expensive) printing on your box as an option to brand it. Stickers are versatile and fairly inexpensive.
Promotional Material/Business Card - A business card doesn’t have to be a business card in the traditional sense of displaying your company information. Business cards represent a very inexpensive way of adding small branded promo pieces to your package. For example, you can add a card that gives the recipient a discount on their next order or, consider adding an additional one that they can give to their friend for some extra word of mouth marketing. Maybe you want to consider using the space for a note or instructions. The possibilities are endless and inexpensive.
Receipt - It’s pretty standard to include a receipt in your package, but there's a lot of room for improvement on how the receipt is presented to the customer in their package. Consider a high end restaurant and how the bill is presented to you there. At some of the best restaurants the receipt is delivered at the right time, usually presented to the diner in an elegant way or inside a closed folder. Consider how and where to present the receipt to your customers.
Custom Note - It may be difficult to scale, however, as a startup, a lot can be said for including a handwritten note to customers. It provides that personal touch that makes people aware that there are real people behind the brand.
Tape - Clear packaging tape right? These days you have some options of different coloured tape that can complement your custom packing and brand colours.
Gift - A small gift can be a great way to surprise and delight customers as well as increase the overall experience. Ryan French, founder of GameKlipadded Smarties and Rocket candies to every order. If you search Google for "GameKlip Smarties” you get close to 1,000 results of people talking about their experience. Based on your average order size and margins what small little gifts you can add to enhance the experience of your branded unboxing experience.
Sample - Based on customer profile you may also want to consider including a sample that is likely to cross-sell the customer by introducing them to new products.
A major determent to a custom branded packaging experience can be the cost associated with it. These costs come in the form of both time and price. You’ll need to decide based on your average order size and profit margins what you can and cannot afford along with which options present the greatest value to your business and most importantly, your customers.
Custom boxes tend to be the most expensive costs associated with creating a custom branded unboxing experience. To have your own custom printed boxes you can be looking at a minimum order of 500+ and can cost $5-$25 per box.
Being creative can easily help you save costs and achieve similar results. Consider pre-designed coloured boxes from places like Uline. These boxes come with much lower minimum orders and prices, at little as 50 boxes at $2.50 per box.
Another option is to search AliExpress where very similar boxes coloured boxes can be purchased with a minimum order of 50 units for as little as .39 cents 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.
Creating a memorable experience that leaves your customers delighted can help build your brand and let it be the competitive edge your business needs to not only get repeat business, but also to attract new customers. Andy Dunn, the founder of Bonobos says it best:
“At the end of the day, you’re not building an e-commerce company, you’re building a brand that has e-commerce 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 that compels them to come back and share their experience.