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Why E-Commerce Packaging Is More Important Than You Think

December 20, 2023

E-commerce packaging is more important to your future than you think. I would say that 1% of marketers are taking advantage of everything a great unboxing can offer.

Many brands are starting to understand what options are available for e-commerce packaging, but few understand why unboxing is so important. In this post, we will talk about unboxing, why it matters, and how it can help retain and attract new customers.

With more products being sold online each year, e-commerce packaging is now central part of your customer experience. Most brands do not realize this -- or do realize it, but have failed to execute.

This is how most brands are shipping their products to customers.

Why do brands ship their products in such a careless way, compared to every other area of their business which strives for excellence?

Because it's easier. But that alone doesn't make it a good business decision. It can be hard work to perfect your e-commerce packaging, especially as your company grows larger and larger.

Be very careful to quickly justify any reason for not focusing on your unboxing experience. If you do, you are making a conscious decision to give your customers a worse customer experience than a (growing) number of your competitors. And when that begins to damage your brand equity, you have only yourself (and your team) to blame.

“... you are making a conscious decision to give your customers a worse customer experience than a (growing) number of your competitors.”

Imagine two packages arrive at your doorstep

For a moment, let's step away from theory and go to a real life example. Let's see how you would respond as a consumer.

You come home from work and two packages are sitting on your doorstep: one from Company A and one from Company B.

Company A arrives in a beautiful box. The colors are well thought out and resemble the same brand image as their social media profiles and website. Furthermore, you open the box and everything is neatly packed and organized. There is a small post card included greeting you as a customer, as well as inviting you to connect with them through social media.

Company B, on the other hand, ships in a blank corrugated box. The box is over-sized, contains way too many packaging peanuts, and your packing slip is folded carelessly.

Would you agree that equity skyrockets for Company A and brand equity nose dives for Companies B?

I think you'd say "yes" if you are being unbiased.

"Of course, it's better to be Company A, but does it really matter?"

This is where most brands are right now in their thought process. They "get it" but they aren't doing anything.

"Sure, I'd rather be Company A, but does it really matter and is it worth the effort to become like Company A?"

If building brand equity is important, yes. It really matters.

Because Company A makes B look really bad. Years ago, everyone was shipping boxes like Company B, and there was no barometer for comparison. Today is much different, as some brands (not many but some) have caught on. The standard for how any relevant brand ships their e-commerce products is changing quickly.

It's time that marketers wake up and realize that e-commerce packaging is not merely another component to procure. Rather, it's as central to your customer experience as your social media, website and customer service.

If you still need more convincing, let's talk about how unboxing can help with retaining customers and attracting new customers. I know that will get your attention.

How to retain customers via unboxing

There are a number of ways that a strong unboxing experience can help retain customers.

1. Stay relevant (and avoid looking like a dinosaur).  

How do you feel when a brand has an outdated website? Even if the company has a strong reputation and great products, you wonder whether or not they've lost their competitive edge -- whether they are in tune with what it takes to serve customers today.

The same thing is starting to happen to brands that neglect their unboxing. Customers will wonder why so many other brands have spent time creating a delightful unboxing experience and others don't seem to care. Our advice? Get started now before everyone else does it. Most brands still have not executed an unboxing with excellence. You can lead or you can play catch up -- that's your choice .

2. Share exciting news with customers.

When a customer opens your e-commerce packaging, you have something that every marketer dreams of: Captured attention.

Today, it's really hard to get your customers attention. They skip your TV ads with DVR, they don't open your emails, and ignore your billboards. Yet -- if done properly -- you have the golden opportunity to share exciting news with your customers right when they open your packaging. News that will make them love you more and talk about you among their friends.

Are you opening a new store? Do you have a new product launching that they can be the first to learn about? Are you launching an exclusive line at a well-known retailer?

Captured attention is something so valuable, yet most will neglect it -- and most don't even realize they are neglecting it. It's hard to quantify the dollars left on the table by neglecting captured attention.

3. Get existing customers to follow & engage with your social media.

Going back to the topic of "captured attention", consider including a call-to-action to prompt customers to follow your social media sites or participate with one of your hashtags (which will drive them to your social media profiles).

You spent the time and effort to sell this customer one great product, now get them to follow you so you can sell them great products for a lifetime. Whether you like social media sites or not -- and even if you hate social media with all your heart -- your customers are using these sites every day and you need to be there.

A word to larger companies with an existing customer base: you have a tremendous advantage over startups who want your customers. You need to begin leveraging your existing customer base who is already buying from you and use unboxing to drive them to your social media profiles. Then, if you are  great with social media, you will have a revived and booming business.

How to attract new customers via unboxing

You may wonder whether you can really attract new customers with unboxing. If so, you can trust in the fact that each of the following methods are working as we speak.

1. Viral sharing of photos of the packaging. When your e-commerce packaging is exceptional, something really amazing starts to happen: some percentage of customers will take photos of your packaging and share it on Twitter or Instagram.  

Some will even record videos on YouTube. This not only draws attention to your company, but sets a great first impression that your company has high standards and provides a quality experience for customers.

2. Free doorstep marketing. If you live in an apartment building or dorm, you will see packages from different brands all over the place. Simply put, when the packaging catches your eye, you look and become aware of that brand name. Over thousands of packages, you can begin creating some brand awareness with zero additional effort.

3. Existing customers can attract new customers via social media. In point 3 of the "retain" section above, we talked about the value of getting existing customers to follow your social media. Once your existing customers start following you, they will share your posts and use your hashtags. Then, their followers -- new potential customers for you -- will become aware of your brand. The upside here is endless and is yours for the taking.


I hope we've made a compelling case to add unboxing to your list for 2016. There are more strategies that we did not discuss, but this hopefully illustrates one thing:

Unboxing really matters.

Our goal at Contempo is to bring as much value as possible to anyone selling a product. Even if you don't buy your custom packaging or e-commerce packaging from us directly, we still hope this opens your mind so that you stop neglecting your e-commerce packaging.

In the end, you'll remember us in a positive light.

Contempo Team