What Does Your Ecommerce Unboxing Experience Say About Your Brand?

The rising demand for customised packaging experiences has disrupted the ecommerce market.

woman taking products out of paper packaging on a striped towel.jpg

Billerud has been in the paper and pulp business for over a century, and we have seen consumer packaging evolve from a practical solution to a consumer experience, especially in the last 20 years. This shift can be attributed to three trends: 

  1. The evolution of ecommerce
  2. YouTube
  3. Social media influencers

The latter two — self-made videos and channels like Instagram, Facebook and others have changed “unboxing” from a mundane step to a sought-after consumer experience. 

We used Google Trends to analyze the word “unboxing” and found that in 2004, it was barely a blip on internet users’ radar. So few people searched for unboxing that it barely registered in Google’s database. By 2008, unboxing saw an uptick in popularity and, as you can see from the chart below, unboxing searches continue to be popular, especially every December.    


(On Google’s scale of zero to 100, a zero signifies no interest, while a 100 signifies peak interest.) 

The ecommerce unboxing experience matters to consumers, and it can benefit your brand by driving awareness and loyalty. 

Ecommerce’s influence on consumer packaging

Although ecommerce represents about 15% of total U.S. retail sales, according to Digital Commerce 360, it is growing steadily. 

U.S. ecommerce percent of total retail sales, according to Digital Commerce 360:


Consumers are becoming more comfortable with online shopping and accepting not being able to touch, feel and try products before a purchase. 

Manufacturers and retailers have discovered the power of packaging as a marketing tool. In traditional retail, it is the brand’s first chance to make a tangible impact on the customer. In online purchases, first impressions happen long before the customer opens their packages and handles their products for the first time. 

Engine Commerce shared results of a study by Yale Medical College that looked at the science behind ecommerce and gift-like packaging. They found a correlation between gift-like packaging and a surge of neurochemicals in the brain that are associated with excitement and brand trust. 

Influencers and social media marketers have capitalized on the power of first impressions. 

YouTube and social media influence on unboxing

To understand the power of social media over commerce, look at YouTube and Instagram. These powerhouse channels have changed the way consumers shop for products and services.

  • In 2015, 57% of surveyed consumers said they use YouTube to find information before buying a product (Adwords). In 2016, 68% of consumers in a similar survey said the same thing (Think With Google).
  • In another study, 82% of consumers who receive a recommendation from an influencer say they are highly likely to follow the recommendation (Experticity).
  • According to Instagram’s business page, 80% of their user accounts follow at least one business on the channel. 
  • 83% of surveyed users say Instagram helps them discover new purchases, and 80% say posts on the social media channel help them make purchase decisions (Facebook for Business).  

At Billerud, we have seen an increased interest among our customers for help with the unboxing experience. As an example, we designed customized packaging for KURU, a 100% ecommerce shoe company. 

Unboxing case study: KURU 

The innovative shoe manufacturer KURU came to Billerud for a packaging solution that matched the inventiveness of their products. KURU is 100% ecommerce, meaning their products are only available online, so the customer’s unboxing experience is uniquely important.

KURU’s challenge to Billerud:

  • Reduce box dimensions: Their shipping partner charges by dimensions, rather than weight (their shoes are some of the most lightweight and comfortable shoes on the market). 
  • Reduce materials in the supply chain: KURU shoes, like many shoes, tend to “swim” in their shipping boxes, which is an inefficient way to ship or store products.
  • Create an unboxing experience: Because customers cannot touch, feel and try on shoes at a store, KURU wanted their customers’ unboxing to be an enjoyable experience.  

Make returns easier for the customer: Making returns easy and intuitive through packaging would improve the overall customer experience and build brand loyalty.

kuru footwear.png

“KURU wanted customers to have that ‘self-gifting’ experience when they open their box for the first time,” said Tim Stone, Manager of the Packaging Design & Engineering team in Portland at Billerud. “When customers order their shoes online, they don’t get that personal experience like they do when they’re in the shoe department⁠—trying them on. We wanted them to have a moment of reveal when they open the box for the first time.”

Tim Stone said even though the experiential KURU box added materials to the box itself, it reduced materials throughout the supply chain. The added protection in the box means less materials dedicated to insulating the packages in transit, resulting in a net reduction in materials throughout the supply chain.

Why unboxing matters

Our own clients often ask us about unboxing and one of the common comments/questions we hear goes something like, “Does it really matter what we ship our packages in? Shouldn’t our customers care more about the quality of our products, and not the quality of the boxes they come in?”

To these questions, we explain the following:


3 ways to incorporate an unboxing experience for your brand

Putting unboxing theory into practice for your brand depends on many things, like where in the world you ship, government regulations and requirements, the size of your products, the nature of your business and beyond. Here are several considerations, along with examples from brands who have successfully implemented these strategies:

  1. Reusable packaging: Could the packaging be presented as a “bonus gift” and serve a second purpose? Example: HangerPak
  2. The quality of your packaging should match the quality of your product: Example: Google Pixel 4 (which not-so-coincidentally resembles Apple’s packaging)
  3. The words and images on your packaging should communicate your company’s values and culture: Example: Dollar Shave Club

Learn more about key packaging trends

If you want to learn more about unboxing trends, sustainability in packaging and the latest trends and innovations in packaging, we would encourage you to learn more about packaging. 

Download our eBook, “Key Packaging Trends,” to learn more about trends in sustainability, ecommerce and “purposeful packaging,” which is a response to consumer demand to eliminate single-use packaging.

Webinar - Inbound Packaging: The Hero of Your Business

With more emphasis on end users, more touch points and longer freight distances, packaging is more important than ever. Find out how inbound packaging drives value.

Any questions, ideas or something you'd like to tell us? Don't hesitate to contact us. 

Get in touch