Winning customer loyalty at ‘the last mile’ comes down to three things; price, speed and convenience, right? Well, not entirely.

There’s a frequently undervalued and underestimated piece of the shipping process that offers substantial opportunities to deepen their buying experience – packaging.

Often packaging represents the first physical contact a shopper has with your brand and as such, is a chance to reinforce your brand identity, as well as impress, surprise and delight.

Packaging was used to be a means to an end. Today, it is considered a crucial touchpoint through which to tell your brand story, add true marketing value and contribute to the holistic shopping experience. A Dotcom distribution study found 40% of online shoppers say the use of branded or gift-like packaging affects their perception of the retailer that shipped the item.

So let’s take a look at some global and local packaging best-practice, to explore what creating an outstanding unboxing experience really means, and how to make it work for your online store.


Representing your brand values

Branding your boxes, bags, wrapping paper, and even shipping tape ensures when your parcel arrives, your logo is front and centre stage; this is a no-brainer. But your brand goes way deeper than a logo, and packaging is a prime real estate to reflect who you are, in how you wrap.

Take US apparel store Cotopaxi, their brand values are based on ethical practices, innovation and simplicity. So their packaging reflects all these values; continuing the story from the website through to product.

Or how about Melbourne-based cosmetic brand Aesop? They proudly reflect their plant-based, laboratory-made philosophy through natural cloths and recycled cardboard packaging, that truly add value to the overall shopping experience.

What’s your brand story? Packaging is a way to make this story tangible. Ensuring your product arrives in a vessel that is in perfect alignment with your values, will reinforce the authenticity of your brand and start to build the powerful connections that lead to customer advocacy.


Building a connection

As an online retailer, getting face time with your customer isn’t easy, but adding that personal touch when you package an order, can be the next best thing.

If your orders are manageable and you have a way with words, nothing says ‘I value you’ like a handwritten note.

Online herbal tea retailer Attic Teas does this well. They include a personal note which refers to a topical or relevant event (think something as simple as the weather), in a writing style that reflects the personality of their brand.

If handwritten notes start to get out of…hand, a pre-printed card thanking the shopper and perhaps providing some useful tips on using their new purchase is sure to give them a warm fuzzy feeling. Stuck with what to say? Everlane does it well, including a strong call to action.


Make it shareable  

Dotcom Distribution also found that 39% of online shoppers share a product image or a video on social media. So making your packaging and unboxing experience super-photogenic provides an opportunity for the brand to reach across social networks.

Running an Instagram comp? Advertise it on your packaging. Want to see shots of customers using your product? Use the wrapper to show them where to post pics online. Do you have charity affiliations? Share them on a branded insert.

Kids and baby apparel retailer Mini Mioche advertise their monthly Instagram competition details and hashtag on the reverse of their packaging, encouraging shopper’s to get involved, and in turn transforming the longevity and value of what was once a throw-away wrapper.

But even if you’re not running a competition right now, don’t let your packaging go to waste. Leaving your social handle and a hashtag like Glossier, ensure the retailer-customer bond keeps growing.

With an estimated 2.65 million videos on Youtube devoted to ‘unboxing iPhone 6’, Apple must be doing something right. That ‘something’ is a dedicated unboxing room, where designers experiment to find that perfect balance between functionality and emotion.

If turning your office into an unboxing room seems a little OTT, you can find more extraordinary (but manageable) unboxing examples to get the creative juices flowing, here.


Custom made packaging

Designing a box specifically for the needs of your product elevates its value in the eyes of the customer.

We see custom boxes and packaging created for subscription (or monthly mailer) services for every need and want, from Vegan to pet supplies. And meal kit subscription service, HelloFresh do this particularly well. After listening to customer feedback on waste, they now ensure every element of their packaging is designed for a purpose and 100% recyclable.    

Eyewear brand Warby Parker provide duo-delight when it comes to surprise and excitement in their last mile experience, providing a custom-made ‘Home try-on’ box, complete with 5 styles of the shopper’s choosing to try on at home, before deciding which to keep.

This online retailer even went as far as to record new customers opening the box; taking notes on their experience to make improvements based on real reactions and feedback. With ‘try before you buy’ the savvy e-tailer’s secret weapon to stay ahead of the curve in 2018, Warby Parker have really nailed their customer experience here, on a number of levels.

In summary; don’t underestimate the power of the parcel as a vehicle to carry your brand story straight into the arms of your eagerly awaiting customer. Make every part of the unboxing experience surprising, exciting and photogenic, because as we’ve seen, when it comes to packaging, it’s what’s on the outside (as well as the inside) that counts.


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