view all blogs

Thinking inside the box: how to create a memorable unboxing experience

Tactics for surprising customers in a positive way to increase loyalty and drive repeat business.


At Scribeless, we help brands pack more personality into customer and gifting experiences. We’re on a mission to rid the world of boring brown boxes, and have compiled this playbook to help you deliver more delight with every order. 

Our technology has helped hundreds of brands to nurture and grow relationships with customers, and as you're here, it sounds like you want to know how they're doing it!

We've got you covered. In this playbook, we've compiled everything we've learnt from thinking inside of the box. From tips and tricks to case studies, there should be enough to really help you create a memorable unboxing experience.

Unboxing Tips: Interactivity and Theatrics

As the old saying goes, you can’t change a first impression, and as such, the first thing your customer sees of your product will go a long way to forming their opinion of you and your brand.

What’s more, you can’t always guarantee your customer is the only person who is part of the unboxing experience. Unboxing and Review YouTube channels are quickly becoming an enormously important factor in how people form their opinions of brands. Over 90,000 people type ‘unboxing’ into YouTube every month, and there are nearly 40 unboxing videos with over 10 million views. With this many search results, it’s clear that eCommerce brands need to be thinking about their unboxing experiences.

unboxing videos search volume
Unboxing videos are incredibly popular

Making your experience more interactive is a great way to leave a lasting impression on your customers - and the people they might share that experience with. Here's some ideas and examples of how you can enhance the experience.

Add extras:

Probably the easiest way to surprise and delight your customers is by adding in things they weren’t expecting. Even the tiniest things can make a positive impression, because they weren’t expecting anything at all! 

Stickers and handwritten thank you notes are a great easy-win: small, cheap and unobtrusive. These ideas are pretty adaptable to any product, but there may be industry-specific extras which would be perfect additions to your unboxing experience. Function of Beauty have some great added extras which fit with their branding and complement their products too - you can read more in the case study below later on!

Consider QR:

There's an obvious vacuum when it comes to online shopping in person to person interaction. The experience you could cultivate in a real-world store is difficult to match online, as you aren't there to deliver it. Using QR codes, you can try and bridge that gap and add a whole new dimension to your unboxing experience. 

Try adding a QR code to a handwritten thank you note; the handwritten note will make a good impression, but you're limited in space in what you can include. A QR code could take your customer to an extended interview with you about the product they've bought, or an interactive game that gives them a chance to win a discount on their next order.

Appeal to the senses: 

It's one thing to make your product look nice, but there are four other senses you could launch an assault on too. An easy one is smell - adding some petals or something scented to your box can be an unexpected but lovely touch. It could also be a foot in the door for new sales! Check out the Glade case study later on in the playbook for more info. 

Another important sense is taste - if you're in the food or drink industry, some samples to test are a nice bonus that could lead to your customer finding a new favourite, which is another window to future sales.

First impressions count:

We're all about thinking inside the box, but the box itself is what the customer sees first. A well-designed interesting package will catch your customers eye, and will make you and your business stand out from regular brown boxes.

This also goes for the first thing your customer sees when they open the box - the most valuable or engaging part of your product. Starting with the product that they’re expecting, only to surprise them with an added bonus hidden beneath it could be a way to create genuine surprise and intrigue to add to the unboxing experience. 

Unboxing Tips: Ethical and Sustainable

Your unboxing experience can impress in more ways than one, and theatrics can certainly be one of them. But, it's important that you strike a balance, and the experience isn't at the cost of sustainability. 

More than ever, people are conscious about the effect of what they consume has on the environment. IBM research in 2020 concluded that 57% of consumers are willing to change their shopping habits to use more sustainable brands. 71% of those surveyed also stated that they were willing to pay a premium for brands that were willing to prove their positive impact. 

Sustainability should be at the forefront of your mind when planning your customer experience. You don't want to put lots of effort into impressing your customers, but end up alienating them due to your overuse of non-recyclable materials.

Here's some tips to impress your customers and show them that you care about the environmental impact of your brand.

  • Keep it simple - you can achieve an atmosphere without dozens of packing peanuts, or multiple layers of wrapping. Sometimes, less is more, and something as simple as a personalised card can really cut through.
  • Let them know what you're doing to help - there are plenty of ways you can cut down on your excess packaging, or show them how what you are using is responsible. Consider labelling when you are using recyclable materials, or deliberately omitting wasteful packaging.
  • If possible, offer a returns scheme - consider giving your customers incentives to recycle their packaging. For example, you could make it easy for them to return parts of the product and offer a certain amount off their next purchase for each return.
Sustainable Lush Packaging Pots
  • Stores like Lush give discounts for the return of pots like this, and a free face mask if 5 are returned. Not only does this show that you care, but you're making it easier for your customer to make a difference too!

Unboxing Tips: A Personalized Thank You

Even if you're a small business and can't afford to pack your box full of extras, sometimes the content of your message is what really cuts through and makes the experience meaningful.

We're big advocates of the handwritten note here at Scribeless, and customers seem to love them too! Having seen thousands of campaigns, we know exactly what works and what doesn't, and we've compiled a list of tips here for you.

  • Address the customer personally, and sign off at the bottom personally too. This helps establish a genuine relationship, and helps cultivate loyalty.
  • Use an informal tone - just as above, this reminds your customer that they're not just buying from a business, but from real people.
  • Add a design to the reverse side of your note. The aesthetic of an on-brand design will complement the experience in a way that a generic note can't match.
  • Give them a way to contact you. Leaving links to your socials, an email address and a phone number maximise chances of your customer engaging with your brand in the wider sense.
  • Add the odd incentive - the occasional discount code can be very well received. If you have the info, consider sending out a birthday card with a personalized discount code. This shows that you're thinking about them, and is likely to get them spending again!
  • Make them extra customizable. Including details about the customer or their purchase shows that this isn't a generic mailer, and you're showing a genuine interest in the customer.

This might sound like a lot to take on board, but it's not very much at all! Here's an example note created with the Scribeless platform that could be included with orders to surprise and delight your customers.

A handwritten note to include in ecommerce order skincare brands

By delivering delightful customer experiences you will be rewarded with their loyalty. Scribeless clients have found that customers that received a personalized 'handwritten' note are 35% more likely to make a repeat purchase. Check out some customer stories here!

Case Study: Lucy and Yak

Your brand identity is probably a big part of why your customers choose to shop with you, so your gifting experience should be positive the whole way through. A great example is Lucy and Yak, an ethical handmade clothes manufacturer, who have ensured that their entire unboxing process is pleasant and on brand.

Personalized Sticker

The outer packaging is recyclable brown paper, and the bag is sealed with a sticker letting you know who packaged up your parcel for you. This makes the experience more intimate, reminding you that someone has taken the time to package this up for you.

The next layer of packaging is a patterned silk bag. It’s unexpected, looks great, and can be re-used for lots of different things.

Recyclable Sustainable Plastic Bag

Finally, the product itself is sealed within an oxo-biodegradable and recyclable plastic bag. All three stages of the packaging reaffirm the values of the company and their products, as well as ensuring that the process is a memorable one for the customer.

Case Study: Function of Beauty

You don't need huge and potentially wasteful packaging to create a meaningful gifting experience. Function of Beauty, an ethical bespoke shampoo and haircare company, send out their products in small packages, but manage to pack in tons of personalization.

Function of Beauty are all about personalization - you choose what’s right for your hair and skin, and the products are made exactly to your specifications.

See how the shampoo bottles fit snugly in the box, with the added extras tucked alongside. The added extras include a small sticker sheet and an instruction pamphlet on how best to use your unique product.

Function of Beauty box

These are both great for different reasons - the stickers are a nice extra that add some personality and can be used however you see fit. The pamphlet adds value to the product - by holding your customers hand, you are showing them how to use your product to the max. And the more they get out of it, the more likely they are to come back!

Added stickers to include in orders

Function of Beauty have struck a brilliant balance between surprise and delight, as well as packaging sustainability. Not bad for such a small box!

Case Study: Glade

Free samples were once a go-to in stores to attract new customers. But this doesn’t have to be a lost cause for eCommerce merchants! Just because you can’t have someone physically handing it over, doesn’t mean that you’re unable to get your new products into your customers’ hands.

Teaming up with Walmart, Glade infused their new scent in the packaging pillows for all deliveries from Walmart’s online store. When the pillows are popped by a customer, the new Spring scent is released, and a QR code gives them easy access to purchase the scent for themselves. 

Glade reative packaging

Not only does the scent reach people it wouldn’t usually, the QR code makes it quick and easy for customers to purchase it. Streamlining the purchasing process is likely to cause less customers to drop off from any initial interest, as they have to do next to nothing to finalize their purchase.

Glade QR code

Consider adding some free samples in with your orders, alongside a handwritten note thanking your customer for their purchase with a QR code linking them to explore more products - particularly the samples you’ve included! For more creative marketing ideas, check out this article we wrote covering Glade and a few others.

Why Should I Care about the Unboxing Experience?

We've shown you the how, but maybe you're asking yourself why you should go through all of this effort. Maybe you're thinking your product is good enough and seems to sell itself.

But this isn't just about the product - it's about the whole experience. No matter how fantastic your product is, you're missing out on crucial opportunities to nurture first time customers into loyal ones, or loyal customers into brand evangelists.

Word of Mouth Marketing:

A report from Nielsen found that 92% of consumers trust suggestions from friends and family over more traditional forms of advertising. 74% of consumers also recognise word of mouth referrals as a key metric when they make purchasing decisions.

Imagine you receive an order from an online retailer containing some new skincare products. You might talk to a friend or housemate about the product if it’s something that impresses you, but it probably won’t be the first thing you discuss. 

However, if the experience adds value you weren’t expecting, this could change. If you get some added extras with your order that you weren’t expecting, or the packaging is more creative and sustainable than others, you’re more likely to share. A meaningful unboxing experience is the perfect way to achieve this sort of organic marketing.

Brand Loyalty:

Customers can be fickle, and a lot of the time they’ll flock to the cheapest or easiest option. If you aren’t adding value to your product or experience, you’re unlikely to cultivate any loyalty from your customers. Online shopping can be faceless, but if you invest in the unboxing experience, it’s easier to build a relationship with your customers.

A personalized thank you note could even be a way to start a dialogue with your customer, asking for feedback or new product recommendations. If the customer likes what you do AND likes you too, the likelihood they’ll go on to buy again will dramatically increase. 

There’s tons of stats around the importance of customer retention, but here are some of the key ones: the probability of a sale to an existing customer can be as high as 70%, compared to only as high as 20% for a new prospect. The cost of acquiring a new customer can be up to 7x the cost of retaining an existing one. Markinblog has tons more interesting stats on customer retention, and will have you wondering if you can afford not to invest in your existing customers.

Influencer Marketing:

Influencers can bring your products or services to a huge new audience, so it makes sense to encourage them as much as possible to share it. The more you add in and the more impressive or theatric the experience is, the more they will have to share.

This could be the difference between a static image and video celebrating the product you’ve shared with them - the more there is for them to share, the higher chance you’ll impress their audience with part of your offering. 

With Instagram and TikTok drawing millions of users everyday, influencer marketing continues to grow in importance, and is expected to be worth $13.8 this year, and is a channel that increasingly demands attention. Perfecting your unboxing experience can help you maximize the impact of this growing channel.

That’s everything that we’ve got for now, but there are plenty more ideas and solutions out there to personalize your customer’s experience more special, and your relationships with them more meaningful.

Any ideas or questions? We’d love to chat! Get in touch at and we’d love to discuss how we can help. We hope you’ve got some useful ideas to get you started!