Own that Unboxing Experience: E-commerce packaging in the spotlight  

To assuage consumers’ concerns over products purchased online, brand owners create their own ‘unboxing’ videos along with packaging that accommodates easy-to-assemble products.

By Dr. R. Andrew Hurley
Contributing Editor, Packaging World

As a father of two, husband, professor, and member of two businesses, I have limited free time on my hands for fun. And even less time for yard work. But after someone from the homeowner’s association dropped by to inform me that I may want to reconsider my yard maintenance strategy, I decided to take some action—by investing in a riding lawn mower complete with built-in cup holders—an essential tool for those in Suburbia Americana.

Once you have a riding lawn mower, a brave new world of tools and accessories becomes available to you. I had no idea I could play industrial farmer in real life! So, to fulfill a childhood dream of owning a yard aerator (the old, manual-style cylinder with spikes around it), I popped onto Amazon and began my quest to obtain one.

I’m not an aerator aficionado, but it hit me that there is nothing “small parcel” about a towable, spiked-roller torture device. In order to accommodate the Millennial need to procure everything online, these devices have to be radically changed to be shipped in the mail. They are now available in puzzle-piece format; they arrive at your doorstep ready to be assembled within 30 minutes (or 18 hours, depending on your mechanical abilities). As I browsed the various options, all required assembly, and most of the reviews discussed the pains of assembly, missing parts, needing to “re-engineer” components…all things that started to make me feel less comfortable about investing in something that, in all honesty, is not an essential requirement for anyone but high-school football coaches and the greenskeeper at your local country club.

But I found the “Brinly SAT-40BH Tow Behind Spike Aerator with Transport Wheels, 40-Inch” on Amazon, and the product video blew me away. Brinly figured out the pain of this sector, and their product “video” unboxed the aerator and assembled the device right before my eyes. The top review discussed how the owner was “...impressed with the economy of packing & design.”

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If you look at Google searches for “unboxing experience,” the numbers are incredibly high. These videos from the consumer side appear by the hour, and every case is a brand being represented by its customer. Brinly took a different approach—they unboxed the product for you in a way they could control—to ensure expectations were met. In a category full of green lawns and spikes slamming into yards, Brinly took the approach of showing how the pieces come out of the box and are assembled together.

With e-commerce expected to grow to 16% of retail sales in 2017, brands are rushing to make products more “frustration free” and are redeveloping for optimization within an omni-channel world. In a space like this, understanding the process of assembly upfront is an essential component to a purchase decision. That product/package interaction is now even more important in a world where you cannot physically see the goods.

With my lawn properly full of holes, it’s time to get back to the real work. Namely, starting my own branded line of Fidget Spinners (Hurley’s Whirleys, anyone?). To get in on this fad before the 15 minutes of profitability are cashed out, I’m looking into getting my own 3D printer. And, very likely, I’ll be highly influenced by a brand’s unboxing video.

I’ve used 3D printers, but never set up one from scratch, so Ultimaker’s willingness to give me a step-by-step visual (see pwgo.to/2990) from delivery to printing out my first spinner was a huge help. They even go so far as to make a set of videos, GIFs, or photos for each different product, so you know exactly how NOT to pick up your chosen printer, where it’s safe to put your hands, and the nuances of hiding a cord during setup. Add to that, Ultimaker makes sure you know the shipping package was designed to be reusable for future moving and storage of your expensive new toy. Foolproof AND sustainable—it’s like they got my letter!

These brands are giving potential buyers their own peek behind the curtain with unboxing videos, supplying them with a resource that’s part support document and part marketing asset. With online window shopping becoming the norm, it’s a smart move for companies to control their product story from the outset. As a bonus, the trend also validates all the time and energy we devote to engineering a package that not only delivers the product intact, but also provides a low-frustration, enjoyable first moment for the consumer.

Dr. R. Andrew Hurley is founder of Package InSight (www.packageinsight.com) and The Packaging School (www.packagingschool.com). He can be reached at andrew@packageinsight.com.

PackagingWorld.com article viewable here: 
https://www.packworld.com/article/package-design/strategy/own-unboxing-experience-e-commerce-packaging-spotlight

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