Since 2010, the number of “unboxing” YouTube videos has increased by over 800 percent.  As we approach this year’s holiday season, we know that another tidal wave of unboxing videos is about to be unleashed.

While some wonder why millions of people watch these videos, the trend's popularity brings to the surface an underlying truth about today's consumers: they are increasingly looking for experiences, not just products. And they share their experiences—their travels, their meals and, yes, their new purchases—to define themselves on social media. 

It's not just extensive, complex experiences that matter to customers. Small joys, such as the anticipation of opening the box of an anxiously-awaited product, are sharable experiences as well. This is the type of authentic publicity that advertising budgets just can’t buy.

See how some consumers are taking their unboxing experiences to social media:

Attractive, protective and intuitive packaging that can be disposed of easily can build loyalty and improve your brand's reputation. In fact, 66 percent of U.S. consumers believe the packaging of their shipment reflects how much a brand cares about them. Another 68 percent say that they are more conscious of packaging today than five years ago. 

But some consumers are not getting a great packaging experience. One in 10 e-commerce shipments arrive on consumers’ doorsteps damaged, highlighting a packaging failure. Meanwhile, 31 percent say that packaging often creates a mess in their home, and 47 percent feel that excessive packaging is just downright wasteful. 

Packaging must be carefully planned from the start, not an afterthought. Too many resources are invested in the development, manufacturing and delivery of a product, including the raw materials and labor used to produce the goods and the energy needed to transport the products. Without the appropriate packaging, all those resources go to waste.  

Packaging can enhance the customer experience

This can have big consequences for our environment at scale. As the world's population and standards of living continue to rise, we cannot waste our resources where it can be prevented. If major countries used natural resources at the same rate the U.S. does, experts estimate that we would need the resources of four Earths to sustain our lifestyles.  

Consumer goods companies and e-tailers need to optimize their resources usage and one way to do so is to use more sophisticated packaging designs. Take Nature's Path for example. The company has reduced the size of their cereal boxes by 10 percent while keeping the same amount of food in the package, resulting in a savings of 800,000 gallons of water and 437 tons of paperboard annually.

Sophisticated packaging also protects products in today’s complex e-commerce supply chains with ever-growing touch points that increase the likelihood of product damage. Leading brands understand how vital packaging is in protecting their products and reputations. In one analysis, Dell and Walmart were among 19 companies that had zero damaged e-commerce deliveries, which is extraordinary.   

But a company like Apple may understand the unboxing experience best. The company has been known to take out patents on the boxes that their devices come in, and has a secret packaging room in their headquarters that only a select few can enter. Their packaging is elegant and reflects a thoughtfulness. As a result, customers treasure and share the unboxing of their iPhones. 

"Packaging must be carefully planned from the start, not as an afterthought as it is today."

At Sealed Air, we help manufacturers design packaging that extends the brand experience without sacrifice to protection. Through our Packaging Application Centers, we complete more than 12,000 packaging design projects each year, and perform a range of industry standard tests to ensure that our customers’ unboxing experiences are never spoiled by damaged goods.  

With properly designed packaging, we can not only reduce customer frustrations but also minimize transportation costs. Given the recent shift toward dimensional weight by carriers, cube optimization can efficiently use the resources needed for transportation and reduces its overall environmental impact. This point is especially important as more of the world’s population is living in cities, but little attention is often paid to the energy and infrastructure resources needed to deliver goods to people in those urban centers. 

If packaging is more of a priority instead of an afterthought, we can make the unboxing experience for our customers memorable and shareable. And come this holiday season, maybe our products and packaging will be worthy of one of those viral unboxing videos.

To learn why it's time to Re-imagine sustainability in e-commerce, read “Sustainability, E-Commerce & Packaging: Unsealing the Big Picture.”