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Treat your subscribers to an unforgettable unboxing experience


Picture of woman having an unforgettable unboxing experience

With the rise of the subscription box economy, more and more business are looking for creative ways to surprise and delight their customers with memorable unboxing experiences. 

What is unboxing? It's the experience customers have when opening a purchase for the first time — typically one that has just arrived in the mail. People enjoy the unboxing part so much that it has become a YouTube phenomenon where people post videos of their unboxing experience, often attracting millions of viewers. 

Watch Retro Dodo unbox this Deadpool subscriptions box, filled with exclusive collectables: 

The video of this unboxing experience has almost 2 million views.

Notice how the unboxer doesn't just rip open the crate like hyper kids on Christmas morning? He takes time to appreciate the intentionally “grimy” look of the box and the “kick ass” artwork inside. The items in the box are revealed in layers, building anticipation and excitement. 

Whether you are new to the subscription box business, or have an existing product you want to sell with recurring payments, there is a lot we can learn from videos like the one above about how to create the perfect unboxing experience. Make your customers count down the days until their subscription box arrives in the mail, and maybe even inspire them to share their unboxing on Youtube!

Image of Loot Crate's Star Wars package perfect unboxingImage via: mashable

Popular pop-culture subscription box, Loot Crate, even offers instructions on how to create the “perfect unboxing,” encouraging customers to share their experience. Smart! 

Before we look at five unboxing strategies, with examples from some of the most successful subscription box businesses in the marketplace, why don't we dive a bit deeper into why the unboxing experience is so important. Or, if you're already convinced, skip right to the examples.

Why unboxing experience matters

People don't care about the box, they just want to get the products they ordered. Right? The numbers tell a different story. 

According to The Packaging Company your unboxing experience can make or break your year. Check out the entire infographic here.

Infographic offering useful stats on the importance of branded packagingImage via: The Packaging Company

Also learn about the power of packaging you probably didn't know about, and how important the impression your packaging makes is to the end consumer. 

There are many aspects of your business that you can't control, but delightful packaging is something you can get right every time. This doesn't mean you need a huge budget — learn how to enhance the unboxing experience with cost effective packaging

A great unboxing experience can:

Lets look at some examples of how some of the most exciting subscription boxes on the web are winning the recurring revenue race:

5 things to consider when creating a memorable unboxing experience

As you sit down to design your subscription box, consider the different elements that create a memorable experience for your customer. Think about the first impression you want to make as they hold it in their fingers, to the final touch of personalization that will make them anticipate the arrival of their next box. Here are 5 examples from some of our favourite subscription brands: 

1. Outer design 

Image of a Maple Box subscription package with red ribbon and pineImage via: Maple Box

One of the reasons people love a great subscription is it reminds them of being a kid on Christmas morning — the only difference is you don't have to be a kid, and you can decide when Christmas morning comes, once a month, every two weeks, or even every seven days.

Described as “the subscription box for True North organic luxury,” Maple Magazine's The Maple Box delivers six to ten organic wellness products, curated for the season. 

Wrapped in red ribbon with a sprig of pine tucked in the bow, this subscription box captures the Canadian spirit for warm, feel-good vibes year round. 

Design elements to consider:

  • If there is room in your budget, custom printing on the outside of your box adds a layer of visual appeal. 
  • Are you going to be shipping to regions where weather is a factor? Consider a box inside a box approach, or a protective sleeve. 
  • Think about design elements inside of the box — what is the first thing customers see when they open the lid? 
  • Your subscription box doesn't have to be, well, “box shaped.” Consider an alternative shape that is still mail-friendly.
  • Make sure it's easy to open. Unboxing should be a smooth, enjoyable experience, not one that is interrupted to look for scissors or tools. 

2. Box size

Image of two young girls holding big Kidpik boxesImage via: mysubscriptionaddiction

The next thing to consider is the size of your subscription box. There isn't a one size (no pun intended) solution for going big or small. This will often be determined by what you are selling. Clothing subscription box, Kidpik, does a good job of packing lots of loot inside their slightly larger box. 

Image showing all the clothes that come in a Kidpik box: coat, shoes, purse, dress, blouse, jeansImage via: Kidpik

Where your box size will vary, the general rule is that your products should fit snugly within. If the box is too big, the contents might be a little underwhelming. You also don't want to compromise presentation by having too many items crammed into an undersized box.

Some things to consider:

  • If your box is too big it can feel a little empty or underwhelming.
  • If your box is too small it can feel cramped and make for a visually unappealing layout when subscribers first open it.
  • Smaller boxes can be cheaper to ship, so find a balance between space and aesthetically pleasant arrangement.
  • If your product is tiny or delicate, like candy, jewelry, or miniature toys, a small box might feel more on-brand.
  • If your product is bulkier, like clothing, books, or wine, a larger create may feel more appropriate. 

3. Inner packaging

Here are a few things to consider when thinking about how you package your box: 


Inside of a Birchbox subscription package with purple wax paperImage via: birchbox

There's a reason Birchbox is one of the more popular subscription boxes on YouTube. Their beauty and grooming crate pulls out all the stops when it comes to presentation and packaging. Look at the way the colourful paper matches the look and feel of their products for a satisfying unboxing experience. 


Image of a whisky loot unboxing experience with three miniature bottlesImage via: whisky loot 

The perfect subscription box for whiskey lovers who want to develop their palate (without breaking the bank), Whisky Loot uses a sleek foam mold that protects the glass bottles without compromising presentation. Proof that delicate products don't need to be smothered in bubble wrap. 


HiSmile teeth whitening kit unboxing experienceimage via: HiSmile

Teeth whitening brand HiSmile claims to deliver whiter teeth in only 10 minutes — talk about results right out of the box! This minimalist subscription product arrives in a sleek, rectangular box that will have your dentist taking notes. What else would you expect from a product that is supposed to improve your personal presentation? 

Additional considerations:

  • If there's room in your budget, consider custom tissue paper with designs or attractive colour combinations. 
  • If you are selling an eco-friendly product, your customers are not going to be impressed by wasteful packaging. Try using all recyclable or compostable packaging — and be sure to call this out in your marketing, any inserts, and even the on the packaging itself. 
  • Consider the reveal order of the products to build anticipation and excitement throughout the unboxing. 
  • Position the products in a way that's visually attractive and easy to open. The way you lay out your products can make the difference between an enjoyable vs. frustrating unboxing experience. 

4. Personalization & Bonuses 

John Cronin (John's Crazy Socks) wearing crown and holding socksImage via: Bold

John's Crazy Socks are the subscription-box kings of personalization, with their wildly popular sock of the month club. Co-founder John Cronin, who was born with down syndrome, started the company with a mission to spread happiness and provide employment opportunities for those with differing abilities. 

When the company first started, Cronin would personally deliver boxes to local customers and include a hand-written note to every package that went out. You can't get more personal than that! His big smile and glowing personalty were a part of every unboxing experience.

Today, the company has grown too large for hand-written notes in every box. Instead, every box has an insert letting customers know which “sock-wrangler” packed their delivery, many of whom have differing abilities. But when he has time, John still hand writes some of the notes, and personally deliver boxes in his Long Island community. 

johns-crazy-socks-personal-subscription-noteImage via: John's Crazy Socks

If you want to deliver a more personal unboxing experience for your products, there's a lot we can learn from John's Crazy Socks. 

Some things to consider:

  • Make the customer feel special by putting their name on a personalized insert, surprising them with a “just for you” bonus, or thanking them with a hand-written note.
  • Candy, coupons, samples, stickers — adding little extras can help endear customers to your brand. 
  • Incentivize recipients to order their next box — or six boxes — with discount codes, contests, or invitations to join a VIP club for a discounted price.  
  • Consider partnering with another vendor to access extra items and top-ups for your subscription box. 

5. First Impressions

pop-sugar-subscription-boxImage via: mysubscriptionaddiction

“You have 7 seconds to make a first impression, so your brand needs to be well designed from the get go, with a clear message,” Tailor Brand says in 37 brand statistics you need to know this year. 

This means that by the time your customer has brought their subscription box in from the mail, and are holding it in their hands with anticipation, they have already made a first impression.

POPSUGAR has done a great job designing their Must Have box. One look and you'll be eagerly flipping open the lid to see what's inside. Remember that the design, color, and layout of the box will have a powerful impact on their first impression. 

Now, we're going to leave you with an example from one of the heavy hitters of the subscription box industry, a brand that practically popularized this way of selling. 

dollar-shave-club-unboxing-experienceImage via: Vox

There are first impressions and there are second impressions. The second impression happen when customers flip the lid on their subscription box.  Dollar Shave Club nails this one every time. 

The lid layout is simple, economical, and hits you with a bad dad joke sure to put a smile under those whiskers. 

Some things to consider:

  • The first 7 seconds of someone's unboxing experience could determine whether they give you months, even years, of recurring revenue. Make it count.
  • Welcome first-time customers with an exciting product, but don't set the bar too high with their first box or they may find the next one underwhelming. 
  • What will the customer see when they open the box? This moment is a great opportunity to make a strong impression.
  • Consider design, layout, colour, composition, box size/shape, reveal order, and anything else that could influence their unboxing experience.
  • First impressions are important, but make sure you can back it up with a quality product. 

Time to get down to box-ness 

We hope you enjoyed reading this post, and were inspired by some of the industry's finest on how to design your very own subscription box and grow your recurring revenue business. 

Some of the merchants we covered in this blog post — Maple Box, Whisky Loot, HiSmile, and John's Crazy Socks — have used Bold Subscriptions to manage grow and manage their subscription business. 

We know you aren't looking for extra costs as you look to launch (or elevate) your subscription business. That's why we are offering Bold Subscriptions free for 14-days so you can see the value it will add to your business before committing to any costs.

Click the link to test out the top ranked subscription box, recurring orders, and payments app on Shopify

Try Bold Subscriptions

Leave a comment below and let us know what your favourite subscription box is. 

This article originally appeared in the Bold Commerce blog and has been published here with permission.

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