The plethora of YouTube videos and the celebrity status of popular unboxers has made unboxing a wildly popular topic. But in all the frenzy, and with all the eyeballs on the moment of opening a new product, thereâs actually very little attention paid to the shipping box itself.
In todayâs world of delivery overload, itâs time we reconsider the ordinary brown cardboard box, giving it a branded life of its own. After all, the moment of unboxing is a highly emotional experience, with anticipation and excitement making it feel like the opening of a very special gift. With growing opportunities in delivery and shipping to consumers this holiday season, shipping boxes could very easily become the last frontier of package design.
Package as âad spaceâ
The Minionsâ Amazon takeover last spring proved this could be a new, viable revenue stream for the retailer, by using the shipping box as one would any other ad space. As an entry point for brands looking to reach a mass audience with ownable packaging, itâs a smart move given the popularity of online shopping. But is selling your box as an ad space to the highest bidder the best way to leverage this untapped blank canvas? The key is not just slapping on any ad willing to pay, but to elevate the role of shipping packaging to what it really is: The ultimate branded gift-wrapping experience.
Imagine a Chanel handbag arriving in a Karl Lagerfeld-designed shipping box, complete with a personalized note or preview of the new collection, or the next Dollar Shave Club kit arriving in a Shinola-designed box, bringing a new level of craftsmanship to the monthly delivery. The packaging space becomes much more appealing and important when itâs tied to the contents; either by creating a link between two like-minded brands, or by bringing elements of surprise and delight to the customer.
Geo-targeted, personalized packaging
If shipping is the new retail, then why shouldnât shipping materials become more personal? With the ability to target by region, city and even zip code, a more targeted message can be delivered to areas or individuals. Supermarket deliveries from brands like Fresh Direct or Peapod could be wrapped with information about local events or promotions. Or, in advance of a special occasion like Motherâs Day, you could design the outer package of those chocolates you send to Mom. The trend of customization and personalization should find its way to the outside of your shipping box.
Limited edition packaging
Your shipping orders could even become a venue for special guest wrappers â celebrities, fashion designers, or luxury brands â to create a more premium feel and tap into the idea that anything âlimitedâ is more desirable. Golden foil wrapping for the holidays, brought to you by BeyoncĂ©, or a velvet-textured delivery for that special someone on Valentineâs Day, designed by a Victoriaâs Secret Angel. Creating a tactile experience out of a regular cardboard box is one way to ensure the enjoyment of the gift inside.
If you open your mind to the possibilities of design on the outside of a cardboard box, a future where these lovely boxes are repurposed and reused in many ways doesnât seem so far-fetched. Boxes that have aesthetic appeal can be reused for another shipment, or something playful like a bookend, jewelry box, or even furniture. They could even have a modular function, morphing into various shapes and sizes, giving you endless possibilities, while being more eco-friendly.
While weâre still quite a ways away from eradicating the drab and boring cardboard box weâre all used to, the potential for infusing some design and aesthetic appeal is there. Imagine a world where the standard delivery truck is filled with an assortment of beautifully colored and wrapped gifts, or where garbage day in your local neighborhood suddenly looks like a roadside rainbow of carefully wrapped and branded packaging. I predict the careful reconsideration of the ubiquitous shipping box will bring a little more joy to shippers and receivers, while potentially inspiring less disposal and even more camera time.
Eva Rebek is director of design intelligence in Sterling’s New York office.