The subtle fragrance of lavender is what you first notice. Then you gently pull out the crumpled golden tissue paper to reveal what lies below. Orange flower petals fall out, but you are too excited to brush them off the table. Because you’ve been waiting in eager anticipation for this moment. Along with the hand-written note saying thank you and the branded cardboard box, all the extras that go into the packaging of your online order are now defined as the ‘unboxing experience’. 

No matter how big or small you are as a brand, you cannot afford to ignore this key aspect of your business that touches and excites your customer in the most tangible way. From bloggers that share images of outstanding and memorable packaging, to folks posting YouTube videos about online orders that leave them saying ‘wow’, packaging and delivering of products can no longer be ordinary if brands wish to be noticed.

But in the enthusiasm to stand apart here’s the part most miss: for each package, retailers and delivery companies could use up to seven types of packaging material including paper waybills, envelopes, cartons, plastic bags, woven bags, tape and buffer materials like bubble wrap. And when we are done with unboxing our order, nearly all our packaging ends up in the trash.

Optimizing packaging for ecommerce may look quite different than design for traditional retail, due to the different demands of the respective distribution chains, says an Ameripen free whitepaper on Optimizing Packaging for an E-commerce World, published in January 2017. According to a study by Stanford University, we discard our own weight in packaging every 30-40 days, on average. Having recognised the role e-commerce plays in adding to waste generation, Zara now uses boxes with a past, where they deliver 56% of their online orders that are made in cartons that have been used 5 times before being recycled into cardboard.   

As sustainable brand that is now part of the digital b(r)andwagon, we too have been thinking about our packaging and the experience we want to offer our customers.  Do our customers expect the bells and whistles or are they willing to accept their handmade goods in a simple and reusable cloth bag, the more environmentally-friendly option? Should our packaging align with our philosophy of sustainability? And if yes, to what extent? Or should it be all about look and feel?

As we continue to explore an unboxing experience that we are comfortable with and excited about, we hope that our decisions make not just our customers but also our planet happy.

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal