Cardboard Is The New Billboard

0aaaJennifer Daly LimeLight

On every porch sits the most significant branding opportunity of the e-Commerce economy: the cardboard box. It may not look like much but, wrapped up with your purchase in that tan cube is a billboard, a salesperson, a fitting service, a customer service rep, a charity and so much more. Since retail moved online and out of the mall, the box is the only in-real-life, tactile experience many direct-to-consumer brands have with their customers.

It’s an important micromarketing moment that can make or break your customer relationship, and it’s even more critical for merchants using Amazon as a primary sales channel.

The feeling a customer has when opening their purchase plays a big role in strengthening the brand and customer relationship, maximizing purchase delight and enabling a visually stunning recommendation via social media. The box done right can drive profitability, conversion and brand affinity.


When you brand and merchandise your box effectively, and hit all the right emotional beats, it also significantly mitigates buyer remorse and returns. Remorse and returns are hard to manage, expensive and used to be handled by that warm and fuzzy in-person mall experience. Now, when you just have to drop your box in the mail and it disappears as quickly as it appeared, it’s only what’s in the box that can mitigate that risk.

The best brands follow a few key rules:

  • Make it beautiful: We live in the age of “re-grammable” marketing. The more attractive you make your box, the more likely your customers are to post about it and recommend to friends on social media. There is no stronger conversion driver than a beautiful picture and caption from a friend, and (aside from the cost of design), this is entirely free advertising.
  • Make it easy: No matter how beautiful your packaging may look, if it ends up in tatters on the floor because you haven’t made it easy to open up, capture and share your unique unboxing — you just gave up even more free advertising with incredibly strong conversion.
  • Leverage the feels: Make your customers feel good about their purchase and make sharing that experience feel good too. Include referral discounts for friends, clearly communicate what your friends will get and encourage multiple ways of sharing those discounts.

One example of an amazing brand that follows all the rules above is Knix. I was lucky enough to share the Commerce Next stage with Danielle Brown, Chief Marketing Officer at Knix to speak on this very topic. During our talk, she shared some amazing insights as to what makes their unboxing experience so unique and impactful.

For Knix some unboxing experiences they’ve refined are:

        Branding the box: Including great tag line copy, for example “Your day just got better,” reinforces the customer’s decision to make this purchase.

        Reinforcing the purchase by enhancing the experience: Knix has gone through iterations of a free garment wash bag for brand recall and reminder every time their knickers get tossed in the wash. This also serves as a way to enhance the longevity of the product’s performance over time, thus building trust.

        Understanding social sharing: Working with influencers to do unboxing videos as well as the customers who share them using Knix on social media, which drives lots of sales. This wouldn’t be possible if the box weren’t beautiful and on brand.

        Turning a negative shopping experience into a positive one: Allowing customers who need to exchange product to donate unwashed/unworn products to a women’s shelter or give to a friend to try for free. The customer is provided a credit to get a better fitting or more suitable product and, in tandem, this reduces returns and supply chain costs.

        Test and evolve packaging as required: Being good to the environment can be more cost effective. Knix has been testing more environmentally friendly flat packaging as requested by customers, and this also has been cutting down on packaging costs. Additionally, rotating product feedback via customer quotes on each item and sharing other customers stories for why a product was developed and the real people behind it helps strengthen the brand.

Final Note

If you’re looking to leverage one of the great examples shared by Knix, remember it’s important to focus on how your unboxing makes customers feel, and give them easy and compelling ways to share what is usually a mundane process with their friends. If you do this, you’ll see amazing results for your business.

Your web site (or Amazon listing) may be your new storefront, but never forget that the customer experience can be amplified in each package being loaded onto delivery trucks.

If you send ”just another box,” it’s like opening a clothing store with a single rack in the middle of a dimly lit room with no sales staff, no music, no signage — nothing that builds the experience. Customers may come once because they like the product, but you need to give them an experience to keep them consistently coming back and bringing their friends.


Jennifer Daly is Director of Marketing at LimeLight. She is an experienced marketing professional with over 10 years experience working in technology for fast growing companies including: Rogers Communications Inc. (2007-2011), Wave Financial, acquired by H&R Block (2012-2015) and most recently Shopify (2015-2018). She has hands-on experience building fast-growing tech companies from series B through to series C funding and being a key player driving 5X company valuation at Wave Financial. At Shopify, she learned how to develop products, brand and adoption for market domination after IPO as part of a team that strengthened the company’s market cap from $2 billion to $20 billion in less than three years.

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