Why unboxing videos are a trend retailers can’t ignore

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Everyone knows the excitement that comes along with opening something for the very first time. Whether it's an unknown birthday gift or something you treated yourself to, cutting open the package, and finally lifting the item out of the box can be exhilarating.

This feeling, unique to opening something brand-new, is one key driver of a viral trend: unboxing videos. These clips usually feature one or two people removing a toy, gadget, accessory or other item from its original packaging. They unwrap the contents slowly, examining all angles, describing the items and their packaging, commenting on what they did or did not like.

"Consumers often turn to unboxing videos when they're considering a purchase decision."

The videos get tens of millions of views. Some unboxing stars have traded in their careers for opening packages on camera full-time – and have made a comfortable living. All this to say, this trend doesn't seem to be fading anytime soon. And as such, it's important that marketers, manufacturers and retailers join in.

One part sensationalism, one part consumer research

While many people watch these videos to see and feel the excitement of opening a gift or purchase, others turn to them when they're considering a purchase decision, explained Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, to mental_floss.

"They're sort of how-to videos," she said. "You're imagining yourself go through the process [of opening the box]. In contrast to advertisements, these are real."

Matt Lawson, Google's director of marketing and performance ads, wrote that many of today's consumers treat videos as a gift guide, listening carefully to unboxers' opinions about the product and its packaging. About one-third of shoppers during the 2015 holiday season said they intended to use YouTube as a sort of gift guide. In that same year, U.S. consumers watched 60 million hours of unboxing videos over the course of 1.1 billion views.

Tailoring merchandise to the trend

As the unboxing trend took off, retailers everywhere took note. After all, if this is where consumers are going to make purchase decisions, getting your product into an unboxer's hands is crucial. Sending YouTube stars samples of your products is only the beginning, though. Like the unboxer, retailers need to start on the outside and work their way meticulously in. For example, take Jacques Slade's video, "UNBOXING: LIMITED Edition 96 of 100 Nike Sneaker Surprise Gift Package."

Slade begins by commenting on the tape and package design, clearly Nike's brand. Upon opening the cardboard box, he finds Pregis' Hybrid Cushioning, comments on the sturdiness of the square pillows (despite his efforts, they did not pop), then makes his way to more Nike-branded premium packaging. Slade alternates between describing the products and the packaging they came in, making it clear that both are highly important in the unboxing and delivery process.

Slade's gifts from Nike were, all in all, a hit. But there are plenty of unboxing videos that deliver hard truths to potential buyers: Items that came broken and packages that have been punctured. Such instances leave a negative impression, not just on the unboxer, but also on his or her thousands, if not millions, of viewers.

Retailers would do well to take note. Getting in on the unboxing trend is a fantastic way to get your name into the homes and smartphones of many. But you'll want to make sure the message delivered is a positive one. The best way to do that is to ensure that your packaging is cohesive, attractive and, most importantly, protective.