eCommerce Insiders

Shipping Box Marketing: 4 Ways To Surprise Your Customers

Marketing is about grabbing any opportunity to talk to a customer and make an impression on them.

And mind you, I said any opportunity.

So, what’s the most missed out one in ecommerce? What’s one thing that offers a huge potential, yet you don’t do it?

It’s neither online advertising nor some clever, offline guerilla promotion. Nope.

Email? Close but it’s still not it.

It’s building a personal relation with your client, getting even more personal with them than through email. It’s in fact, doing something that most brick and mortar shops do – surprising the customer with something they didn’t expect.

Simple, isn’t it?

Then why so many stores don’t do it?

They don’t know how? Perhaps. They are confused about it? That can be it too. After all, how can you surprise someone if they are not right beside you?

Well, the answer is once again, quite simple. Do it through the shipping box.

The box you ship your goods in is the best form of direct mail marketing we, online retailers have available to us. It can help you get reorders, build brand awareness, customer loyalty or simply surprise your buyers.

I learnt this technique many years ago, before the internet days, during my involvement in the the underground music scene in the 90’s. Independent, underground music acts, like mine (yes, I have a musical past, who would have thought?) would self publish tapes and distribute them through small distribution chains.

There was no internet back then, mind you. Our only way to promote were flyers that we asked anyone we knew, from scene influencers to fans to include in letters they would sent. We would also include them in whatever letters we’d be sending, to clubs, magazines etc.

It worked. It genereted buzz around us. It hooked people on the band, got them to come to our gigs and to buy our tapes. All through something small put into a letter.

We live in a more technologically advanced times now. And it’s no surprise that we avail of it all. Yet still, I think a small, personal touch can still go a long way today just like it did in the past.

So, What Exactly Should You Put In The Box Then?

1. Coupons

Most buyers receive their coupon codes by email, or find them online. How surprising would it be if they received one from you in the post?

Coupons are a great tool to entice buyers to come back to buy more. But there is another reason to use them. You can hook your buyers up on getting product accessories from you.

It’s not a given that someone who bought a product from you will get accessories from your store also. In fact, chances are that if possible, they will go to a local store to buy them. With a coupon code you can become more competitive than a local supplier and entice your buyers to order accessories from you.

2. Free Gift or Treat

Customers always appreciate a small gift or token included in a box. Yet, it rarely happens and that’s your opportunity. Surprise your customers with a small gift included in their box. You probably don’t have to do this for every order but certainly a small token of appreciation in biggers ones will go a long way.

3. A flyer (or even a small pack of them for customers to distribute)

Many business to business companies would include a small pack of business cards with every invoice, or delivery. They do so in hope that the customer would hand them over to someone needing their services. It isn’t a strategy to rely on. It can, however, bring a considerable effect at a low cost.

What works in B2B can also work for ecommerce. Include few small flyers distributing your store. Worst comes to worst, your customers will leave them lying around somewhere, where they can be seen by their friends or visitors anyway.

4. Catalog

Lastly, you could also send a small catalog with other items the buyer might be interested in. We often rely on the website to provide such information but what about taking a bit more proactive stance and sending a buyer a list of items that perhaps would suit their needs too? Of course you could also send a full catalog too.

There are times when customers want to buy but don’t want to be bothered with browsing your online catalog. A printed one might provide them with all the information they need at the very moment to initiate the buying process.

What About Drop shipping? Can It Still Be Done?

Well, that’s a problem, isn’t it? How to include something in the shipping box if you don’t even see it. A drop shipping business would rely on either a manufacturer or a drop shipping company to send the goods, leaving them hardly any opportunity to interact with customers through the aforementioned materials.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

Most manufacturers and drop shipping companies offer an option to include printed material in your package. Some have certain restrictions in relation to the amount or size, others are quite open. You might have to work within those but that’s rarely a problem. All of them however, will charge you for including your materials. This, unfortunately, does add to the overall shipping cost. But, on the other side, if this marketing method works for you, it might be worth investing in it.

Your Turn

Do you receive marketing materials in a shipping box? If so, what is your reaction towards them? Would you consider using this form of marketing to promote your store?

Creative commons image by Andy L / Flickr

Pawel Grabowski

Pawel Grabowski is a copywriter and content marketer and the founder of, the content marketing agency helping SaaS companies grow the user base and generate quality leads with targeted content strategies.

Find out more about Pawel at and connect with him on Linkedin.

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