In the quest to find ways to channel user-contributed content in the service of sales, merchants often contrive contests or social media hashtag campaigns. But there’s another category of content with origins that are decidedly grassroots: haul and unboxing videos.
For the uninitiated, haul videos feature shoppers showing off piles of loot, whether shopping trip picks or gifts from birthdays or Christmas. Unboxing videos depict shoppers unpacking and inspecting products they’ve received, with the focus usually on single items; depending on the items, unboxing videos may include demonstrations of setup or footage of using the items for the first time. Commentary during the videos may include rundowns of the purchase experience, mentions of pricing and discounts, notes about product quality and features, and remarks about the ease or difficulty of using products.
These unvarnished views of shopping are increasingly popular, with views of videos with the keyword “haul” in the title growing 170% year-over-year as of last fall. In the same timeframe, unboxing video views grew 57%, with one in five YouTube viewers saying they’ve watched one. Makers of popular videos can attract millions of followers to their YouTube channels, and can reap substantial financial rewards via advertising. Teen “haul star” Bethany Mota earns an estimated $40,000 per month from her videos, has a talent agent, interviewed President Obama, and released a clothing line in cooperation with teen retailer Aeropostale.
Merchants, too, stand to gain from haul and unboxing videos. Consumers say that the videos have value beyond sheer entertainment and help guide purchase decisions; 62% of those who watch unboxing videos say that they use them for researching products, and more broadly, views of haul and unboxing videos spike around key shopping events such as Black Friday, suggesting that shoppers turn to them for information prior to purchase.
The challenge for merchants is to tap the potential of haul and unboxing content without destroying the authenticity that makes it popular. Among the methods to consider:
Study what’s already being posted, and incorporate it into brand offerings. Merchants should be conducting keyword searches for haul and unboxing videos featuring their brands and monitoring the content. Many of these videos are enthusiastic endorsements of the brands and products under discussion, so merchants would do well to share noteworthy examples to social media feeds and even incorporate especially useful unboxing videos onto eCommerce site product pages.
Revamp packaging and inserts. Unboxing videos in particular put the spotlight on how items are packaged and presented, and for items requiring assembly or installation, the how-to instructions are paramount. Merchants shouldn’t neglect these important components of the product experience, and should consider what marketing materials might be of interest and gain visibility on unboxing videos.
Buy targeted video ads to complement the content. Merchants can reach viewers of unboxing and haul videos in relevant categories via ad placements.
Consider courting content creators – but tread with care. While it may seem the easiest way to win the hearts and minds of haul and unboxing video viewers would be to send a bevy of free samples to top influencers, most say they avoid that practice — and legally must be disclosed. Paid product placements and promotions such as offering video creators free merchandise to use for giveaways are alternative methods to consider; the site FameBit offers brands the opportunity to collect bids for collaboration from content creators. Whichever route merchants choose, they should ensure that the content itself retains the authentic appeal that made its creators popular in the first place.
Ulta Cosmetics collaborated with popular beauty blogger Tori Sterling to create a series of haul videos, which are featured on the Ulta site with direct links to products featured below as well as on Sterling’s YouTube channel.
Make original unboxing or haul videos. Brands can use the haul and unboxing concepts to showcase products themselves. A number of brands have used unboxing videos for product launches, often with a unique twist — from the ultra-dramatic unboxing of the PlayStation 4 from Sony, the launch of a new version of the Firefox Web browser with an unboxing video, or the witty introduction of the bookbook from Ikea, which gently pokes fun at Apple with its use of hyper-inspirational vocabulary and tech jargon to describe its printed catalog.