How to Design and Personalize Holiday Packaging


The holiday season is a truly sensory experience: the aromas of cinnamon and gingerbread, the sound of Christmas carols, the taste of Thanksgiving dinner, the wondrous sight of Christmas lights and boxes wrapped beautifully in festive colors and bows. 

As a retail player, your marketing strategy for the holiday season can be make or break. From Black Friday to the January sales, you have a huge opportunity to positively influence the bottom line. After all, research shows that holiday shopping has skyrocketed to over $936 billion in 2022. How do you stand out from the crowd in 2023? The answer may be surprising. You see, it all comes down to personalized holiday packaging. 

Let’s take a look at Starbucks. Each year, come November, Starbucks swaps its traditional branded cups for festive, holiday ones, along with seasonal drinks and decorations inside their stores. Also, all of the products that Starbucks sells, such as take-home coffee beans and reusable cups, receive a festive makeover. You might think Starbucks does this just to inject some holiday spirit into the atmosphere of its coffee houses. But this move is much more than that. 

starbucks festive christmas theme packaging cups seasonal drinks

In previous years, the Starbucks festive strategy has led to increases of up to 12% revenue for the winter quarter. It’s clear that investing in holiday marketing and gift packaging plays an important role in winning the hearts and minds of consumers during the holiday season. 

Plus, people are likely to spend more over the holiday period. Between buying gifts for others and the occasional impulse purchase, the average American expects to spend $998 on gifts, holiday items, and other expenses during the holiday season. Online shopping is also on the rise, with US holiday stats showing that, for 2022, online customers spent over $9 billion on Black Friday and Thanksgiving. 

2023 Holiday Packaging Trends 

While it’s clear that investing in holiday gift packaging is a must, it’s not as simple as putting a bow on your in-store items or bulk-buying red cardboard boxes for holiday shipping. You need to do more than just take part in the festive season. You need to stand out in it. 

Here’s a couple of things to bear in mind as you embark on your personalized holiday gift packaging strategy.  

1. Holiday Cheer By Mail

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COVID-19 has drastically changed how people buy goods, even Christmas gifts. In line with this, Deloitte predicts that ecommerce sales will grow by at least 12.8% during the 2023 holiday season. They predict that, this year, ecommerce sales will generate at least $260 billion.  

As a retailer, this means that your ecommerce packaging strategy really counts. Personalization, combined with safe and quick deliveries, will be paramount to delivering festive cheer to your customers.  

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It’s also worth bearing in mind that with the pandemic far from over, many consumers may not venture to see their families for their usual holiday events this year. Instead, they’ll choose to send gifts directly to recipients via the mail or a delivery provider. 

This means that offering beautifully wrapped holiday boxes could be the difference between a consumer choosing your brand over another. People are looking for brands to help them spread the holiday spirit through their gift packaging, even if they can’t be there directly in person.  

2. Window Shopping on Instagram  

Deloitte also found that nearly a quarter of consumers plan to use social media to assist them in their holiday shopping. This could be scrolling on Pinterest for gift inspiration or finding a new brand on Instagram. To boost your sales, you’ll want to make sure your online marketing strategy is on point. In the digital age, a huge vehicle for this is unboxing videos. 

Take a look at the below stats:

  • A study by Google found that 1 in 5 consumers have watched an unboxing video. 
  • Over 90,000 people type “unboxing” into YouTube every month.
  • Unboxing videos that have the hashtag #smallbusiness have an average of 141,735 views across 279 TikTok accounts.

Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer. You’re scrolling through Instagram, and then you come across an eye-catching video of someone opening a beautifully wrapped gift box. The packaging is festive on the outside, there’s a personalized card inside, along with tissue paper in the brand’s colors.  

These kinds of unboxing videos are amazing at swaying consumers into buying from your brand. They’re a chance to showcase the thought you’ve put into your gift packaging and highlight why your brand is a great one to choose during the holiday season. Your packaging is also the first impression a consumer gets of your company. An amazing experience can build brand loyalty and make your customer more likely to become a repeat shopper.  

Holiday Gift Packaging: The Basics 

The holiday season is the most important retail sales period, but investing in the right gift packaging approach doesn’t have to break the bank. A great customized holiday packaging strategy is all about preparation.

While Black Friday and Christmas might feel far away right now, time moves quickly in the retail world. If you haven’t started thinking about your Christmas packaging design yet, then the time to do it is now. 

However, before we jump into the how of creating your Christmas packaging boxes, we need to cover a few things first. These fundamentals will guide your overarching strategy and ensure that you create eye-catching holiday gift box packaging at the budget that’s right for you.  

  • Budget: Earlier, we mentioned Starbucks. While they may lead the way in holiday packaging, the company’s marketing budget is way bigger than most. While we encourage ambition and creativity, it’s also important to balance this with budget allowances. This way, you can determine the best types of packaging and design options that are affordable for your company. 
  • Forecasting: Buying Christmas gift boxes wholesale is a great way to keep prices low while covering your packaging needs. However, no one wants to be left with a surplus of gift packaging at the end of the season, especially because it can’t be used during other times of the year. It’s therefore important to forecast how many units you expect to sell over the Christmas season and then order your holiday packaging based on these predictions. 
  • Think Long-Term: While Christmas is an annual event, holiday gift packaging design is often unique to the year. Depending on what’s happened throughout the period or if there’s been any brand milestones, many players choose to tailor their packaging so that it is specific and relevant to the year at hand. For your brand, it’s important to look at your strategy from a long-term perspective. Will the customized holiday packaging you create be for 2023 only? Or will it be a design you use year in, year out? 
  • Think Beyond Red and Green: The thing about holiday gift packaging is that a lot of brands do it. While red, green, and gold are definitely festive colors, they can also be overused. In a sea of red holiday wrapping paper and gold baubles, choosing a color scheme that is starkly different can help you stand out from the crowd. Of course, the customized colors you choose should match with your brand. You can look at your brand guidelines for customization inspiration. 
  • Don’t Forget Sustainability: According to CNN, there is an extra 1 million tons of waste produced over the holiday season, and a lot of it comes from packaging. By choosing recyclable options, like corrugated cardboard and paper-based packaging, you can help your customers make more eco-friendly choices over the holidays. Not only is this good for the environment, but it’s good for building loyal relationships, too. Research indicates that almost half (48%) of consumers hold brands responsible for increasing the amount of packaging that is recycled. So by demonstrating your commitment to sustainability, you’re putting your company in a positive light to your customers. 

Customizing Your Holiday Gift Box Packaging

The beauty of customized retail packaging is that there are many ways to do it, from tailored ecommerce packaging to personal notes in your packages. It’s important to create holiday packaging that represents your brand, suits your price range, and ultimately delights your customers. 

First things first, you need to decide if you are going to go for a box or padded mailer. Both are easily customizable, but there are a few critical differences, which we’ve summarized in the tables below, showing the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

Customizable Printed Cardboard Boxes

customizable printed cardboard boxes for holiday gift box packaging

Cardboard boxes and cartons are great for larger items and shipping multiple products. You’ll find that they come in a wide selection of sizes and materials, making them super easy to tailor for whatever festive creation you have in mind. 



Strong. Corrugated cardboard boxes are extremely rigid and great for protecting numerous items. 

Bulky. They take up more storage space.

Designed for heavy products. Especially when protected using water-activated tape (WAT), these boxes are great for shipping heavy gifts, such as electrical items.

More expensive. Because they can’t be mailed through the postal system, they are more expensive.

Recyclable. Corrugated boxes are a sustainable choice.

You’ll need extras. The box will need to be filled with extras, like styrofoam, to properly protect products, which adds to the cost (but is another great opportunity for customization).

Versatile. They come in all shapes and sizes.


Personalized Mailer Boxes for Shipping

If you order any subscription boxes, then you will have likely received mailer boxes. These nifty, lightweight cardboard creations are perfect for sending smaller items through the postal system. Like cardboard gift boxes, they are easily customizable. 



Lightweight. Inexpensive to send to customers.

Danger of damage. While padding provides protection, there’s the chance that your mailer could be crushed during the mailing process and your items damaged.

Built-in protection. Unless your product is extremely fragile, you won’t need to purchase extras to keep your items safe.

Easily broken. Damaged packaging poorly represents your brand. Unfortunately, padded mails are susceptible to being torn or punctured during the mailing process, which is a no-go when sending a gift! 

Speedy delivery. Padded mails are usually mailed and received very quickly. 

Limited size. Padded mailers are only suitable for small items and cannot handle anything that is heavy, as the mailer will likely tear. 

Cheap to store. Because they are thin and light, padded mailers take up less space than boxes, which can lead to cost savings.

Can’t be used for multiple items. While boxes can be used to ship multiple items in one go, padded mailers have limited room in size, meaning you can only ship one or two items at a time. 

Holiday Gift Boxes: What’s Right for Me? 

Depending on what products you sell, you might choose to go for a hybrid strategy. For example, for one-item orders, you can use padded mailers. Then, for orders with multiple items or for gift sets, you can use customized shipping boxes

which holiday gift box is right for you shipping boxes or ornament

Decorating Your Gift Packaging 

Now that you know what kind of packaging you’re going for, it’s time to get creative and sprinkle some festive cheer in the form of design.

Your boxes or mailers can be customized in many ways. The colors, graphics, textures, and finishing options can all be edited to best represent your brand and what the holiday season means to you. 

We recommend first thinking about the color and texture of your gift packaging. If you’re an eco-conscious brand, you may want to go for a natural kraft-brown feel. Alternatively, if you’re aiming for a minimalist holiday design, then a shiny white might suit you better. Remember, no idea is too crazy, so get creative, search for inspiration online, and come up with an idea that you think your customers will love!   

Besides colors, you can choose finishing options like glossy or matte. Over the Christmas period, a glossy finish might be a great way to add extra sparkle to your ecommerce gifts. However, it’s worth noting that different colors and textures will suit glossy finishes better than others, so be sure to consult a design or packaging materials expert before finalizing anything. 

Graphics and typography are the next step to consider. Christmas wrapping paper is often adorned with reindeers, baubles, Santa, and so onand so can your holiday boxes! Remember, though, to keep your graphics and colors in line with your brand guidelines. You want your package to stand out and represent your brand, not look like a generic holiday package. 

Add a Touch of Sparkle

Customization goes beyond the outside of your box or mailer. To make your products feel extra special during the holidays, you can add some personal touches, such as: 

1. Holiday-Style Packing Tape

If you’re on a budget or want to elevate your customized box even more, then look no further than holiday-themed packing tape. This is a great way to add some theater to your boxes and mailers, and really show off the extra effort your brand has put in over the holiday season.

2. Custom Stickers and Labels

Custom stickers and labels are a subtle and cost-effective way to embellish your packaging. Your stickers can combine your brand elements with holiday imagery, and you can create them in a range of colors and textures. 

custom stickers and labels for holiday gift packaging with colorful imagery

3. Personal Notes

If you’re a small business, then a handwritten note is an amazing way to build a relationship with your customer while, at the same time, showing them the love and care that has gone into creating your package. If you are too busy to commit to handwritten notes, then typed cards can be used instead. Either way, these notes are a way to create a meaningful interaction with your customer and wish them a happy holiday season.

4. Custom Tissue Paper

Tissue paper is wonderfully versatile. Aside from adding cushioning to your ecommerce packaging, it can also add to the sense of excitement while opening a gift. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors and finishes, meaning you can personalize it to fit your brand. Finally, although tissue paper is relatively inexpensive, it can add a touch of luxury to your packages, which is perfect for sending a holiday gift.

5. Ribbons

A beautiful ribbon that you wrap around a gift is a traditional holiday emblem, and they are easy and inexpensive to incorporate into your strategy. Take Tiffany and Co. Their packages usually feature the classic blue box, delicately tied with a white ribbon. Over the holidays, they make one striking change that signals in the festive cheer; they swap the white ribbon for a red one. While simple, this move serves as a sign for Tiffany and Co. customers that the holidays are here. If your shop uses ribbons or decorations, then consider switching the color, like Tiffany and Co., for straightforward but effective customization. 

Remember Your Why 

holiday gift packaging design remember your why

We appreciate that overhauling your gift packaging design for a two-month period can feel overwhelming and like a huge amount of work, but it can also be extremely fun and rewarding. Ultimately, a great holiday packaging strategy can elevate your sales and build long-lasting brand relationships.

After all, we’re in the age of the unboxing experience. Your holiday gift packaging is a form of free, online marketing. In fact, consumers are 90% more likely to purchase from a brand recommended to them by someone they know, so encourage your customers to share their purchases and unbox them on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and so on. 

For all you know, your packaging could go viral, taking your brand to a new level of recognition and sales among consumers. Plus, at the very least, your customized holiday gift packaging will spread festive cheer, make your consumers feel good, and highlight your brand’s values. 

Refine Packaging is the top choice for the world’s Inc 5000 and Fortune 500 companies. With super fast production times, affordable pricing, and a sky’s the limit attitude, we’ll help you turn your custom packaging into a competitive differentiator. Contact us today and a dedicated packaging specialist will guide you through every step of the custom packaging process without breaking a sweat.

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