Left to navigate the beauty aisles with no direction or guidance, and faced with a baffling array of different products, shoppers have long felt alienated by beauty retailers. Enter Birchbox, which landed on the scene in 2010, overturned the outdated beauty shopping model and successfully engaged with an ignored audience. By tapping into the potential of casual beauty shoppers rather than beauty experts, Birchbox was able to create a unique online subscription box service which perfectly met the needs of this audience. Figaro Digital chats to Savannah Sachs, UK Managing Director at Birchbox, to get the lowdown on how Birchbox continuously collects data, tests and adjusts its approach to create a unique, personalised and accessible shopping experience for each individual.
A Fresh Approach To Targeting
The approach to customer targeting is what separates Birchbox from the rest of the beauty industry. Traditionally, beauty companies have focused on the customers that spend the most, but Birchbox found that this segment is actually only 20 percent of the market. The other 80 percent is the draw for Birchbox– and targeting this audience has proven to be very lucrative. A study based on credit card spend showed that Birchbox subscribers increased spend on beauty by 70 per cent in 12 months compared to a control group. Sachs explains that this impact on shopping habits is “the real opportunity, and that is our differentiation – we are speaking to a different consumer that the industry is ignoring, and offering them a unique way to discover beauty that is having a material impact on their spending pattern”. The appeal of the Birchbox concept, says Sachs, is down to the “try, learn, buy” model which suits this audience perfectly – subscribers are sent a box of five samples every month based on their unique beauty profile, along with handy tips about how to use them, and a platform on the Birchbox site where they can purchase the products they liked the most. Approaching beauty sampling from a customer acquisition perspective has allowed Birchbox to fill a gaping hole in the industry and target a previously undisturbed majority who were under-spending as a result.
Personalisation – A Win-Win For Both Customers And Brands
“Where we stand out from other copycats who enter the market is our subscription box, and the way we continually over deliver on personalisation”, explains Sachs. “Continuous investment in our proprietary algorithms ensures our customers are getting the right products to fit their profile, sampling and purchasing history, and that they’re receiving five products that fit their needs”. Collecting data from customers in a “Beauty Profile” is a vital aspect of this personalisation, as customers can set their profile to reflect their own skin type, hair type, and beauty style. As well as using this data to send five personalised beauty samples to customers each month, the data is used more widely by the brand to produce relevant and personalised messaging. For example, emails recently sent to customers about a new lip tint by Benefit were personalised according to the customer’s skin type, so that subscribers could make an informed decision about which colour to pick. Using data to personalise in this way ensures they are “remaining relevant and catering to a diverse customer base”.
This personalisation is a ‘win-win’ for both the B2C and B2B elements of the business, Sachs explains. “We are offering our brand partners the opportunity to get their products in the hands of really qualified consumers. We are then offering them a cross-channel digital marketing campaign around the product, and the capacity to target specific audience segments with their samples”. For example, last month Birchbox worked with Estee Lauder, which wanted to focus on recruiting the next generation of customers and wanted to only send their products to millennials – Birchbox was able to send the three different product samples to just those between the ages of 26 and 34. Through personalisation, Birchbox is able to benefit both customers (by sending them products that suit their needs exactly) and brand partners (by allowing them more effective customer acquisition campaigns). “This is the real win-win of leveraging data to personalise and target”, says Sachs.
Test Everything, Assume Nothing
To really get to grips with the beauty majority, testing has been essential to continuously enhance and assess user experience. “Our rapid growth in the UK comes down to social media first, A/B testing second – we are always running a test, we are obsessed,” Sachs explains. Birchbox proves that testing can be done on simple programmes and still be effective – “it’s more about the discipline to test everything and assume nothing- we use really simple tools, things like Hot Jar to survey different pages to come up with test ideas, and then ultimately we just use Google Analytics.” This style of testing has allowed Birchbox to improve and streamline the user experience – it was able to determine the most successful number of steps in a customer’s journey from acquisition to subscription, and showed a 35 percent improvement in conversion rate when changes were implemented based on this testing. Additionally, monthly surveys on products and the ‘box experience’ allows Birchbox to continuously assess its service. It uses this data to inform what it’s sourcing and sampling, so it can adjust and learn what works best for each audience.
Creating An Informative And Inclusive Community
Birchbox recognised that tapping into the beauty majority meant an “informative and inclusive social community had to be created in order to supercharge word of mouth and referral.” It begins with providing a great monthly box experience, and then “encouraging conversation across all social platforms to share this”. Paying close attention to the details of the box experience, such as packaging moments and the unboxing experience, means it is “putting something out there that is really Instagrammable, something which people will be proud to share on their social channels and tell their friends about”. This means content will grow organically, as customers share their Birchbox experience via social media channels and become part of the community. Ensuring the brand resonates with its audience on a personal level is a key part of building this community – using staff members rather than models to highlight new products, for example, is one way Birchbox ensures the brand is relatable and accessible for all women.
A Nimble And Flexible Approach On Social Media
A “nimble” approach to social media means Birchbox can adjust its strategy to suit features that are evolving quickly, explains Sachs. Vital to this agility is “empowering junior team members on the frontline to make those quick decisions so that you can remain on top of the trend, focusing and prioritising the areas you need to be that day, that week or that month.” Remaining relevant also means being unafraid to pull back from channels that are no longer as useful – Snapchat, for example, is one channel Birchbox is pulling back from, as its audience on Instagram Stories continues to grow. Sachs highlights that “ensuring everyone on the team has a pulse on social means you can instantly get a read on how your business is doing”. 65 per cent of Birchbox traffic comes from mobile, and this is reflected in its latest project – a global redesign of the mobile site using a Facebook React framework to improve speed and responsiveness. This development of the platform where customers are most active, “will enhance the customer journey on mobile, because we see that as a key area of growth in the future,” Sachs explains. The way platforms and features are evolving daily means an adjustable strategy is vital for Birchbox to remain relevant on social media.
Birchbox has successfully tapped into its target audience, “the beauty majority”, and moulded itself to suit and appeal to those with a more casual approach to beauty – an audience when offered the right concept, was ready and waiting to be tapped into. From its agile approach to social media, its constant testing to streamline user experience, and its ultimate focus on personalisation, Birchbox is able to shape itself to the needs of its audience and continually update its approach to inspire and empower.