Beauty Topic: Battle of the Beauty Boxes

You’d probably have to be living in a remote corner of the Amazon river basin to not have heard about beauty sample box subscriptions. And if you have a social media account, you have also most likely been seeing ads or invites for these subscription services. However, are they worth shelling out $10-$20 a month for sample size products? Here’s my 2 cents and personal experiences with the big three: Birchbox, IPSY and Julep.

  1. Birchbox – this is the brand that started the movement of beauty sample boxes, and quite frankly shocked the beauty world into looking at product samples differently. Normally, samples were handed out during gift with purchase promotions by retailers. But two Harvard Business School grads decided to pursue the opportunity to create an e-commerce model that allowed customers to indicate what types of products they wanted to try, and receive a personalized box on a monthly basis. Well, having been in beauty for the last 15 years, I was game to try when it first started up. For the first few months, I enjoyed the service, as it was almost like getting a little treat every month. But after a while, I noticed a pattern – even though I was diligent about logging my product reviews and feedback every month, I would get products that were almost duplicates of each other or had specific ingredients that I just told Birchbox that I didn’t like in my previous reviews. Just a different bottle or brand packaging, but essentially the same product. Birchbox DID introduce me to a few of my now-favorite products, so I’ll give them credit for that. But I ended my subscription recently because I felt like the $10/month could be better spent on buying my favorites, and not getting products that I essentially didn’t enjoy. I may reactivate my subscription, but it will depend on how fast I can use up the products I’ve already received.
  2. IPSY – OMG, this was a big disappointment to me. I will say that I do have a lot of respect for Michelle Phan, and how she’s been able to grow her own brand and beauty empire through her easy to follow YouTube tutorials and no-nonsense approach to beauty products. However, girl, your company’s marketing department needs to re-think their approach to getting customers to join IPSY. Unfortunately, all that basically transpired in my attempt to become an IPSY customer was giving them my info, credit card number, and then being bombarded by constant email requests over several weeks to hand over my social media contacts – if I did, that would take me off the “waiting list” for my subscription to begin. That, to me, went way too far in guerrilla marketing tactics – I will NOT piss off my friends and family by promoting a business or service that I have not even had a chance to experience yet myself. To me, a customer has the right to either promote or demote your business or service only after they’ve been able to experience it firsthand. My subscription was held hostage, until I gave them access to my Facebook contacts, or Tweeted about them, etc. So, I cancelled my subscription, without ever having received a box. Likewise, if you keep sending me an invite to CandyCrush or to farm some digital crops for you on Facebook, and I haven’t talked to you since 7th grade, then be fully prepared to have your request deleted.
  3. Julep – As far as ease of setup for a subscription, I thought this was one of the best user experiences. Plus, I like Jane Park’s approach to beauty and the fact that Julep is HER brand that she created. It features Korean skincare, but also has a great color cosmetics and original nail polish line. I appreciate someone like Jane in understanding that you don’t make your customers jump through hoops to try a product, be a bit daring, and that full sizes of products are included with subscriptions. I’m also happy that I only had to sign up for a 3 month subscription – once I’ve received my last box, I may be able to take a break and use up the samples I received before I decide on getting more. Their products are also sold at a few retailers, but I like their website as it has tips, product descriptions, ingredients and other valuable info.

There are many other companies currently engaged with subscription boxes. The Honest Co., MIMI and Sephora are all gaining traction from customers on providing innovative ways to try products. I recommend giving them a try if you like testing and trying new products. Plus, this new way of thinking about trying products has given rise to men’s grooming boxes as well – Dollar Shave Club, Dollar Beard Club, and Birchbox Man are geared towards shaving, beard care and saving money based on using these subscriptions. Due to my busy schedule, I’ve often appreciated the subscription model for supplying me with products that come at convenient times for use. But I am hoping that through personalization of data, and my feedback of ratings and reviews, that the products I receive going forward are even more suited to me. Have you tried any beauty subscriptions too?

© 28daysbeauty 2016