Over the last few months, New York-based startup Birchbox has taken over the retail realm. In a little over three years, the subscription commerce beauty brand has grown to 800,000 subscribers, has 250 employees and has worked with 800 brands, amounting to $96 million in annual sales — not to mention its recent venture funding acquisition and plans to open a brick-and-mortar location this summer in SoHo.
Birchbox Co-Founder Hayley Barna sat down with The Women in Retail Leadership Circle at the recent Women in Retail Leadership Summit to discuss how she and co-founder Katia Beauchamp came up with the business model, what their vision is for the future of Birchbox, and share her thoughts on expanding to other retail channels.
Birchbox’s unique business model combines elements from retail, media and a strong e-commerce platform. Consumers can sign up for a year, six-month or three-month subscription of sample beauty products. If you like the products chosen, you can order the full-sized product on Birchbox’s e-commerce site. In addition, Birchbox offers content and “how tos,” adding a media element to the brand. Barna noted how social media has had a positive impact on the brand, and in particular how effective user-generated content has been.
“Whether it was people filming themselves on YouTube opening their Birchbox, writing on their beauty blog, these days it’s a lot of Instagram photos which is really fun, we keep seeing new things pop up and really move towards where the customers are and where they’re having the conversation about the products they’re discovering and excited to buy,” said Barna.
While Birchbox is determined to stay true to its core subscription-based business model, the company has decided to open a brick-and-mortar location to act as a “beauty lab” for women to go and test and try new products.
“The strategy comes from a lot of different places,” Barna said. “It’s important for both our brand partners and consumers to create a really fun in-person experience.”
Listen in as Hayley Barna, co-founder of Birchbox, discusses the future of the brand.