Manhattan startup Birchbox has proven in its first two years of existence that a subscription-based e‑commerce model can really work. And now, innovation-seeking e‑commerce analysts will be interested to hear, it’s taking to the clouds. Literally.
Subscription to beauty discovery
The idea behind the company came from two Harvard Business School classmates, co-founders Katie Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, who launched Birchbox in 2011 and are now also its co-CEOs. Basically, for a monthly fee of $10, the startup supplies women with an attractively-designed pink box filled with sample-sized accessories and cosmetics.
Just so that men don’t miss out, there’s a subscription service for them too, although their box of samples doesn’t come in pink. But it does contain manly products like hair pomades, travel-sized bottles of plant face oil and eye creams.
As Ms. Beauchamp explains:
“The way it works is you sign up give us your profile information like who you are what you look like what your preferences are and then you receive a surprise box of samples once a month. It’s tailored for you and then we send you info to learn how to use products and when you find something you love—you can buy it at Birchbox com.”
Heading for the clouds
You don’t have to be a hard-nosed e‑commerce analyst to appreciate that that little idea has got legs. Beauchamp and Barna had noticed that it was far easier to buy clothes online than it was to get hold of good beauty products. And they set about devising a plan to right this cruel wrong. The guiding principle, Beauchamp says, was to give every woman ‘a beauty editor best friend’ to help them discover products before buying them online.
And what a glorious range of products is on offer: Birchbox uses literally thousands of brands, from the well-known to the harder to find niche.
But if this isn’t enough to blow that hard-nosed e‑commerce analyst’s socks off, a recent move by the company may well succeed. It’s just announced that it’ll now be part of the new Mint premium-class service offered by airline JetBlue. Along with the tapas and cocktails from NYC’s ‘Saxon + Parole’ restaurant and the lie flat beds on domestic flights, male and female Mint service passengers will also be provided with customized Birchbox amenity kits.