Beauty boxes have revolutionized how consumers shop for beauty products, adding sensory elements to online shopping that were not present in the traditional retail format.
The concept is that boxes are filled with samples delivered to your door for a small subscription fee, giving consumers the chance to try different brands and products in sample sizes before writing reviews online and deciding if they will purchase the full size product on the internet.
The concept is seen as the first step in engaging consumers, with teasers and links then driving traffic online and potentially influencing purchases, and Lee explains that it is a global phenomenon that she would not have expected a decade ago.
“Subscription boxes such as Birchbox and Glossy Box have taken off in the US, Western Europe and in parts of Asia,” she says.
“It’s incredible that beauty boxes have taken off. If you had asked me 10 years ago – would women, and increasingly men, pay 10-20 dollars a month to get samples delivered to their home? I would have said ‘no way, that’s a crazy idea’.”
Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp was a panelist at the HBA Global Expo earlier this year, and outlined how her company embarked on this journey into what she calls ‘discovery retail’.
Originally Birchbox tested with 200 women and eight brands and were worried about not getting enough brands to participate. Now, they have over 400,000 subscribers worldwide who pay $10-20 a month to get beauty samples mailed to their home.
Lee highlights that the appeal of beauty boxes is that it helps consumers to try out different products, share thoughts and tips with others, and in some cases actually helps consumers to spend less online as they do not waste money trying out several full-sized products.
On the negative side Lee says that some consumers wish for greater customization, since they do not like at least one item in a box.
“It’s a question of sampling,” continues the industry expert. “Sampling has really taken off especially since 9/11 and the restrictions on travelling with liquids, and this has seen a lot of people jumping on the sample bandwagon.”
This has seen some skin care companies offer deluxe samples in a travel set, whilst others offer more samples at the department store counter to get the trial that hopefully then leads to a sale later.
“For companies like Birchbox and Glossy Box it’s sending samples every month to get consumers to buy the full-sized products hopefully,” ends Lee.