When British brand theBalm ventured stateside in 2009, the brand embarked on the well-worn path of distributing on Sephora. However, two years later, it broke ties with the established beauty retailer and, after tinkering with its distribution strategy, chose to raise awareness by appearing in subscription boxes on Ipsy and Birchbox.

The results were noteworthy—making clear that although the growth of beauty subscription box companies has slowed, they can still be a formidable source of discovery.

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After discovering the brand through samples, consumers were eager to purchase the full-sized product. In 2017, Ipsy generated 45% of traffic to theBalm.com, and 9% of the Amazon reviews for the brand’s best-selling Meet Matte lipstick mention first trying the product from Ipsy. theBalm also invests heavily in advertising and content on Amazon, a smart decision given that 85% of women who use the platform shop for beauty products.

theBalm’s success story highlights the importance of adaptability and seeking strategies that fit best, instead of following the conventional path. When distributing on Sephora achieved unsatisfactory results, theBalm bounced back by shifting to sampling efforts through subscription boxes. Being flexible pays off.

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