Birchbox gained a lot of publicity in the U.S. in 2010, when founders Haley Barna and Katia Beauchamp reimagined how samples were distributed. Previously, samples were mostly discarded by consumers and rarely traced to sales. But Barna and Beauchamp found samples multiplied in efficacy when customized for consumer wants, skin type, hair type, and complexion – and delivered in a beautiful package instead of tossed into shopping bags.
Five years later, Birchbox raised more than $71 million in venture capital and purchased French competitor JolieBox. (Though it has struggled to deliver profits and recently cut 15% of its staff .) Yet, it looks as if the company has barely made a dent in securing French Beauty brands. L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beauty France finds that just 9% of the brands studied are distributed on Birchbox France, whereas 31% and 41% are listed on My Little Box and Glossybox respectively.
In addition to competing subscription boxes, brands have realized their advantage in distributing samples directly. L’Oréal Paris has created “L’Or Box,” which translates to “gold box” in French. Leveraging its role as the official cosmetics brand on the Festival de Cannes, the brand produced a “Red Carpet” box and hid a ticket to the event in one of the boxes for a lucky recipient.
Sisley Paris also began offering monthly box subscription recently, multitasking by offering it as a loyalty perk. The box is available for six months at €30 and at no cost to Sisley Club Gold and Platinum members. Each month’s box follows a theme like “Spring Fancy” or “Red Carpet.”
It’s too early to tell if consumers will continue subscribing to independent beauty subscription services to benefit from their assortment of brands, or become swayed by larger brands’ lower prices and sweepstake offerings (like the ticket). However, Sisley and L’Oréal’s endeavors show all beauty brands must consider an updated sampling strategy, either through a partner or in-house program.
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