Behind the Scenes with BirchBox

BirchBox Q&A with Ashley McKenna Senior PR Associate

Birchbox's new Advent calendar box.

How did Birchbox get started?

Our co-founders Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna were in business school when they noticed that beauty —which is an enormous global industry—was under-penetrated online. They saw a huge opportunity to build a company that could sell beauty online, effectively. Now Birchbox has more than 1 million subscribers and 4 million total customers.

On a personal level, they wondered why was it so hard to have a great beauty buying experience if one isn’t as passionate about beauty as the next person. If one doesn’t obsess over beauty and doesn’t enjoy researching the latest launches, they still deserve to get the best products. They still want to look beautiful and still want to spend money on things they love and things that work. Our co-founders thought, how could we give people the confidence to purchase online? So they created a business model around the concept of taking something you have historically received for free—samples—and making them more relevant and enjoyable while asking you to pay for them. They believed that relevance and personalization were valuable to the consumer—and the consumer agreed.


How did Birchbox decide to target women who weren’t necessarily beauty obsessed? How do those women benefit from Birchbox?

Birchbox’s customer is a bit unexpected—we don’t target beauty junkies, but rather women who are NOT passionate about beauty. They want to look their best, of course, but they find shopping for beauty to be a chore and don’t have the time nor the interest to research all the options out there. So our goal is to make it easy and efficient to find new products they love.

We’re more than just a subscription. Our goal is to help customers discover new products they love (via the monthly boxes), and then make it easy to buy full-size versions of their favorites online—so we have a full e-commerce shop on with more than 800 best-in-class beauty and grooming brands.


Birch Box stackWhat sorts of products are included in Birchbox?

Customers receive five beauty products a month that can include hair, skincare, body, makeup, and fragrance. We work with over 800 prestige brands, from mainstream favorites (like MAC, Kiehl’s and Benefit Cosmetics) to niche up-and-comers (like Sunday Riley and OUAI). Everything is personalized to our individual customers’ beauty profiles.  


Do you ever include items like beauty tools, nail care, and bath items? Or is it strictly hair, skin, and makeup?

Our regular monthly boxes can include samples from hair, skincare, body (i.e. location, scrubs), makeup, and fragrance. We also carry stand-alone limited-edition boxes and kits you can buy online for a great value that may include lifestyle items such as a hair styler, apparel, etc. The products go along with that box/kit’s theme. Our e-commerce shop sells tools like curling irons, blowdryers, etc. and lifestyle items like water bottles, etc.


What’s the process behind choosing the products in each month’s box? Does everyone get the same box?

A core part of what we do is personalize the boxes to each subscriber’s individual needs. When you subscribe you fill out a beauty profile noting your hair type, skin type, skin concerns, etc. Our fancy algorithms make sure the samples are as relevant/useful to each customer as possible.


After receiving a box of samples, subscribers can go to the web store and purchase full-size beauty products of their favorites. Can a subscriber request a specific sample in their next box?

Our “sample choice” feature lets subscribers choose one of their samples for their next monthly box. We’re also testing a concept called Birchbox Select that gives customers more control over their discovery experience. If you know you want something specific, now you can get to that product faster. We were taken aback by how interested people were in having more control in their selection experience so we’re continuing to iterate on this idea. 


Birchbox also caters to men with Birchbox Man. What inspired the company to appeal to men as well?

Birchbox just celebrated five years of its men’s subscription box. After the initial success of our women’s subscriptions, we tested a limited-edition box of men’s grooming and lifestyle products during the 2011 holiday season and it sold out in just three days. Even more surprising, the customers were mostly men buying for themselves.  It was clear to us that men were looking for a new, easy way to learn about and purchase high-quality grooming products.

We just launched a $10 monthly box that features five personalized grooming samples across hair, skincare, shave/beard, body, and fragrance. They might also receive shampoo, facial moisturizers, deodorant, or beard oil. We also have our $20 BirchboxMan Plus monthly box that includes five grooming samples and one lifestyle item (i.e. wallet, pocket square, tech gadget, etc.).


The holidays have some cool limited-edition boxes coming up. Are these strictly a holiday thing? How often do limited edition boxes occur? What makes these boxes special? 

We have about 10-12 limited-edition boxes throughout the year, but our holiday limited edition boxes are little different this year. We are selling two holiday limited-edition boxes leading up to holiday called “Toast to the Host” and “Time To Dazzle” that will include full-size items, lifestyle accessories, and more products overall. We’re also excited to be launching for the first time ever, our “Countdown to Beauty” Advent Calendar.


Tell me about the advent calendar box. What does that entail?

For the first time ever, we are selling an Advent calendar that will include samples of our bestselling beauty products from many prestige brands, giving consumers the chance to find the joy of discovering a new product behind each door. Instead of the typical 12 days of surprises, our special Birchbox touch includes 14 products. We certainly expect this limited-edition box to sell out fast.


Anything else you’d like to share?

We also have the Birchbox Loyalty Program, which is the most generous rewards program in the beauty space.  For every $1 you spend, you earn one point to spend in the Birchbox Shop. If you spend $300 in the year, you reach a higher tier of becoming a Birchbox Ace, which unlocks special perks and privileges.