Katia Beauchamp (Birchbox): "We target all consumers, not just cosmetics junkies"
Where is Birchbox headed to? The US company’s business model is based on a monthly beauty kit subscription service and an e-shop. A few days ago, it opened its first European store, a 200 m2 shop located at 17 rue Montmartre, Paris. Birchbox was created in 2010 and in 2012 it acquired French start-up Joliebox, turning it into its local subsidiary. Birchbox claims over one million active monthly subscribers (200,000 of them in France) and 4 million customers in total. The store's inauguration is the chance to talk about the company's cross-channel strategy with the co-founder and CEO of Birchbox, Katia Beauchamp.
FashionNetwork: Why does Birchbox now need to open a brick-and-mortar shop?
Katia Beauchamp: When we created Birchbox, we envisaged it as a purely online business. Over time, we have experimented with pop-stores and similar initiatives, and we felt it was necessary to establish a physical connection with our customers, and also to attract more of them. The first store opened in New York three years ago, and has been a success both in terms of brand image and sales, so it seemed logical to replicate the concept in Paris.
The store is also an extension of our subscription range. Using the ‘La Fabrique’ (the factory) area, customers can create their own €15 kit by choosing 5 products among a selection of 15 samples. It gives them the chance to test products before upgrading to a regular size.
FNW: In what ways are you different from traditional beauty retailers?
KB: We have done our homework on store layout and product range. We are keen on clarity and giving good advice, so items are not grouped by brand - as for example at Sephora - but by category or cosmetic regime: all lipsticks from all our different brands are grouped together, and the same goes for our make-up removers or hydrating lotions.
We want our approach to come across as playful, stress-free and above all not intimidating. We would like to target all consumers, not just cosmetics junkies. And to help them in their search for an appropriate product. Birchbox's mission is to act as a consultant and to establish a dialogue with consumers, introducing brands to them. They do not necessarily have to feel they have walked into a shop. Upstairs in our Paris store we have set up a Beauty Studio, an area for relaxing and meeting other people which can also be partitioned off for privacy. It is an ideal venue for shooting video tutorials and organising events with bloggers.
FNW: What kind of influence does this approach have on the brands you offer?
KB: Opening stores allows us to extend our product range. For example by incorporating new labels, which are not yet present on our website but which accept to join Birchbox via our new physical store. In Paris we are now featuring quality labels such as Bobbi Brown, Clarins, Sanoflore and Bioderma. This is a cross-channel strategy, allowing us at the same time to add to our e-store, whose sales represent 35% of our overall revenue.
FNW: Are you planning to open more stores?
KB: We are indeed planning to expand our brick-and-mortar presence, both in the USA and Europe. In London or in Spain perhaps, though nothing has been decided yet. But traditional retailing is a genuine growth driver for us: in the USA, a customer's average basket is three times larger in-store than online.
FNW: Are you working on other projects?
KB: We are testing new, more personalised kit options. Our underlying concept relies on surprising the customer, though the products must fit with the profile they specify. In the USA we have recently launched Birchbox Select, based on a sample selection which is more closely moulded to customer requirements. For example, for a given month they may choose to include a mascara or to not receive a kit at all, in order to spend the monthly subscription directly on the e-store.
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