Every month, hundreds of thousands of Birchbox subscribers eagerly anticipate the arrival of their box in the mail. These packages contain four to six cosmetics and lifestyle samples (provided by selected marketers), which enable consumers to learn about new brands and brands to get exposure. The amount of promotion around a product can be immense, considering the culture of blogging, social media posts and unboxing videos that exists within the 800,000+ member community.
"Our basic insight was that the market is somewhat ineffective, with money and consumers passing each other," said Birchbox co-CEO Katia Beauchamp. "Brands work with Birchbox to learn what it means to put a sample in someone's hands and get a return on investment. Brands give us the samples, and we make sure it goes to the right people with the right message.”
Increasingly, more Birchboxes have become currated, meaning that a marketer will help cross-promote that month's offerings and pick the samples without any monetary input. The upcoming October Men's box is themed with football season in mind, and appropriately co-branded by FXX comedy series The League.
Such deals involve more than slapping a logo on the box, however, according to Beauchamp. The sample box company selects partners based on their ability to curate a box according to their area of expertise. Those marketers also benefit from added exposure.
One of Birchbox's most successful partnerships was the April 2013 box with Women's Health. Birchbox subscribers who opted to receive this package got a box co-branded by the magazine around beauty routines, which included a one-year subscription to Women's Health. The women's magazine also wrote an in-book feature about the box and held a blogger and Birchbox customer event with Barry's Bootcamp, further promoting the product to its audience of 32 million readers.
In total, 24 million social media impressions were made. It lead to one of the magazine's largest acquisition campaigns, with 43,000 new paid subscribers signing up.
Women's Health prides itself on trying to infuse actionable advice, and having physical samples to base editorial on helped build on the publication's brand message and create an interactive experience for readers, according to Women's Health eic Amy Keller Laird.
"From a business perspective, we're looking for a new clever way to build subscription rates," Laird added. "They're getting new customers, and we're getting new customers."
The success of the first box—it also led to a 10 percent increase in subscriptions to Birchbox—lead both to revisit their partnership in July 2014. Already, the second box—this time focused on health and fitness—is on track to bring in more than 50,000 new subscribers. Currently, 5 million impressions have been made from people posting user-generated images of the box itself, and another 22 million impressions came from people joining the #powerupchallenge. Birchbox also reported another more than 10 percent increase in subscriptions this time around as well.
"I think word is starting to go around that we have a really engaged audience," Beauchamp said.