Birchbox Aims to Bring ‘Artificial Intelligence’ to Offline Retail

Opens first brick-and-mortar in SoHo

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Birchbox tomorrow opens its first brick-and-mortar location with a 4,500 square foot storefront in New York's fashionable SoHo district. The much-hyped beauty e-retailer aims to make the shopping experience akin to what its online patrons are accustomed to via a large touchscreen and four iPads that will float around the duplex-styled outlet.

Per an email from Birchbox co-founder and co-CEO Katia Beauchamp, the store applies "the insight and feedback from our hundreds of thousands of [digital] customers to better understand what makes them tick, and create a customer-first, holistic offline shopping experience. … [Our online platform] uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to personalize product recommendations and samples for subscribers and shoppers—and this same model will be applied to the offline retail experience."

Customers will be able to use iPad apps to zero in on personal-care products that make sense to them according to individual attributes, such as skin tone, hair color, hair style, etc. Text-based content, videos and digital product reviews will be available, too.

Four-year-old Birchbox claims to have more than 800,000 active subscribers. According to a Fortune article earlier this year, the New York-based company generated between $80 million and $100 million in revenue in 2013 and picked up a $50 million funding round in February—around the time word began circulating that it planned to open a physical store. It stands to reason that some of the cash infusion was used for getting the shop ready for its West Broadway debut.

The brand has briefly experimented with offline commerce in recent months, opening five so-called pop-up stores for stints in New York City and the Hamptons.

Now, Birchbox follows in eBay, Warby Parker and Bonobos' footsteps as an e-commerce brand trying its hand at a full-time retail location. 

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.