Premium Beauty News - What is Birchbox’s ambition today, both in France and on the global level?
Quentin Reygrobellet - Beyond our will to increase the number of our subscribers, we aim, as we always did, to sell cosmetics online and be the first e-merchant in France and around the world. Today, in France, we are part of the Top 3 of e-retailers, right behind the United States in terms of subscribers, and ahead of the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, and Ireland. It is to this end that the box concept was originally designed, as it allows women consumers to test products before buying them. We have a unique large-scale logistics system that has also become a precious marketing and communication tool for our 250 partner brands. This premium tool supports online sales, it is our physical footprint.
Premium Beauty News - Will your physical footprint also materialize in points of sale, like in the United States?
Quentin Reygrobellet - We do have a vision of what Birchbox developed in the United States: the inauguration of a test physical store in Soho. The idea is to make our customers live the same experience as online, as they can discover our products, in particular with “The Factory”, which makes it possible for them to create their own boxes in-store, and they can buy products by a selection of brands. We have applied the same principle to our project to open a Birchbox store in Paris within the next 6 to 8 months, but for now, we have been launching small pop-up stores offering a similar experience to “The Factory”. We were very successful at the Bon Marché department store, so we are going to do it again, also in French regions, this time with Galeries Lafayette in Marseille, Toulouse, and Strasbourg.
Premium Beauty News - Is this will to be physically present related to your selective distribution agreement with brands?
Quentin Reygrobellet - It is true that in France, the brands we work with would like us to have a store to be able to develop online, but that is the main reason why we launched these initiatives. We do think we need to be present both on and offline to sell cosmetics.
Premium Beauty News - Is the box market still as dynamic today?
Quentin Reygrobellet - The concept remains attractive and the market keeps growing. We wanted our box to be affordable - around EUR13 - to give all women the possibility to test without any risk. In addition, our subscribers benefit from lower prices when they shop online. So, we have actually created a test-to-purchase transformation tool, and the conversion works pretty well: 90% of our partner brands in 2015 prolonged the experience in 2016 for that particular reason. And statistics even show that beyond developing sales on our website, the box concept contributes to increasing brands’ sales at other retailers. In France, e-commerce represents 35% of our turnover, and 50% of our box subscribers shop online.
Mathilde Lacombe - Indeed, and we are also very efficient at renewing our box, from all standpoints. Every month, we tell a different story with a new design, a new theme, and new partners, to keep surprising our subscribers. This way, they feel as if they were part of an adventure in the long term. And brands use us as distributors, but also as a marketing agency.
Premium Beauty News - So with this ‘test-to-purchase conversion’ system, the role of consumer feedback must be even more essential to you.
Quentin Reygrobellet - Thanks to the beauty questionnaire consumers fill in when they subscribe, the feedback questionnaires, 20 to 30% of which are sent back, and visitor tracking, I guess we know our customers and their consumption habits better than anyone. Besides, all this combined to an algorithm helps us personalize and best target the composition of our boxes, but also our customer relationship. Obviously, this advantage has an impact on the conversion into sales, but it also guarantees the satisfaction to live a unique experience. As for the brands that see us as a research firm, their quantitative/qualitative data feedback and the advice we offer them in terms of digital or content strategies are significantly positive.
Premium Beauty News - Have you changed the profile of the brands you distribute?
Quentin Reygrobellet - We have many niche and foreign brands, and more and more major brands. Our DNA is to make women discover new launches, not only by unknown brands, but also by other more popular ones.