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Retail: Pure player Birchbox France unaffected by crisis

Like many other digital players, Birchbox France saw their sales boom during lockdown – a positive effect in an unprecedented context for one of the main pure players in this sector, who, in the meantime, successfully launched the Splendist box, a new premium offering for customers in search of high-end products. The retailer also offers their partner brands Analytics by Birchbox, an exclusive access to their qualitative and quantitative data analysis platform.

Now that they are independent from the American parent company, Birchbox France, headed by Quentin Reygrobellet, co-founder of the initial concept, keeps developing, with a 10% growth rate since the beginning of the year and a two-digit cost-efficiency. And this progress was unexpectedly amplified by the lockdown. “Our traffic has more than doubled, and so has the conversion rate. Our average basket has increased by 40%”, says Quentin Reygrobellet. These dynamics were driven by the arrival of 40% new digital consumers who used to shop offline. Meanwhile, the retailer benefits from the additional interest of new brands previously not referenced on the box and the online store.

Quentin Reygrobellet, co-founder and CEO of Birchbox France

Quentin Reygrobellet, co-founder and CEO of Birchbox France

They are mainly selective or professional brands sold in places that have had to close their doors. It shows there will a before and after Covid-19. In the digital sector, cosmetics were growing, but they still represented quite a small share, between 10% and 15% of the global market in France. Today, it shows those who were reluctant to use it that the digital solution is actually interesting,” explains the Director.

The fun, accessible way consumers discover new products with the box convinced the most receptive who longed to go shopping. Birchbox France saw their box sales double compared to April 2019, which directly impacted the conversion into purchases online.

The winning categories include cocooning care, masks, scrubs, hair dyes, hair care… at the expense of makeup and perfume. The sales of the corner green, which already represented 40% of the distributor’s turnover, also boomed.

Splendist, a new attractive concept

In addition, March marked the launching of a new premium concept, the Splendist box, which guaranteed customers the equivalent of 200 euros of full size products for 49 euros. “We aimed to meet the demand of consumers with different profiles, in particular those more interested in luxury offerings,” explains Quentin Reygrobellet.

It seems the objective was fulfilled as soon as the first spring edition: the three-month stock was sold out within 22 days. Every season has its own version. Next one is scheduled in June, and 100,000 pre-orders have already been made. No surprise here: 10 products selected by Birchbox and their partner brands are revealed before the box is purchased. For example, the March box included Garancia, Nuxe, Cacharel, and Tony Molly products. “Contrary to the standard Birchbox, Splendist can be ordered, but we are considering making it available as part of a subscription in the months to come,” adds Quentin Reygrobellet.

Analytics by Birchbox, an exclusive service for brands

With 1.2 million subscribers, Birchbox now provides their partner brands with an access to an exclusive offering: Birchbox Analytics, a platform which analyses in real time data on product performances, consumer trends, and customer insights via their shopping experiences online. “Also, we have always wanted to change people’s minds as regards our retailer relationship with brands. Analytics is a completely transparent strategic tool, and we are the only ones to offer it,” the Director says.

With five entries available, two for quantitative analyses, and three for qualitative analyses, Birchbox by Analytics makes it possible for brands to follow up in real time both sell-in & sell-out information (global ranking, turnover, market shares) and purchase behaviours (number of products ordered, recurrence, basket amount). The quali data provide information about the brand’s beauty profile (preferences and physical characteristics), the box campaign (buyers’ feedback), and the Birchbox beauty profile.

The objective is to realign our respective interests. If brands understand their customers better, our subscribers will eventually be more satisfied,” adds Quentin Reygrobellet.

A European project underway

Now that they are operational in Germany and Switzerland, Birchbox aims to keep growing in France, of course, with new offerings and new brands, but also gradually in other European countries, like Italy and the Netherlands. “Our priority is to get off the beaten track to become the first digital beauty destination,” emphasizes Quentin Reygrobellet.

Kristel Milet

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