Katia Beauchamp believes the retail beauty industry is in need of a serious makeover and she's been playing a lead role in making it happen since 2010.
The CEO and co-founder of Birchbox, a six-year-old online beauty product subscription service boasting 5 million subscribers across five countries, said her company is also changing the potential of product ‘trial’ in the ecommerce and brick-and-mortar realm.
Birchbox subscribers, male and female, sign up to receive a box of sample-size beauty products, with detailed insight on the products each month. If a member likes a particular sample they can buy a full-size product on the Birchbox website, which also provides member reviews, as well as expert content and video on products. The service also offers exclusive product samplers and kits.
"We are awakening a whole new consumer for this industry," Beauchamp said during a fireside talk at the ShopTalk event in Las Vegas. "Five years ago this was a very under penetrated industry, on the internet, and it needed a transformation."
The quest, said Beauchamp, is providing consumer a "scaled, personalized relationship."
But, maybe more importantly, is the opportunity to provide shoppers with a richer discovery experience.
"We never set out to be a subscription company, but a company that changes the customer experience of discovery, from cumbersome to easy," she said. In this scenario, the store comes to the customer, Beauchamp explained.
Success, she said, depends on one application: converting a sample customer to a full size product customer.
"It is an emotional relationship with great loyalty and relevant messaging," said the CEO.
In subscribing members offer up substantial data on beauty needs. That data is key to customer satisfaction.
"We have to fulfill the expectation of personalization," she said, noting 50 percent of subscribers are now shopping for full-size products.
Birchbox, which has been busy doing pop-up retail experiences, has a SoHo, New York location that sells full-size products. In the SoHo store consumers can build their own 'Birchbox,' are offered salon services and can attend beauty-focused events such as one-hour makeup tip presentation. Birchbox has also opened a new shop within Rent The Runway, in Georgetown, Washington D.C.
"The results have been profound. It's a Disneyland for the beauty consumer," she said describing the brick-and-mortar stores.
A key aspect to brick-and-mortar success has been the embracement of mobile devices, both by the business as part of its operations and awareness of how consumers are increasingly using mobile devices in shopping.
"I think about it [mobile technology] as the tool to make a store associate a super associate and they are truly the most important piece," Beauchamp said. "We all want to give customers the best experience and there is plenty to learn."
/ Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.