Beauty Box Subscriptions: Secrets to Success!

Beauty box subscriptions are becoming more and more common, and as the variety of companies offering the service expands, more beauty brands are getting involved. Should you consider beauty boxes as your next business venture? We consulted with Jennifer Norman, Vice President of Marketing for derma e, to find out!


d the thrill of new finds make these boxes highly addictive. What's more, it's hard for beauty junkies to resist the urge to dish on beauty box contents with others.


Q: What kinds of products can be included in these boxes? What should be the value of each box?

A: Today, most beauty boxes cost between $10-$20 per month and contain deluxe-sized samples from categories such as hair care, skin care, cosmetics, fragrance, personal care and accessories. The best boxes strive to provide high value and a strongly customized assortment for its subscribers. Some overtly claim an estimated value per box ("over $100 retail value for only $35!"). Depending on the size, cost and use-up rate of any given product, subscribers may get lucky and score some full-sized items in their boxes. Foil pack samples are often kept to a minimum, given that they have little perceived value. Many boxes select a monthly theme and then include samples that reflect that theme.


Q: What's the competition like currently, in the world of beauty boxes?

A: The success of early-to-market boxes such as Birchbox, ipsy, Glossybox and Beauty Army has spawned a dizzying number of newcomers. Some entrants have chosen the indie route, differentiating by way of niche targeting (natural beauty, nails only, fitness). Others have made a splashier entrance by partnering with beauty authorities (Beauty Bar Sample Society with Allure Magazine). Yet others have been introduced by beauty brands and retailers themselves (e.l.f. Beauty Bundle, blush Mystery Beauty Box, HSN Total Beauty Collection).


Q: What resources are required for beauty brands to begin working with a subscription service? Is it doable for mid-level or small beauty brands, and if so, how?

A: A note to beauty brand managers: The fact that there are now so many different kinds of boxes means that there are even more ways you can reach, engage and potentially convert desired consumers! If you're working for a smaller, lesser-known brand with a limited budget, there's a lot of good news here. Start-up beauty boxes won't require a huge quantity of samples, and some may even share in the cost of the sampling effort. Further, consumers are thrilled to learn about new brands. If their sampling experience is a good one, they'll be quite happy to spread the word for you, fast.


Q: What should companies look for, when partnering with a subscription service?

A: When deciding between various beauty boxes for your brand's samples, consider the following four aspects:

1. Beauty box offering: Does it align with your brand's positioning? Is the box viewed positively by current subscribers? If the box is new, what is its plan for growth? What support can be provided regarding subscriber qualitative and quantitative feedback, conversion, promoting, added value and remarketing?

2. Subscriber base: How large is it? Does the subscriber profile match your target? How socially active is the online community? What's the likely overlap with other beauty box services you're considering?

3. Sample choice: Do you have a product with an instant "wow" factor? Can you produce them on time, with high quality? Does the sampling plan align with your budget?

4. Timing: Sampling in the same box to the same audience with the same product too often can easily lead to subscriber wearout. Sampling too infrequently may lead to low impact and recollection. Stage your sampling initiatives appropriately.


Q: How can a company maximize results from one of these services?

A: Once your samples are in the hands of eager recipients, you must remember that follow-up is key. You can make the most of your effort by providing incentives for full-size purchase, leveraging testimonials in broader marketing messages, engaging your target through social media and incorporating newly acquired fans into your CRM initiatives.


Q: What are the pros and cons of a company starting its own subscription service, versus partnering with a pre-existing service?

A: Starting a beauty sample service from scratch as an individual brand is not an easy undertaking. Put more bluntly, I would not recommend it. Brands with a huge product assortment such as e.l.f. may be able to keep subscribers interested with enough ongoing variety; however, the sheer complexity of taking on the management of ongoing subscription sales, sample production, customer service, fulfillment logistics and cost of this intensive undertaking would prohibit most brands from having a successful long-term service. Notwithstanding, the disseminated samples inherently take subscribers out of the market while they are being used up, so full-sized product sales may be adversely impacted due to cannibalization from your highly complex, lower-revenue subscription initiative.

A more feasible alternative for many beauty brands may be to try a direct response auto-ship business model, whereby subscribers sign up to have discounted, full-sized products automatically delivered to them at a frequency of their choosing. That way, existing inventory is used, direct sales offer higher margin, and there is no risk of cannibalization.


Q: If a beauty company were to undergo this product tomorrow, what would be its first steps?

A: To summarize, subscription beauty sample boxes can be an exciting way to place your product into the hands of the right consumers. Start by determining if you have a "wow" product with an instant delight factor that's ideal for sampling. Next, assess the subscription services available to determine which may be the best fit for your brand and product. Be mindful of requirements regarding quantity, packaging and net weight. Determine the quantity of samples you'll need to produce; then map out the timing of your sampling campaign. Consider the most appropriate monthly themes for your product, and strive for optimal frequency. Partner closely with your beauty subscription service provider(s) to maximize the power of cross-promoting, social media engagement and follow-up. Once the program is complete, be sure to monitor feedback ongoing, and leverage lessons learned for future sampling initiatives. Good luck!



About derma e

Family owned and operated for 30 years, derma e has pioneered the development of vitamin-rich, high-performance antioxidant skincare solutions. The award-winning line features over 80 products that are free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oil and petrolatum. derma e products are cruelty-free and 100 percent vegan. Manufacturing and operations are offset 100 percent by wind power. derma e can be found in over 8,000 retail outlets across the U.S., with additional distribution in 25 countries internationally and on For more information, visit, call (800) 933-9344, follow on Facebook at derma e Natural Bodycare or Twitter @derma_e.

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