Birchbox, the industry game changer and online seller of beauty boxes, is opening a brick and mortar location in the Soho neighborhood of New York this coming May 2014. The nearly 4 year old company, currently delivering monthly boxes of sample size beauty products to their subscribers doors, is not the first retail business to try to move from the digital space into the brick and mortar space (i.e. Warby Parker, Piperlime), but they are the first that, in many ways, doesn’t sell a complete product. While Warby Parker sells eye and sunglasses and Piperlime sells shoes, clothes and other accessories, Birchbox sells sample products that beauty companies generally just give away for free. So what will the storefront be selling, if anything?
Turns out they’ll be selling a lot. The 4,500 square foot space will soon be filled with nearly 2,000 products from around 200 beauty brands, all represented on the Birchbox website and through their monthly subscriber beauty boxes. Instead of creating a simple showroom for the brand, the space will offer a full on shopping and lifestyle experience. There will be vanities for testing products and a Build Your Own Bichbox (BYOB) section, where for $15 you can fill your Birchbox with samples of your choosing. There will be a floor just for classes on topics like makeup and skin care tricks and there will even be hair styling services.
In the end though, the Birchbox retail store will focus less on making money and more on interacting with and creating relationships with potential customers. It will be about helping current and future subscribers connect the dots between the Birchbox sample delivery experience and the choice to continue buying your beauty products through Birchbox and not a different retailer (i.e. Sephora).
When I first heard about the idea of the Birchbox retail storefront, I was pretty flabbergasted at the idea. How would this work? I couldn’t imagine how selling sample products would transition into a full retail experience, it’s just not the same or nearly as easy as Warber Parker opening a storefront to sell their glasses in. After doing further research though, it now makes 100% sense. Knowing that the goal is growth not profitability and that the store will act as a support for the online business, I’m now very excited to see how it all comes together and to take advantage of what aims to be an amazing customer experience.
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