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Birchbox’s customer-choice emphasis helps redefine mobile retail

NRF 104th Annual Convention & Expo indicated that the company’s emphasis on letting customers try beauty products before buying them is helping to reshape mobile retail, contributing to a  blurring of the lines between online and offline commerce.

The grooming and beauty products concern sends subscribers a box of its products monthly, combining deliveries of personalized samples with original editorial and an ecommerce shop. Its emphasis on the importance of consumer choices, supported by a New York bricks-and-mortar store that operates under the same philosophy as the Web site and mobile application are spurring a traffic surge on its platforms.

“Sampling is critical to discovery,” said Katia Beauchamp, co-founder of Birchbox, New York, in the session “Global Retail Innovation: The Latest Concepts and Ideas Driving Change.”

“How are we as a company going to continue to be relevant for everybody?” Ms. Beauchamp asked. “How are we going to be a company that surprises and delights?”

Tailoring to mobile
Key to the brand’s approach is helping customers find products they love, aided by carefully tailoring content for a range of mobile devices.

Katia Beauchamp at the NRF show.

Birchbox is among retailers that include Warby Parker and Kate Spade in opening physical retail shops to capture consumer attention. Its store in New York’s Soho district is an example of how retailers are fusing ecommerce and in-store experiences.

In addition to finding beauty and grooming products, store visitors can choose five samples and build their own Birchbox for $15. Another in-store feature is the try  bar, where shoppers can test-drive new beauty trends on the spot. The store also offers beauty services where consumers can book a hair or makeup touch-up or nail-polish change, or sign up for a class.

Its app lets users discover personalized product recommendations while seeing an entire box history in one place. Users also can shop full-size versions of their samples.

In-store services that extend a form of personalized shopper support, such as picking wish list items to try on or offering personal shopper services, could well be the next wave of in-store support to go beyond what Web-only shopping offers.

Birchbox grew out of an objective to simplify shopping, which was frustrating, inefficient and confusing.

The brand shipped its first Birchboxes in September 2010. In April 2012 it launched Birchbox Man to bring men tailored shipments of grooming and lifestyle products.

Redefining retail
Monday’s session, which also included a presentation by Bilder & De Clercq, a Dutch meal-preparation enterprise, pointed to a broadening of the concept of multichannel retail strategies.

Neil Stern at the retail show.

‘’We’re in this transition to an agnostic channel world, so in a couple of years we’re not going to be talking about online-offline,” said Neil Stern, Chicago-based senior partner with McMillan Doolittle, who also spoke during the session. “We’re just going to be talking about what does it mean to succeed in retail.

“You can see they’re blending and bringing together these elements – you seamlessly blend what exists offline and online together in mobile.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York