Monthly subscription boxes began popping up in 2010 after Birchbox—one of the first and now most recognizable boxes—started selling out and putting customers on the wait list. Since then, the variety of boxes has expanded immensely.
You can now get snacks with NatureBox or graze, full meals with Blue Apron or HelloFresh, and even more obscure items like razors and dog toys, all delivered right to your front door.
For many women, however, the most exciting subscription box boom has been in the original fashion category and now the beauty category. From shoes to jewelry, discounted couture to high-end makeup, the options to change your look from the comfort of your computer are endless.
In our latest Content+ Test Drive, four of Pace’s best contoured and best dressed provide content reviews on their monthly subscription boxes and then gave their recommendations.
The Beauty Buffs
Erin Perkins, Birchbox
I’ve always been a fan of both beauty products and samples. In my high school days, I would search out free samples online and have products shipped to my house. The only problem was that it required quite a bit of research and I had to request samples individually from each brand. Birchbox, a monthly beauty subscription service that delivers five personalized samples to your doorstep, takes on those tasks for me for only $10 a month.
On Birchbox.com, there’s a section for ideas and inspiration, tutorials, skin care 101, hair how-tos and sun care IQ as well as detailed product descriptions. Content is abundant and easy to find, and that transitions to their app and mobile site as well.
I’m usually excited to receive my box. Sometimes the products aren’t quite right for me, but sometimes I find products that I absolutely love. I feel like it’s worth the risk.
In my September Birchbox, I received a straightening hair balm, heat-protectant hair oil, neutral colored lip gloss, an eyebrow pencil and a face serum. It was delivered inside a stunning reusable gift box with a black, white, blue and pink geometric print design. While I enjoyed most of the products, I was disappointed in the size of the eyebrow pencil—it was rather small—but again, it’s only $10.
While I thought the box had a good mixture of makeup, hair care and skincare, the product selection wasn’t as impressive as I initially expected. I wasn’t introduced to any brands that I wasn’t already familiar with, and the items didn’t really suit my beauty profile. The personalization I’m always thrilled about did not come through in this box—it was not specific to me.
My recommendation for Birchbox is to really hone in on their niche of personalization by marketing their content to subscribers based on their beauty needs. If the goal is for the samples to be personalized, they should also mimic that personalization with their content. They should create subscriber-specific content for a well-rounded experience that feels truly unique.
Christie Hailey, Ipsy
I love discovering new beauty products and testing them out. Ipsy is a great service for the makeup savvy who are searching for new products to try out.
Ipsy is very active on social. They can be found on Facebook (which is how I first heard of them), Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and YouTube. They are very responsive and active with their followers. They even run a campaign every month where they encourage you to snap a picture of your Ipsy stash with hashtag #ipsyglambag to win products.
On their website, the content is clean and well organized. They also have an app and I love it. I always check My Glam Bag so I know what’s coming next. Ipsy is a smart brand that seems to be doing everything right. They are engaged with their followers and have a very strong social media presence.
The sign up process for Ipsy was easy—just a few questions that help them pick the five products that will come to you each month. I got really excited when I received the first of two emails saying that my first bag was arriving soon. In the second email they detail each product you will be receiving with a write up and a video so you know exactly what you’re getting and what to do with it.
I’ve received a wide range of products from Ipsy—from popular brands such as Smashbox, NYC and MAC to more obscure brands that I probably wouldn’t know about otherwise. Each month’s samples come in an exclusively designed makeup bag and sometimes it’s the best part. Ipsy puts a lot of effort into finding the right bag for each month and they make great travel bags. The value for what you receive is well worth it for me. Even if I just like three out of the five products, I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.
Ipsy could make a few improvements. One issue I experienced, along with many other Ipsy customers, was being put on a waitlist to begin receiving bags. There has been some back and forth from the company on that and it may be something driving potential customers away. Overall though, they have strong content marketing backed by a great product.
Kelley Mickler, Stitch Fix
As a mom of two young children, my mornings are hectic. I’m normally rushing around, worrying more about what my kids are going to wear that day than what I’m going to wear, so the less time I have to spend picking out an outfit, the better. Stitch Fix is a monthly subscription box that makes it easy to get new outfits, helpful style tips and visual inspiration.
Stitch Fix has a strong presence on social media. With daily posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, they promote themselves well with visually captivating images of clothes, shoes and jewelry. Pinterest is especially important for Stitch Fix because you can use boards you’ve created on Pinterest to direct your personal stylist towards items that you would like to see in your next “fix.”
Throughout their other social media channels, there are blog posts, articles and—of course—pictures of outfits that you can click through for style advice and inspiration. Stitch Fix has done a great job of tailoring content to their audience and spreading it across multiple channels.
I loved my first two “fixes,” then had a couple of lemons. After chatting with friends who also used the service, I realized I had to put a little more effort into sharing what I did and didn’t like with my personal stylist.
I’ve created several Pinterest boards to help my stylist understand the types of clothing and accessories I like. After putting in some legwork on my end, I felt like my stylist better matched my style with the “fixes.” I find that I typically keep at least two of the items, if not the full “fix” to receive the discount for keeping all five items.
Stitch Fix has a great opportunity to reach consumers that they may not be taking advantage of. The “fix” currently arrives with an index style guide of the clothes from your fix with suggestions on how to wear. I think there is a bigger opportunity to enclose other personal touch points like a seasonal style guide with tips.
Kelly Parish, Gwynnie Bee
I found Gywnnie Bee through some targeted Facebook ads. It is a monthly subscription box that is tailored to plus-size women looking for cute, fashionable clothes and jewelry.
I only know about Gwynnie Bee from their advertisements online, so I think they’re doing really well in that area. Their social media presence is on point: They know how to reach their target audience and really encourage user-generated content. For plus-size clothing, this really matters to their consumers. We want to know how clothing is going to look on real women’s bodies, and models don’t always capture that, even plus-size ones.
They also have an awesome app for your phone. I found Gwynnie Bee’s online content abundant and relevant. I think they truly understand their customer and constantly work to cater to their needs.
Knowing that a Gwynnie Bee box on its way is always exciting and puts a bit of a pep in my step. I mean, who doesn’t like having new things?
When I get the box, I give the clothes a bit of an examination. I can determine pretty quickly if they’re worth trying on or not. Once I start the fashion show, I think about what events I have coming up that I may want a particular outfit for. Almost every time I wore a clothing item from Gwynnie Bee, I got compliments on it. Gwynnie Bee offers great quality clothing and they make it so easy to use.
There isn’t a lot of meat to their website and I had to do a lot of digging around for information. While it did accomplish the goal of inspiring interest with a 30-day free trial offer, the landing page doesn’t entice the user as much as it could. By including some of the UGC on this page, telling real women’s stories and also showing off the product, it could help bring customers further down the funnel and convert them.
Their app can be a little hard to navigate sometimes and I would love to see more ways to style a particular item, but overall Gwynnie Bee does a great job of reaching and engaging with their audience.