As 2019 kicks off, many are predicting that retail is looking up. So what does it take to be a pioneer of a new retail business model and create a brand that consumers love? For Katia Beauchamp, it all started by thinking about the kind of company she’d want to be a consumer of. In the earliest days, she and her team was inspired to solve a problem for the multi-tasking woman, who was a solid user of beauty products, but may not have been the one that was passionate about it (and incidentally, was being targeted by every other beauty brand).
“We would think about what would make us want to buy?,” said Beauchamp. And while she didn’t come from a brand strategy background, she and her team did think a lot about the voice of the Birchbox and the target customer when starting the company in 2010. “We named her Sam, she was modern, busy, and we were dedicated to improving the surprise and delight of her beauty experience.” This was also at the time when the 500 billion dollar beauty industry was yet to move online. “We were astounded that people weren’t buying beauty on the internet.”
Birchbox succeeded in creating a company that people loved. The company reported that they currently have more than 1 million subscribers and 2.5 million active customers. Through their brick and mortar stores in Soho and Paris, the company further offered their unique style of connecting with consumers. For example, each store included a Build Your Own Box experience and products were organized by purpose and problem solved as opposed by brand (i.e. all mascaras were located in one area).
Earlier this year, Birchbox announced a partnership with Walgreens said to be a ‘multi-billion dollar opportunity’ where Birchbox beauty shops will roll out in six Walgreens this year and five in 2019. They anticipate many of their beauty shops will continue to offer the unique experiences their customers have come to expect. As noted by Lauren Brindley, group vice president of beauty and personal care for Walgreens during an interview from the Spring Street store at a press event, the “amazing disruptor” of Birchbox will bring new prestige brands and experiences to the Walgreens shopper that she craves, but have gone largely unmet in the beauty aisles of drugstore chains.
What advice does Beauchamp have for other companies looking to preserve a beloved brand in the context of a larger partnership? “It’s really important to choose the partner right,” said Beauchamp. “The ability to preserve what you stand for needs to be respected,” which is something she is optimistic about heading into the partnership with Walgreens, noting that she and her team took the time to communicate with everyone they met with who they are, what they stand for and what they believe in. “We spent a lot of time onboarding them as a partner,” she adds.
That said, she also enters the partnership, it doesn’t mean that she’s closed off from evolution. “There are certain things we feel we must never lose site of, but in the way that manifests itself to the customer, we’re open to new ideas.”
After all and as Birchbox demonstrates, the best brands are evolving and know they must stay up with the times to succeed.
I am the CEO of RAISE Communications (www.raisecg.com), a boutique PR and content strategy firm that helps tech startups, VC Firms and Leadership Teams shape ideas, create influence and inspire action. Find out more at email@example.com. Follow me @carisommer.