Should Sephora be in subscription boxes?

Discussion
Aug 17, 2015

Sephora last week revealed plans to introduce its first beauty subscription box, five years after the arrival of Birchbox, the apparent leader in the space.

Called "Play! by Sephora," the service will cost $10 a month — the same as Birchbox — and sends subscribers five "deluxe-size" items, each curated by theme, along with some samples and possibly Spotify playlists, according to Fashionista. Some reports expected Sephora, with 1,900 stores globally and LVMH as its parent, to benefit from its leverage in securing coveted items.

The package also includes "Play! Book" content with beauty advice as well as a "Play! Pass" for subscribers to redeem in store for a free one-on-one learning session with a Sephora beauty expert. Sephora has 360 stores in North America.

Sephora’s subscription box will debut this September in Boston, Cincinnati, and Columbus, OH with a nationwide rollout set for next year.

The subscription service was conceived in the retailer’s Innovation Lab, which opened in San Francisco in March 2015 to explore digital shopping experiences. The Lab already launched Flash, which offers free two-day shipping for $10 a year.

[Image: Play! by Sephora]

Play! By Sephora follows the success of Birchbox, which has raised over $72 million in funding since 2010. Birchbox promises subscribers a way to sample fragrances and cosmetics without committing to a full-size product, although the business has recently been finding success driving sales of full-size products through the site. More than 30 percent of its revenues are from the sale of full-size products. Birchbox has also expanded into men’s, opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City last July with more to come, and has begun selling through Gap’s doors.

Other competitors in the beauty subscription space are Ipsy, GlossyBox, Julep Maven, Goodebox, Allure Sample Society, Beauty Army and Blissmo. Among more mainstream stores, Target and Wal-Mart have come out with beauty subscription boxes.

What are Sephora’s advantages and disadvantages competing in the subscription box space? Do you see more brick & mortar stores debuting subscription box services over the next few years?

Braintrust
"Any time you can get a long-term commitment from a customer in advance it’s a win! There’s a spa near our home that sells a monthly subscription and they keep customers committed to coming back and cash-flow smooth. Sephora can only win here."
"We’re likely to see an array of subscription services from retail brands emerge over the next few years. Consumer interest is high. Convenience and a craving for "bring it to me" are rising, and there is a big opportunity to create the personalized and curated approach that has often eluded many retail brands."
"People, cosmetics samples are FREE. Present yourself at a department store beauty counter and ask for one, or several. It’s nothing short of genius that Birchbox has bamboozled people into thinking you have to pay for them. Good for Sephora for latching onto the bandwagon."

Join the Discussion!

8 Comments on "Should Sephora be in subscription boxes?"


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Kevin Graff
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Any time you can get a long-term commitment from a customer in advance it’s a win! There’s a spa near our home that sells a monthly subscription and they keep customers committed to coming back and cash-flow smooth.

Sephora can only win here. It makes the brand live more frequently in their customers’ homes, and no doubt will drive even more traffic to their stores.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
2 years 9 months ago

Sephora’s advantages are established name recognition and a positive business image.

More brick-and-mortar stores will follow with subscription box services, but not all of them are cut out to go down this path and not all will succeed.

Matt Schmitt
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

We’re likely to see an array of subscription services from retail brands emerge over the next few years. Consumer interest is high. Convenience and a craving for “bring it to me” are rising, and there is a big opportunity to create the personalized and curated approach that has often eluded many retail brands.

Beyond Sephora’s new program, I wonder if we’ll see more health and beauty subscription services. Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, Walgreens, CVS?

I’m looking forward to seeing how these efforts may (and may not) work across types of products and brands.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

People, cosmetics samples are FREE. Present yourself at a department store beauty counter and ask for one, or several. It’s nothing short of genius that Birchbox has bamboozled people into thinking you have to pay for them. Good for Sephora for latching onto the bandwagon.

Onn Manelson
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Sephora’s advantages are having an extremely strong brand and strong physical presence. A possible disadvantage would be inexperience with this model and new territory.

For Sephora the subscription box is a great way to boost online sales without the hassle and cost of small individual online purchases. Subscription models are sustainable revenue generators which can increase brand loyalty even further.

Anne Howe
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

The subscription retail model is a hot one, and shoppers like it. Sephora will likely test this model a few different ways, hopefully offering some customization and curation of the contents. I see no reason to fail for this smart retailer that women love.

Arie Shpanya
Guest
2 years 9 months ago
I think Sephora has an advantage in this because of its well established customer base. Their stores already sell travel sizes of many of their products, but the subscription service will take it to the next level (especially because the low price point will make it an affordable way to discover new products). The service addresses some of the issues that the retailer faces: shoppers wanting to try out products, but not wanting to commit to the full size. Sephora’s brick and mortar presence will be an advantage. First, shoppers already know and trust the brand. Second, if they want to get the full size of a sample they’ve gotten, many will be able to go to their local store and pick it up, instead of waiting for it to arrive by mail. One question I have is if the subscription fee goes toward the Sephora loyalty program (which you can learn more about here. I have a feeling that it does. Overall, this seems like a great move for the retailer—cash in on the… Read more »
Kenneth Leung
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

It is certainly one way of maintaining contact with your customers when you are a brick and mortar store, especially when you have a segment of customers that may have tried the products in the store, but prefer not to repeat the store for new items. Sephora has the positive brand from the store, and if the curation is good (i.e. don’t just put stuff in that the retailer wants to get rid of) it is a nice service model for their customers.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Any time you can get a long-term commitment from a customer in advance it’s a win! There’s a spa near our home that sells a monthly subscription and they keep customers committed to coming back and cash-flow smooth. Sephora can only win here."
"We’re likely to see an array of subscription services from retail brands emerge over the next few years. Consumer interest is high. Convenience and a craving for "bring it to me" are rising, and there is a big opportunity to create the personalized and curated approach that has often eluded many retail brands."
"People, cosmetics samples are FREE. Present yourself at a department store beauty counter and ask for one, or several. It’s nothing short of genius that Birchbox has bamboozled people into thinking you have to pay for them. Good for Sephora for latching onto the bandwagon."

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