Birchbox just celebrated five years of offering its men’s subscription box. After the initial success of its women’s subscriptions, customer feedback inspired the creation of Birchbox Man. The idea was tested with a limited collection of men’s grooming and lifestyle products during the 2011 holiday season; it sold out in just three days. Even more surprising, the customers were mostly men buying for themselves.
“It immediately became clear that men were looking for a new, easy way to learn about and purchase high-quality grooming products,” Tess Hales, vice president of Birchbox Man, told FierceRetail.
Like the company’s female subscribers, male customers vary in how familiar they are with grooming products—some already have a full skincare routine, and some know that they should be washing and moisturizing their face but don’t know where to start.
“We’re targeting men who are open to trying new things, but grooming is not a key part of his life; our objective is to make that area of his life that much more efficient,” Hales said.
However, there are different shopping behaviors on the men’s side. Once men discovered a new product they loved from their monthly box, they tended to stock up and order several full-size versions immediately. As a result, Birchbox began partnering with brands to create exclusive bundles. The company found that male subscribers spend more money and tend to convert faster than female shoppers from samples to full-size products.
It’s a great time to be in men’s lifestyle products, and Birchbox started seeing beard care sales nearly double in 2015. To complement the product selection, the retailer has produced exclusive content on how to maintain and care for a beard, bringing on new beard brands (including three more launching this year), and creating a Birchbox Man Test Drive Beardcare box for men looking specifically for these types of products.
“Globally, men’s grooming has grown at an annual rate of 5% and, interestingly, a lot of that growth isn’t coming from traditional razors and shaving products. Increasingly, men are investing in other products (for example, better hair stylers) and becoming more aware of the role that an upgraded grooming regimen can play in their day-to-day lives,” Hales said.
Hales reports than an unexpected trend is an increased interest in anti-aging skincare.
“Skincare has grown to be our best-selling category, and the No. 1 skincare concern among our subscribers is signs of aging. Be on the lookout for a future anti-aging kit!” she said.
Birchbox will continue to test out different channels and areas. In 2017, the company has made a conscious effort to expand from traditional digital media into Facebook and Instagram.
The retailer is able to engage customers through Facebook Live and Instagram Stories. "Earlier this year, Birchbox partnered with the founder of one of our brand partners, V76 by Vaughn, to host a Facebook Live. Customers had access to a top hair stylist (Vaughn has styled everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Daniel Day-Lewis!) to ask their questions, and the retailer received over 20,000 unique viewers."
“If you look at our Instagram feed, you’ll see that it’s not solely focused on grooming products. We try to put grooming in the context of our customers’ lifestyle and highlight their other interests as well—such as travel and food,” Hales said.
Still, five years in, the men’s division is not without its challenges. Men tend to be less familiar with grooming than women are with beauty. Birchbox aims to find new ways to educate men on why they should take care of their skin. Also, brands can’t rely on the same drivers of organic growth as they do for women.
“Men aren’t necessarily talking about their favorite new product discovery to their friends or sharing their monthly box on Instagram. We’ve been creative in finding other ways to get men talking about Birchbox Man by doing things like running compelling sweepstakes or putting virtual reality glasses in all boxes one month,” she said.
Looking forward, Birchbox is focused on continuing to evolve the product to make the experience as relevant and useful to customers as possible.
“We have a few things up our sleeve for later this year, which will allow us to reach a broader customer base and will give subscribers more control over what they receive each month,” Hales added.