Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How Birchbox Grew From 200 to 850,000 Subscribers In 3.5 Years

Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna met as business students in Harvard and launched Birchbox upon their graduation in 2010.

They created a subscriber-based platform where, for a small price, people would receive beauty product samples suited to their preferences.

This allows subscribers to cut through the noise of numerous beauty products, and in turn, beauty brands can market their products by directly providing samples to people!

Which leads to the question – what sort of campaign did two ladies use grow their 200 subscribers count to an eventual 800,000?

1. They created an exciting concept that consumers were eager to talk about

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As most beauty aficionados would know, there is a huge amount of beauty products readily available, which makes it hard for people to decide which product to buy.

More often than not, beauty products require physically trying the product to know if it suits you. As beauty products come in contact with the skin, people heavily depend on trustworthy sources for recommendations: like friends!

Beauchamp and Barna came up with the idea of a virtual friend and beauty advisor who would help curate the clutter and deliver the products to their doorstep.

They described the winning combination as an intersection of “efficacy plus surprise and delight”.

It worked! From a beta of 40 users, they suddenly found themselves with a waiting list of 3000 just through excited subscribers squealing with glee and spreading the word of the Birchbox experience..

2. The quality and customisability of their selections encouraged consumers to share about how great it was

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Katie Beauchamp describes it as discovery commerce.

The anticipation of finding out what each box contains is something one would look forward to – it’s like unwrapping a present that is delivered to your doorstep every month!

Subscribers are able to discover new products through bite-sized samples instead of dedicating their cash to a full product.

The products are not only customised based on the customer’s needs, they also come with in-depth descriptions to facilitate the process of trying something brand new.

This leads to fans being extremely eager to share their new knowledge and spread the word of Birchbox to their friends!

3. A user friendly referral system made it easy to spread the word

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Developing a user-friendly way of referring friends is key to growing your customer database.

Many companies fall for the trap of over-feeding content to their customers, but thankfully Birchbox keeps it simple. You just sign up, purchase a box, and you immediately get reminded to tell your friends if it’s awesome (and it’s just a click away!)

Coupled with quality beauty content available on their e-magazine, Birchbox subscribers see value in promoting what they have discovered. Good things must be shared, after all!

4. An added incentive to their referral program provided even more motivation to share

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Not only does Birchbox give cash rewards based on the amount customers spend, they have developed a system where people can also receive the same rewards through their referral program.

Each account has a unique referral link that subscribers can easily utilize, and every advocate gets ‘50 points’ for every referral, which translates to 5 dollars worth of online credit.

So, why exactly is Birchbox so successful again?

  1. They broke the beauty market with a brand new concept
  2. They provided quality and customisable products
  3. A user-friendly referral program with incentives led to fans sharing about their brand

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Read next: Beauty Referral Program Examples – 10 Glamorous Referral Programs

Arvinna Lee

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