Birchbox's New Website Design Increases Discovery and Personalization
Personalization has always been at the core of cosmetics subscription box service Birchbox. A digital native, the US-based retailer's mission is to make it easier and more fun for consumers to discover beauty products. It does so by sending its customers a box of carefully-curated deluxe beauty samples each month. These samples are personalized for each customer based on their "beauty profile", created via a short questionnaire at the sign-up stage.
Now, Birchbox is seeking to extend this level of personalization throughout its entire ecommerce platform, and a brand-new website design - unveiled last year, first in the US, then the UK - is the first step of the process. "This is laying the groundwork for what is coming down the pipe," said Birchbox UK Managing Director Sally Scott. "Personalization is a big part of our USP, and it is why our customers and our brands like us."
The Casual Beauty Consumer
Unlike other beauty retailers, Birchbox's target audience isn't the product-obsessed consumer who, as Birchbox Product Manager Ankita D'Mello puts it, "can easily differentiate her salicylic acid from her tonic glow." Rather, she's what the brand describes as a "casual beauty consumer" - someone who's interested in beauty as a functional product, rather than a passion. "For our customers, the world of beauty is extremely intimidating and overwhelming and, frankly, they don't really know where to start, even though they're interested," said D'Mello.
To attract and appeal to these casual consumers, the Birchbox website has been completely overhauled to offer a more personalized way for customers to discover, learn about, and purchase the best beauty products on the market.
The new approach includes a greater dedication to storytelling online, with content such as "unexpected finds" and "new favorites" given more prominence on the website. At the top of navigation bar sits the Birchbox magazine, giving visitors a chance to read blog posts and articles from beauty experts, all written in an accessible, clear, and educative style.
"Storytelling and content have always been a part of our DNA, but a lot of that wasn't at the forefront of our site experience," explains D'Mello. "Now we've integrated content into our shop in a dynamic way. Our customers are not beauty experts, so we wanted their online experience to echo that of the box subscription. [...] It was also important for us to cut through the noise of 'beauty jargon' and use terminology that is clear and friendly, that our casual beauty consumer actually understands."
A Cohesive Experience for Customers
With the new look and feel of the site, Birchbox is aiming to make the online shopping experience feel like a trip to a store with a trusted friend - someone who understands your needs and can help you find exactly what you're looking for. When customers are signed in, the dynamic site displays information about their monthly box, products they've previously sampled, and their beauty profiles. Products are now showcased in a more personalized way, matching items on display to what Birchbox's algorithms expect individual shoppers need replenishing.
One of the key features of the new design is a more streamlined navigation pane, which adds additional context to the search bar to help educate shoppers and lead them to the best products that match their personal needs. "Pillar Pages" have also been introduced, which Birchbox describes as a mix of storytelling, education, and navigation. These pages are each custom-built to tell a story and guide shoppers through the separate steps of various beauty routines.
"With skincare, for example, we've narrowed it down to four steps that we think are key to a great routine and we have a pillar page for each one: cleanse, treat, moisturize, and protect," said D'Mello. "The 'treat' step is one of the hardest to understand for the casual beauty consumer, but it's the most powerful, potent part of your routine. There are serums, exfoliators, masks, elixirs, etc.; and now we can tell a story around all of them and explain how and why they're relevant to different people."
(Image source: birchbox.com)
There is now also additional photography on product pages, which also include more detailed editorial copy to help educate customers on key product benefits. The site also allows customers to shop by specific product category and need rather than by brand, which is typical on other beauty sites. For example, lipsticks are all in one spot, as are moisturizers, mascaras, and all other ranges. It's like a candy store for beauty, allowing customers to be introduced to entirely new products and categories they may not have otherwise discovered.
The launch of the newly designed site is part of the retailer's larger aim to provide a digital experience in line with the direct-to-customer element of the business. "Just like Birchbox's monthly subscription box, we have replicated the personal elements across the website to create a cohesive experience for customers," said D'Mello. In November - just four months following launch - Birchbox saw a 21% increase in shop revenue per session, and a 20% hike in shop revenues per customer, according to the company.
For direct-to-consumer brands, the website is the single most important marketing, sales, and engagement tool all wrapped into one. First impressions count in ecommerce, as do seamless customer journeys. Designing a site that is slick, intuitive, and personalized for every customer is crucial in building lasting relationships and creating a trusted brand that delivers truly unforgettable shopping experiences.
But, as D'Mello explains, this is only the start of what's to come. "This whole project is the foundation of what we would like to start doing next, and in order to really get into personalization, we had to first set this whole piece up. [...] Next up is thinking about what it means to onboard someone, to bring new customers into the fold. When someone joins Birchbox, how can we make that immersive and exciting? What can we do to ensure a great beginning to what we hope is a very long relationship? We want to be the home for beauty that our customers have never had before - that they didn't even realize was possible."
You can hear Birchbox's Co-founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp speak at eTail East 2019, taking place in August at The Sheraton, Boston.
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