Birchbox is piloting new beauty experiences in select Walgreens stores in the next few months, signaling that the retailer is realizing the benefits of expanding its brick-and-mortar presence. The pilot will debut in six stores in December in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, and will extend to five more stores in early 2019.
Walgreens will take an undisclosed minority stake in Birchbox as part of the partnership. Earlier this year, one of Birchbox’s existing investors, Viking Global, acquired a majority stake in the company by investing an additional $15 million into the brand.
Amanda Tolleson, Chief Customer Officer at Birchbox, noted that the parties started talks nearly a year ago focused on better serving the casual beauty consumer.
“We found through customer segmentation studies that approximately 70% of women shopping for beauty are driven by purpose rather than passion,” Tolleson said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “She’s not watching YouTube videos, staying up on the latest trends and spending 12 hours in Sephora exploring all the options. She wants to shop for beauty in a way that’s more mission-based and focused on what her needs are in the quickest way possible. We always had the vision of meeting her everywhere she is. She’s not just shopping for beauty in digital, she’s shopping everywhere.”
The in-store Birchbox spaces within Walgreens will range from 400 to 1,000 square feet featuring Birchbox branding, an elevated design and a curated product assortment featuring full-sized skincare, hair and makeup products from more than 40 indie brands and “cult favorites” that might not be available at other brick-and-mortar stores. Some of those brands include: Sand & Sky, Acure, Embroylisse, Winky Lux and Beachwaver.
Birchbox also will offer Walgreens shoppers the opportunity to subscribe to its monthly delivery services, featuring personalized samples and the “Build Your Own Birchbox” experience (BYOB) — a signature element of the company’s two flagship stores in New York and Paris.
“The BYOB experience has been a signature physical touch point since before we had stores,” said Tolleson. “From the very early days, we had pop-up experiences where we thought, ‘This is the way to bring subscription experience to life.’ It’s a way to try brands in a very safe way. You can pick and curate five samples and that’s very manageable, then take them home and try them to see if they work for you.”
The new partnership adds a digitally native brand to the Walgreens mix, enhancing its beauty offerings, which already includes a Beauty Enthusiast club within its Balance Rewards loyalty program. Additionally, by enabling customers to fill their own unique box with beauty products, Walgreens is adding experience to the shopping mix. Birchbox-trained Walgreens Beauty Consultants will be available to offer advice and guide shoppers through the experience.
The convergence of beauty and pharmacy is not exclusive to Birchbox and Walgreens. CVS recently launched four store-within-a-store test concepts with Glamsquad called “BeautyIRL” which will provide walk-in and on-demand beauty services with Glamsquad professional makeup artists and trained stylists. Additionally, CVS launched its “Beauty in Real Life” ad campaign earlier this year to promote natural beauty, setting a goal to phase out photoshopped beauty imagery in stores by the end of 2020.