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eCommerce Expo 19: How Birchbox uses data-driven insights to personalise the customer experience

Thu 12 Sep 2019 | Sally Scott

Conference producer Sam Tidmarsh asks Sally Scott, Managing Director UK for Birchbox & eCommerce Expo 2019 speaker, about her advice for brands wanting to infuse personalisation into their business, how to build dynamic digital experiences and the new ‘Me-Time’ campaign launching this month.

Tell us a little about you and how you ended up at Birchbox

It has been an interesting journey! I originally came to the UK to study and eventually work at Sothebys. This lead to a career in fashion magazines with Elle and then Harpers & Queen (now Bazaar). I then moved onto the exciting world of retail, first with Holt Renfrew in my native Canada, and subsequently moving back to the UK to become Marketing Director at Selfridges.

I’ve continued my career in retail with roles at Value Retail (Bicester Village) and Vente Privee (now VeePee) and I became MD of Birchbox UK last summer. Retail is such an exciting environment because it’s always changing and there’s so much to learn. All of my experiences in what would now be considered ‘traditional’ retail inform our strategy at Birchbox where we are constantly looking to create a more connected and experiential experience in an online context.

How does Birchbox produce deep and meaningful relationships with customers?

Well, it’s the challenge that we set ourselves every day and I’d say that we’re certainly doing a lot of things right – we constantly listen to our subscribers and take on board their feedback on everything from about the brands we partner with to the look and feel of the boxes. We also ask each subscriber to complete a beauty profile which allows us to personalise every box to make sure that we deliver an experience that’s tailored to their needs.

For those brands really wanting to infuse personalisation in their business, what tips would you give?

For us it’s all about asking our subscribers what they want and delivering against that. A key element of the Birchbox experience is personalisation which for us means curating boxes for subscribers that specifically relate to the beauty profile they create when they sign up. We take that data, along with a promise never to repeat products and every month build between 30 and 60 different box configurations taking into account different skin type, hair type and colour, and beauty style as well as lifestyle factors such as whether subscribers prefer baths or showers.

Personalisation to that degree is a complex thing to deliver (and requires a very sophisticated piece of software!) but it’s also important to us that we never stop innovating in terms of how we personalise the Birchbox experience. It’s what sets us apart from other brands in the beauty box space and we constantly strive to maintain that relationship with our subscribers.

Join Sally at eCommerce Expo 2019, 25 - 26 September 2019, Olympia

Is a subscription model the future of eCommerce?
26 Sep 2019, 11:55 – 12:25
Keynote Theatre

How do you build a truly dynamic digital experience?

It comes down to creating an environment where everyone understands the importance of being agile and is empowered to make decisions that improve the experiences of our customers. We constantly review the way we present ourselves online – a good example is how we updated the Birchbox shop a year ago to merchandise by need, not by brand. This was a completely different approach to how consumers are used to shopping for beauty, but we listened to our customers and realised that they were looking to us for advice.

Essentially they wanted us to be their ‘beauty editor best friend’ who could understand their needs and make suggestions on what products to buy. Now when you visit the site and you have dry skin, you can head to the moisturiser page and find out the difference between oil, lotion and cream, see our best sellers and which products have won beauty awards that are voted for by our customers. It’s a much more intuitive experience that also plays into our desire to help consumers discover new brands.

We might stock a brand you’ve never heard of before but through our shopping journey, you can find out about it and see that it’s a trusted favourite. The good news for us is that our new approach isn’t just making shopping with us easier, it’s helping us to grow too – both conversion and revenue are up as a result.

Is there a project you’ve been working on you’re allowed to share with us?

We’re very excited about our new ‘Me-Time’ campaign – launching this month – it’s the first time we’ve run a brand campaign that’s focused on the feeling and experience of Birchbox, rather than referencing specific boxes or partner brands. The campaign came about following a piece of research we did where our subscribers told us that they loved getting their monthly boxes, not because of the specific products inside but because it gave them an opportunity to spend some time on themselves every month. It’s as if Birchbox serves as a monthly reminder to slow down, take a minute to reflect and remind yourself that you deserve a bit of pampering.

The fact that a specific box might contain an exciting beauty icon or new discovery brand to try then informs how our subscribers are spending their me-time – one month it might be trying out a must-have hair mask while they take a bath and the next it might be wearing a gorgeous new shade of lipstick when they go to meet a friend for coffee. We believe me-time is a very universal proposition but as a brand that focuses on personalisation, we’re excited to hear how our subscribers are incorporating me-time into their own lives.

Are you doing anything different in the UK compared to the US?

The UK and US businesses are run independently but with the same mission. We both target the casual beauty consumer and use beauty profiles to personalise the subscriber experience, but we create communications campaigns, such as ‘me-time’ that are targeted towards a UK audience. We want to create a really meaningful connection with our audience so we take into account differences such as cultural references, trends and language even when the core mission is the same.

If you had to pick one favourite song, what would it be and why?

It’s got to be Sweet Home Alabama. It’s a bit country and a bit rock and roll – I play guitar so it’s a classic!

Experts featured:

Sally Scott

UK Managing Director


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