As Spring officially begins, ushered in by the Spring Equinox, what better way to celebrate the season of renewal then refreshing your beauty regime? Birchbox, the US pioneer of beauty boxes, recently expanded its business into Canada after launching limited distribution in European markets (UK, France, Spain, and Belgium).

Birchbox, an online subscription service that has enjoyed overwhelming success in recent years in the US, ships consumers a beauty box each month containing sample-sized high-end products ranging from cosmetics to skincare and haircare in exchange for a monthly fee (US $10, CA $14.95 for women). If consumers like the products, they can then order the full-size format from its website. Part of its success stems from the fact that the samples are customized to the member’s profile, i.e. based on their skin and hair types and cosmetic preferences, ensuring members receive a box of samples tailored to their particular needs. The company also has a strong social presence via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and produces online editorial content on its website, including tips and advice – a service many beauty consumers seek out.

11% of Canadian consumers who buy beauty products have made beauty purchases online

How are beauty boxes already faring in Canada?

There are already several beauty box subscription services available in Canada, such as TOPBOX, beautybox5, Julep, or Luxe Box by Loose Button. While TOPBOX is Toronto-based, many brands are based in the US and simply ship to Canada, similar to the model Birchbox has adopted. However, Birchbox looks to differentiate by charging in Canadian dollars and providing dedicated website for the Canadian market (birchbox.ca) that features products selected from a range of Canadian beauty and personal care brands.

According to Mintel’s Beauty Retailing Canada 2014 report. only about 1% of Canadian consumers who purchase beauty products typically buy from a beauty box subscription. This number increases to 5% when looking at the US market. It is worth noting however, that 11% of Canadian consumers who buy beauty products have made beauty purchases online , whether it was via online-only retailers (i.e. Amazon.ca or ebay.ca) or online-only beauty retailers (i.e. beauty.ca, well.ca, ftbbeauty.ca). That said, Mintel’s Digital Trends Canada 2014 report shows that online shopping in Canada is somewhat behind that of the US and UK: about 71% of Canadian internet users shop online, compared to 85% in the US and 90% in the UK.

Hope for beauty boxes thanks to strong interest in samples and… moms?

Providing samples, as Birchbox does with its beauty box, is likely to be a winner with Canadian consumers, as half of Canadians who buy beauty products prefer to sample beauty products before purchase, although shopping around for the best price and waiting for promotions is also popular. What’s more, tech savvy Canadian mothers present an interesting niche consumer segment. Mintel’s Marketing to Moms Canada 2014 report highlights that 58% of moms have liked or followed a brand on social media sites including Facebook or Twitter, and 73% shop online. Family and friends are the most trusted resource for Canadian mothers, so building word of mouth or peer recommendations is something Birchbox should continue in Canada in order to raise its profile. Birchbox already allows members to recommend a friend and has a points system that members can exchange for discounts on products.

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