Ask almost any female millennial what ‘Birchbox’ is and odds are, she can tell you. Founded in 2010, Birchbox was one of the pioneers of the subscription box service industry, delivering top new beauty products to subscribers’ doors for $10 a month. Fast-forward to 2016, and Birchbox has grown exponentially, now having well over 1 million subscribers, an additional Men's grooming subscription as well as an e-commerce Shop that carries over 800 brands.
One of the main reasons Birchbox is so great? They provide a personalized experience for their subscribers. When you join Birchbox, you fill out a detailed profile outlining your beauty preferences. However, the personalization doesn’t stop there. Subscribers have the ability to review each product and customize their monthly box. Since subscriber data is at the core of Birchbox’s business model, having a mobile app is essential to allowing them to collect this data in a user friendly way so that they can provide an uber-personalized experience.
Recently, I had the pleasure of discussing the above notion with Birchbox’s Product Manager, Avantika Agrawal.
Read on to discover how Birchbox thinks about mobile as an integral part of their overall strategy, and how it helps them build stronger relationships with customers through seamless, personalized experiences:
A- We consider downloading the Birchbox app a critical step in the customer journey of our subscribers. With the app, Birchbox subscribers have on-the-go, anytime access to Birchbox – they can track their box, customize their box, view their box history, replenish their beauty essentials with a two-step checkout. Birchbox is unique in the e-commerce space in having these monthly “moments” that brings customers back to our site. Having the app makes it that much easier to check in on your box every month.
2. From your perspective, how does mobile marketing differ from traditional marketing?
A- With 70% of our traffic coming from mobile (web & app), it’s an essential component of our marketing strategy. The biggest advantage in mobile marketing is the level of personalization that we can offer in our marketing messages. For instance, we can target our push notifications not only based on a user’s purchase history and behavior, but also based on their precise location, their proximity to our retail store… even the weather!
However, in some aspects, mobile marketing has its challenges. While on their mobile devices users are often distracted, have a shorter attention span and they’re often on-the-go. It’s just so easy to miss a push notification, or ignore an email message when you’re browsing on your phone.
Tracking and attribution is also something that we struggle with on mobile. Users often don’t convert directly from mobile marketing efforts, but they may use the reminder to convert when they have more time, or when they have access to a desktop device. That cross-device behavior is difficult to measure and results in marketers underestimating the power of mobile marketing.
We have a Discover Feed in our app that allows users to scroll through content, product recommendations and marketing messages. This feed is personalized to a user’s box history, purchase behavior, gender and subscription type. We do our best to tailor this content as well as our push notifications and in-app messages to what’s most relevant to our users.
This would vary based on the campaign we’re running. For Shop campaigns (e.g., promoting a specific product or discount), we would track revenue. For others, we would also consider behavior-based metrics (e.g., friends referred, samples reviewed) or even more universal engagement metrics (e.g., monthly active users, visits per user).
We recently created an onboarding series for users who download our app. Once you download the app, you will receive a series of triggered push notifications over the course of your first month. This was created on the heels of mobile research that cited that over 50% of users are likely to churn from an app within the first month.
We wanted to create a series of messages that not only encouraged new users to start using the app, but also guide them into our funnel. The push notifications range from engagement messages that simply prompted you to just open the app (e.g., “Just a friendly reminder that you’re magical!”) to messages that educate customers on our offerings (e.g., “Our app is filled with beauty tips and tricks—so inspiration is (literally) at your fingertips.”).
Our primary KPI for this campaign was 1-month retention and I’m happy to say we’ve been able to boost that metric considerably, relative to industry benchmarks, through this campaign!
We are constantly tracking how customers are using our apps. This user behavior helps us define our product roadmap for the apps, as well as our marketing strategy. It can also help us determine the types of messages that resonate most with users and trigger desired actions.
I think the Birchbox app allows us to tap into a segment of our customers that is highly engaged and loyal. The app allows us provide them with an accessible, highly responsive platform to engage with Birchbox. Having our app on their phone also keeps our brand top of mind for them, and we do find them organically coming back to the app multiple times a month. Moreover, with native integrations, we can leverage unique capabilities of mobile devices – the camera, GPS, native Reminders, Mail and Calendars apps, for instance – in ways that a web platform cannot easily replicate.
We lean heavily on Localytics for our reporting and analytics needs. We use dashboards to keep track of our KPIs (app user acquisition, retention, revenue) on an ongoing basis. We also use event tracking to measure the impact of feature releases and marketing initiatives.
We are in the midst of an ongoing debate about the value and sustainability of the two mobile platforms: browser or app. Given this debate, I think it’s critical to define the role that your app plays in your customer lifecycle, and the unique value it can bring to your customers.
Many brands create apps to simply replicate their web experience. However, this often results in a missed opportunity to offer more “authentically mobile” experiences. We do find that customers are looking for more than a replica of the mobile website in an app, placing value on app-exclusive functionality and unique user experiences.
Providing a truly personalized app experience is very top of mind for us. We want to explore what the future of our Discover Feed could look like, and make it even more tailored and optimized to each unique customer.
Thank you, Avantika! The Birchbox app is available on iOS and Android. You can download the app here.
Avantika Agrawal is a Product Manager at Birchbox who works on the Birchbox iOS and Android apps and mobile strategy. Prior to Birchbox, she was an Analytical Lead at Google and a consultant at McKinsey & Co. When not geeking out over the latest mobile apps, she also loves yoga, scuba diving and walks in Central Park with her dog, Tessa.
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