Thursday, February 27, 2014

Birchbox February 2014 Review

Since their debut in 2010, Birchbox has become sort of the Grandmother of the beauty subscription box industry.  If you've been buying subscription boxes for a while you've probably tried Birchbox or have at least heard of the company.  Their success story has been highly publicized and their business model inspired enormous competition, first in beauty products, but later expanding to a tremendous variety of other categories.  

While Birchbox is definitely a leader in the beauty box business, it does seem that they are lagging behind their competition, particularly Ipsy. A $10 Birchbox typically contains four or five skincare and makeup samples, some luxury size and some not. The same $10 with Ipsy buys four or five full size products.

The Birchbox samples are packed in tissue paper in a small eco-friendly cardboard box.  To me, the boxes often seem to be half empty with a few small samples rattling around in them. That may not be a valid consideration if you're getting really high end samples, but it's a marketing perception issue that most of their competitors have addressed. 

Here is February's information card which gives product descriptions and retail prices on the back:

My February box contained a .25 fl oz sample of StriVectin-AR Advanced Retinol Night Treatment.  This is a very expensive retail product ($109 for 1.7 oz.) so I'm glad to get the opportunity to try the sample size. This is supposed to be a really good anti-aging multi-tasking product that nourishes and rejuvenates skin while you sleep.  Also included is a very small sample of Agave Healing Oil Treatment, a lightweight oil for strengthening and moisturizing hair.  

My box contained a good sized sample of Whish Body Butter which incorporates anti-oxidant rich pomegranate to firm and nourish skin after showering or bathing.  The last small sample is Miracle Skin Transformer Face Spotlight, a "5 in 1 Illuminating Complexion Enhancer" with SPF20 sunscreen.

Also included in February's box are two samples of Harney & Sons tea sachets.  One is a caffeine free herbal tea in the flavor mint with lemon verbena and the other is an organic green tea flavored with coconut, lemongrass, ginger and vanilla.  I'm a tea lover so I know I'll enjoy these.

Quite honestly, I don't know if I'll be continuing my Birchbox subscription.  I have subscribed for more than two years but my overall impression, month after month, has been disappointment at how little is in the box. I realize they are constrained by the $10 price point but their biggest competitor (again, just my opinion), Ipsy, consistently provides much more product for the same price and an overall more fun "box experience" every month.  See my recent Ipsy review (February 25th) and compare for yourself!

Having said all that, Birchbox does have one of the best customer points programs around. For every 100 points you earn, you get $10 off your full-sized order.  (Some other points programs require you to earn as much as 1,000 points for a $10 discount.)  So the real value in maintaining a Birchbox subscription may be the discounts you can get towards the hundreds of full blown retail priced items in their on-line store.

It would be interesting to do a side by side Birchbox vs. Ipsy comparison in an upcoming review.  If you've tried both services, please share your thoughts in the Comments below.

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