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Industry Trends
February 27, 2023
min read
Noam Yadin

How the pandemic saved beauty subscription boxes

Subscription boxes are nothing new - from meal prep services to gardening boxes, there’s a subscription box for just about anything and anyone. By 2018, there was talk of ‘subscription fatigue’ as it seemed that pretty much every industry and business had implemented some sort of subscription model to their products/service. 

Then Coronavirus spread globally and businesses, along with their subscription plans, were left scrambling for answers - are consumers going to want more or less products sent to their house? Are consumers going to even want to purchase new goods (aside from toilet paper)? 

While many subscription-based businesses initially saw a drop in sales, by mid-March consumers realized that they were about to spend a lot of time at home and it was an ideal time to dedicate to self-care. Unsurprisingly, this societal change positively impacted the beauty industry - well, those that adapted and adopted the concept of subscription services. Here are a few ways cosmetic brands and subscription services acted upon the change in consumer behavior:

Adding the self-care factor

During the height of COVID-19, many makeup brands saw a decline in specific products, for example, lipsticks and lip glosses (for obvious reasons). However, they saw a slight uptick in skin care. Due to this, cosmetic brands that tapped into the subscription trend increased their skin care and wellness offerings.  

Boxycharm subscription box

According to Glossy, “BoxyCharm introduced more non-beauty items like vitamins and other wellness products into its monthly subscriptions… this led to an increase in retention and encouraged consumers to renew their subscriptions.” Interestingly, BoxyCharm’s founder and CEO, Joe Martin, explained that the brand also added another unique aspect - allowing subscribers to pick which non-beauty item they want to include in their box: “...we know people are not going to go to the store to buy. Allowing them to choose made it a better experience for them.”

Cosmetic brands partnering with subscription services 

One of the major side effects of less makeup consumers buying products in-store was the decrease in chances of them trying a new product, let alone purchasing a newly discovered full-size makeup product. So, more and more beauty brands pivoted their interest towards subscription box partnerships as it was a great way to increase brand discovery opportunities. 

Anastasia Beverly Hills’ CEO Claudia Soare noted that partnering with cosmetic subscription services is a great way to reach new customers: “there are a lot of customers that might say, ‘Oh I don’t know, I’ve never tried their brand,’ but subscription boxes encourages people to ‘take a chance’ on new brands.” 

Micro-influencers (more and more influencers during this time)

Due to a lot of downtime at home and the unfortunate reality of many individuals losing their jobs, there was a dramatic rise in content creators. Many cosmetic subscriptions took advantage of this uptick in influencers and added micro-content creators to their subscription list - they sent out free boxes and in return asked them to create content about the box and products. 

Partnerships between content creators and cosmetic subscription boxes are a win-win for both parties - the creators are seen as stronger, more credible figures in the online space while the brands get more online exposure (for a usually smaller cost). Brands should aim to form long-term partnerships with the creators in order to increase authenticity. For example, if a creator states that they’ve been trying this subscription service for a longer period of time, it shows that they are truly giving an honest, usually positive review. 

Adopting the casual beauty 

For years, cosmetic subscription services catered to makeup gurus. The top makeup YouTubers unboxed the packages each month and created masterpieces on their faces. This further deterred those that just wanted to give makeup a go without having to commit to full-size products and prices. During the pandemic, makeup brands brought these consumers to the front lines - the casual beauty consumer. Cosmetic subscription brands quickly understood that these are ideal customers in this arena as they get to test out new products without having to enter intimidating makeup stores. 

So, which cosmetic subscription boxes are controlling the social space?

According to the leaderboard below, BoxyCharm is controlling the YouTube sphere in terms of mentions. In regards to views, Function of Beauty sits at the top. It’s interesting to note that the popular subscription service, FabFitFun, has done more brand sponsorships but has less mentions and views. 

Cosmetic subscription box leaderboard

It’s no secret that subscription boxes are the future of ecommerce, the pandemic just accelerated this fact. The consumer behavior has changed - they want goods accessible, on-demand, and even personalized - from the comfort of their couch (pants not required). Brands have to not only adapt, but find ways to do the above while connecting with their consumers, gaining their loyalty and causing them to continue spreading the word. The beauty business is just one industry who is killing it in the subscription-sphere. 

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