Birchbox announced a new tier pricing structure, which effectively means it raised the price on most members. Only select members will get the $10 pricing it launched with. What added benefits are we getting for the price increase? When Birchbox launched in September 2010, and it was a pioneer in the beauty subscription box industry. Members could get a box of 4-5 beauty products to sample for $10 a month. The concept was simple. Let users get samples stress free. There was no need to go into a store to ask for things, because Birchbox tailored the samples to the user’s profile. A subscription box revolution emerged in the years that followed, because many saw the success Birchbox had and wanted to capitalize while the market was still hot. While Birchbox only sold 12 products when it launched, the intent was always to encourage customers to purchase the full-size of the samples they fell in love with. It wanted to build its subscription program, so it could grow its online store.
It was a unique approach that had not been used before. Over time, the plan worked thanks to the success of the subscription service. Now, it carries thousands of products, including the ones sampled in its boxes. How many times have you received a sample you love in a subscription box but you cannot find how to purchase it. That frustration is not really a problem with Birchbox as it is with some programs. This unique approach Birchbox took benefited the brands as well, because they could earn a customer they might not have had before the subscription. Customers always win if they can sample before they buy. We’ve all bought duds. Whether you go through the hassle of returning your dud or suck up the cost as a learning experience, I’ve purchased duds a lot less often since starting my subscription box journey.
To continue with its original mission of encouraging people to purchase the full-size products they fall in love with, Birchbox is making changes to its subscription program.
The Changes Coming to Birchbox
Birchbox is moving to a tier pricing structure. The price increase (for some) should help Birchbox deliver a better experience. Shipping prices have increased. Despite that, Birchbox is promising faster shipping under the new service.
We will get more sample choices with multiple curated boxes each month. Starting in June, members can skip a monthly box in favor of loyalty points to spend in the shop. This could come in handy if you are traveling and do not want your mailbox to overfill or if you are saving points to grab something from the shop.
Birchbox wants to get better samples and improved personalization. I feel it already does both pretty well, so I look forward to seeing the changes here. For surprises, it talks about box design. This is an area I feel it wastes its time on. When everything came in the plain brown box, it did not matter to me. Since I use my Birchboxes to gift products to people, I do not need fancy decorations on the boxes. It would be better in my opinion if Birchbox invested what it spends on the boxes into something that really benefits the consumer, like returning points for reviews. It could be less than it was before if that was not sustainable.
If you’ve thought of getting a Birchbox subscription, I would recommend doing it now. Anyone who signs up as of March 25th will do so under the new pricing structure. Signing up through the 24th lets you grandfather in to the new monthly rate (as long as your subscription is active). Those who cancel and sign up again will go under the new pricing.
More Changes Coming June 1st
People who commit to a multi-month subscription will get the price for the commitment but only pay monthly instead of up front. This is a positive change.
A Delayed Offer to Stay at the $10 Price Tag
I signed up for two different three-month plans on 03/24/19 (the day before the price change took effect). That gave me two subscriptions on top of the one I already owned for $10 a month. An offer to extend those subscriptions to an annual plan for $10 a month came on April 28th. In order to get that pricing, I have to pay the annul fee before May 1st. Since I already have an annual plan with the $10 a month price, I am passing. Those who got this offer and want to keep exploring Birchbox might be interested though.
I got another email on April 30th that I could use the code ANNUAL10 to get a year of boxes at $10 each. Expires May 1st.
How Do the Price Hikes Affect You?
ACES get to stay at $10 a month, so there is no real price change on smaller plans. This applies to all ACES regardless of when they qualify. Anyone who qualifies after the price changes take effect will get ACES pricing on their next renewal. It is proof that Birchbox is using the new tier pricing structure to promote shopping in its online store. Anyone who spends $300 a year in the store gets ACES status. I’ve been an Ace since the program launched mostly based on the strength of the limited edition Birchboxes. The only real loss to this tier is the chance to purchase an annual subscription for $110. No big deal though. After my annual subscription runs out, I will just transfer month-to-month. I only pay in advance when I get a discount.
Grandfathered Members (Active account before 03/25/19)
Until June 1st, you will stay at your current rate. Your first renewal after 06/01/19 will see the price change. Month-to-month members and members with a 3-moth plan will pay $13. Those who purchase a 6 month plan pay $12.50 a month. A grandfathered member with an annual plan pays $12 a month.
Anyone who signs up on 03/25/19 or later (unless or until they earn ACES status) starts at the new tier pricing structure. Month-to-month members and members with a 3-moth plan will pay $15. Those who purchase a 6 month plan pay $14 a month. All members without an ACES account or grandfathered membership with an annual plan pay $13 a month.
The Future of The $10 Box and How Charging Up to $15 Will Affect This Industry
This move will undoubtedly see a drop in subscribers. Those who were already thinking of canceling will likely follow through once the increase takes effect. It could have seen an initial surge if it gave people more time from the announcement to the new tier pricing structure. Announcing this on the 19th and telling everyone the new pricing starts in 6 days for those who are not already in does not give Birchbox enough time to attract new members who want to try it while it is still $10 a month. After all, those who join today would get March, April, and May for $10 a month. Since the positive changes start in April, new members would have known before June 1st if they wanted to stay on at the new price. Now, Birchbox is trying to hook new members who were reluctant at $10 when they might have to pay up to $15. Had this gotten announced March 1st and implemented April 1st, we would have had more time to spread the word that people should try it for $10 while they still can or let existing members purchase an annual subscription for $110 while they still can.
It does not escape me that this move is to push members to spend more in the shop. After all, ACES still get the box for $10 a month. This rewards those of us who use the shop the way the Birchbox model intended. Sample the products and buy the ones you love. Unless people are loyal to a specific store (which I am certainly not), they buy from the place they get the best deal. If I fall in love with a Birchbox product, but I can get a better deal at Ulta or Sephora, I will purchase it there. Birchbox needs to step up its promotions to encourage people to shop. Hoping they will get ACES status to get the box for $10 is not enough. A lot of people will just cancel the box, because it moved its competitor base from Ipsy (which it is superior to) and Sephora (which it gives bigger and more customized samples than) to Allure. In its current format, it cannot compete with the Allure Beauty Box.
It will need great changes to make a new subscriber pick this over the Allure box, which regularly has full-size items. There were 2 full-size items in the March 2019 curated Birchbox, but it is too soon to see if that is a sign of what is to come or on purpose to make the boxes seem better than they are ahead of this announcement. One of the reasons for the price change was the increase in shipping charges. If Birchbox is feeling this, other subscription boxes might as well. This could mean Birchbox is just the first to increase prices and others could follow suit. Sephora has economies of scale that Ipsy and Birchbox cannot compete with, so it could either follow suit to increase profit margins or stay at $10 to make sure it has no real competitor.
I am a huge proponent of $10 and $15 boxes being in different ranges, so I do not think it is fair to compare them. As long as I am in ACES status and can still get my box for $10, I will keep my annual Sephora Play versus Birchbox article (unless Sephora also raises its price). It will now have to include a bias toward Sephora since it is cheaper for the casual consumer. In other words, they will both cost me $10 a month, but they will not compare to many of my readers who would have to purchase a more expensive Birchbox plan.
The price increase itself won’t bother me as long as I see real improvement to the subscription. Of course, that is easy for me to say. As an ACE, it will not affect me. It disappoints me to see Birchbox would rather spend more on box designs and even faster shipping over returning to points for reviews. This whole price change is to push people to spend more in the shop and improve the subscription program without the constraints of a $10 budget. As I stated above, people are more likely to cancel if they feel the new price is too high than try to earn ACES status to lower their price. While I want faster shipping (who doesn’t), it is not going to encourage a shop purchase the way reinstating review points would. I get that review points were probably a huge strain on the books and unsustainable in the long-run. So, give me fewer points per review (3-5, instead of 10), a plain brown box, and the slow shipping I already get. I will spend more in your shop and keep my subscription. The best way to encourage shopping is promotions, so I hope those surprises include more subscriber exclusive offers.
See my list of Birchbox subscription offers. Want to subscribe? Click that link to see the current start-up offers. If you’re reading this around the time I’ve posted it, the one I posted below will work.
What are your thoughts on the New Tier Pricing Structure at Birchbox? Let me know below. If your purchase is over $25 (longer subscriptions or purchasing something from the shop with the subscription), you can pick a free item from the bonus shop if you do not use a subscription start-up offer or discount code, which I cover on my Birchbox Deals Page. Some discount codes on that page will not work on subscriptions, but I will post any that work on my Birchbox Subscription Deals Page. You can always add a free two piece sample pack when spending $35, because it combines with any promo code. Tips For Getting the Best Deal lays out all the ways I know to save money at Birchbox. Product reviews do not always make it into the haul article, but you can always type the product into the search bar to see if I’ve mentioned it or reviewed it elsewhere. Subscribe to the blog to get updates on all posts. View my main page for the guide map to the site and deeper deal exploration.
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