Julep, the beauty brand whose nail polish shades are virtually unavoidable on Pinterest is today launching its own personalized subscription-based “box of the month” club, as something of an alternative to quasi-competitor Birchbox. While the latter helped pioneer the concept of monthly boxes shipped to your home on an automatic basis, Julep’s box is now going in the opposite direction. Instead of beauty samples, Julep’s subscribers can individually customize their monthly shipments with full-size products and limited-batch nail polishes.
Julep will also be introducing a mobile application later this month to help its users build out their boxes, we’ve learned.
The company previously had a subscription box program called The Maven Program, but what’s new as of today is that women can now customize that box to their liking by choosing exactly what products they want to purchase that month.
Because Julep offers full-sized items instead of samples, its boxes are a bit pricier than Birchbox’s ($10/month) offering, with the “My Maven” box starting at $19.99 for a box of 3 products, chosen for you. The new, personalized box is $24.99. However, these boxes contain $40 worth of full-size beauty products, and/or nail polish, so there is a markdown from full retail at least. A $34.99 personalized box is also available, which includes $60 worth of products.
While competing in the same general space as Birchbox – that is, in beauty product subscriptions – the two companies’ business models are different. Birchbox is a far more affordable box, charging roughly the equivalent to a Netflix or streaming music subscription for its sampling of beauty products. But Birchbox uses its boxes to turn on customers to new products they wouldn’t have otherwise encountered, and then makes it easy for monthly subscribers to order the full-sized items through its own service. This now accounts for 30% of its revenue, Fortune recently reported, which is, in total, $125 million per year.
Julep, on the other hand, is offering its boxes as another means to selling its own full-sized items to an already heavily invested audience of beauty product connoisseurs. Its “Mavens,” as they’re called, are invited to view and discuss the company’s newest products in a window of five days every month, and then create their boxes after chatting with others and offering their own feedback.
The company, which manufactures and launches its own nail polishes, skincare and makeup items each month, totaling around 300 new products per year, uses the data from customer discussions and selections to help it better identify trends and then meet those demands accordingly. Julep was already collecting this sort of crowdsourced social feedback on online forums, and social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as in-person. Now it’s able to directly connect that feedback with buying decisions.
Obviously, this ability to quickly learn from then respond to consumer demands is how Julep believes it will have a competitive advantage versus the traditional beauty brands. And it’s a helpful factor in other aspects of its business, too, as Julep is not only an online brand, but also sells products on QVC, and in stores at Sephora and select Nordstrom locations.
Founded by former Starbucks executive Jane Park, Julep is backed by over $50 million in outside funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Madrona, Maveron and others, with its most recent round, a $30 million Series C, announced just last month.
What’s unclear is how many “Mavens” are helping contribute to Julep’s bottom line. The company declined to say how many monthly subscribers it had before today’s launch of the personalized box. It also doesn’t share revenue specifics, though some estimates pegged the company at $20 million in total revenue in 2013. Julep did say, however, that its e-commerce revenue tripled last year.
The app (screenshots below) will clearly play into the company’s larger e-commerce strategy. The app will go live on May 20th, when the first window for feedback also launches for the new boxes.[gallery ids="1001981,1001980,1001979,1001978,1001977"]