Digital retailer Birchbox has taken on a unique challenge: to make beauty shopping easy and fun for women who aren’t passionate about beauty. To reach these underserved consumers and change their experience in the category, the retailer relies on a marketing strategy that makes beauty relatable and approachable — putting beauty in the context of their lives, versus assuming beauty is their life.

Birchbox engages customers with a personalized, proactive communications strategy that makes heavy use of its mobile app and push notifications. The results have been impressive:

  • 211% average purchase increase on days with push notifications.
  • 3x engagement for app users versus website users.
  • 50% increase in push notification open rates.

What’s working so well? There are number of factors, which we’ll look at below, but it bears noting that Birchbox’s very approach to mobile and messaging is unique. They don’t look at mobile as a one-way messaging medium, says Endymion Mageto, the brand’s product manager of mobile. Instead, customer response to the Birchbox app and its messages provide valuable feedback that can be used to improve website design, mobile web, and other channels.

A Robust Onboarding Stream

A full onboarding stream is one of the keys to Birchbox’s success. Many retailers send only a single welcome message, if that. Birchbox sends a series, with each message pegged to a time frame or event in the shopper journey.

Birchbox uses both in-app messaging and push notifications in its onboarding stream. It mixes up the messaging and the timing of its tactics so that new users don’t get overwhelmed or bored. Post-purchase messaging includes an ask for referrals — even if the purchase didn’t get made in-app.

Rethinking the Mobile App

Birchbox’s mobile app, like those of many digital retailers, began as a way to replicate the company’s mobile site. But a close look at the metrics around the mobile app showed that it was attracting the company’s most engaged customers. Birchbox re-envisioned the app as a tool to upsell these extremely valuable customers.

Now Birchbox uses its app and push notifications to:

  • Remind customers of upcoming opportunities to customize their subscription boxes by swapping out or adding new items. Box customization is open only a few days a month, and push notifications are an ideal way to give customers a heads up.
  • Promote limited-time offers and specific promotions, especially during the holiday season. Birchbox sends a push notification almost every day during cyber week.
  • Educate customers about new brands, and boost experimentation and shopping with these brands.
  • Ask customers to review samples.

Segment and Personalize

Not surprisingly, Birchbox pulls out all the stops to segment mobile app users. The company uses gender, location, and product preferences, along with other attributes, to make sure its messages are relevant and timely to the recipients. This keeps engagement strong and encourages customers to purchase. On days that Birchbox sends push notifications, the revenues of its mobile app more than triple.

A Bright Future for Mobile Apps and Messaging

For Birchbox, this is only the beginning. The company is planning to develop personalized entry points to its app, ensuring that customers are immediately greeted with the content and product mix most relevant to them. The company is also considering additional triggered push notifications based on specific user behaviors or interests. Birchbox could send a message when a shopping cart has been abandoned, a loyalty point threshold has been reached, or a customer has been inactive on the app for a period of time. Video push notifications are another exciting possibility.

As Birchbox continues to see positive results from its mobile app and messaging initiatives, we’re excited to see them develop even more creative ways to engage customers and support growing sales.

To learn more about how Marigold Engage by Sailthru, helping companies like Birchbox exceed goals with mobile, check out our case studies here.