Allure Is Growing Its Subscription Service by Treating the ‘Beauty Box’ as Its Own Business

Condé Nast says membership is at an all-time high

The team working on the beauty box is growing. Allure

Allure is looking to further expand its team working on the brand’s beauty box as the number of subscribers continues to grow.

The monthly box includes beauty products curated by the Allure team, accompanied by a brief pamphlet with a description of each sample-sized product (and sometimes a coupon code to purchase the full-sized version in stores).

Though the Condé Nast title did not say exactly how many people subscribe to the $15-per-month box, the company said membership is at an all-time high and was up 160 percent in June 2018 compared to the same month last year.

“It’s something that’s so core to what we do already because what people really want from us is product recommendations,” said Michelle Lee, Allure’s editor in chief, during the Brandweek summit in September. “When you’re getting a mini magazine that’s written by editors, it all makes sense.”

Lee inherited the business when she took over as editor a little more than three years ago, and with a team that includes Jill Friedson, the vp of marketing across the Condé Nast Beauty Collection, the subscription service has seen significant growth since then. At the end of last year, revenue for the box increased by 51 percent year over year and is projected to increase by 68 percent by the end of this year.

To help meet the growing customer demand, Allure is planning to add to its procurement and customer retention teams.

As part of a broader, company-wide strategy, Condé Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg said he was open to expanding subscription boxes to other brands. GQ already offers the “GQ Best Stuff Box” ($49.99 per quarter), which is a curated box of recommended products from the brand, and Teen Vogue just launched The Rag (for $24.99), which it described as a toolkit for period and vaginal health.

For Lee, the beauty box represented another way to grow the expanding Allure brand.

“I wanted to view the Beauty Box as its own business,” Lee said. “Why shouldn’t Beauty Box feel like its own pillar, its own arm?”

Strategic decisions were made to grow the business even further across all teams, including business and editorial, and included bringing on a former employee from Birchbox, a subscription box for makeup, hair care and skincare. Furthermore, putting together the box is a newsroom-wide and collaborative effort and is something editors across editorial operations works on.

Successful subscription-box companies, including Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club and Stitch Fix, have taken a “customer-first approach,” said Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of Zuora, a software company specializing in subscription businesses, in an email. These companies have also created “fun, compelling subscription experiences that get smarter and smarter over time.” Part of that, Tzuo said, was the importance of a consumer brand knowing and understanding their customer.

“Brands can’t just ship the same things over and over and expect to ride the coattails of this subscription success trend either,” Tzuo said. “In addition to demanding immediate, ongoing fulfillment, customers today want to be happily surprised on a regular basis. And if brands don’t meet those expectations, they get dropped, not to mention trashed on social media. It’s that simple.”

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.