This article was contributed by Joanne Tsai with minor editing by Jason Lim.

In September 2010, two young and beautiful Harvard Business School graduates Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp founded and launched the online beauty product trend all over Europe and America. Due to this recent phenomenon, this business model has become the newest target for entrepreneurs.

The e-commerce structure for originates from Netflix, which provides online annual or monthly subscription of DVD movies delivered to your home. Instead of delivering DVDs, Birchbox adopts the Netflix approach and delivers beauty products directly to consumers. The creative side of the business comes from their close friend Mollie Chen, a beauty editor in a fashion magazine who has the habit of sending a range of makeup samples and gifts to close friends. The monthly subscription for Birchbox is only $10 USD or $110 USD for an annual subscription. Members receive a gift box every month containing 4 or 5 various beauty products ranging from skincare to makeup to cult beauty tools, so you receive a pleasant surprise every month.

Birchbox raised US$2.9 million before the official launch of the online service. Other than targeting diversified beauty products, this type of business model also includes personalised service, where a team of beauty experts select special products and services tailored for the customer’s beauty profile, such as skin type, skin colour, hair colour and so on. Not only can the unique business model of Birchbox save shopping time for female consumers and provide a convenient method of trying out beauty products, but it can also give beauty brands a more direct approach in reaching their target customers.

Female consumers love to receive free samples, such as face cream, body cream, powder, eyeshadow, lipstick, perfume, shampoo and shower gel. As most girls would open the box and try out the products, getting first-hand experience of the products increase chances of consumers purchasing the products in the future. Birchbox has reached the top spot for the online beauty product market, where the initial launch immediately attracted 2000 members and has grown to 45000 members within a month.

The same business model has also been imitated by other markets such as Europe’s Glossybox. The gift box is also sold at 10 Euros, provides similar personalised service and it has received large amounts of investment from the notorious German Samwer brothers.

Now Asian consumers also have the chance now to experience the online beauty product membership service. Founded in October 2011, Glamabox started offering their services to consumers in Hong Kong and will begin offering services to Taiwan in January 2012. The founder of Glamabox is Lisa S. , a noted Eurasian model in Hong Kong and her husband is Daniel Wu, who was voted as one of the top ten sexiest Chinese male celebrities in 2011. Although Lisa’s father is the president of Caesars Palace Casino, Lisa S. does not take advantage of her privileged status but instead uses her intellect to adopt the most popular e-commerce platform in Europe and America and build her beauty empire in the Asian market.

In April 2010, Lisa S. gradually minimized her modeling jobs before marrying Daniel Wu after a relationship of 8 years. Other than being the supportive figure behind Daniel Wu, Lisa S. actively developed her own business. As Lisa S. is used to travelling around the world for modeling jobs, she has been exposed to various interesting and innovative beauty knowledge. Therefore, she decided to use her numerous years of beauty expertise and relationship with product brands to combine it with the newest online consumption mode for female beauty lovers.

Lisa S. states that every product contained in the gift boxes is handpicked by her according to the customers’ beauty profiles and individual preferences. The company also collaborates with high-end beauty brands that have worked with Lisa S. in the past and are very supportive of her new career. Customers simply need to fill out a simple online questionnaire, including personal information, individual preference and such information and pay NT$388 dollars per month to receive a diversified gift box carefully handpicked by Lisa S. herself.

Referring to operational goals, Lisa S. states with full confidence that she is completely committed to her new career and her husband Daniel provides 100% support – he is even willing to become a personal courier for the company! Glamabox predicts that through blogging and word-of-mouth approach, there will be 10000 members within three months in Taiwan. The company also aims to develop their business in mainland Chinese market in the near future.

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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  1. Actually Glamabox is not the only clone, there is also which is already operating in China and HK at least, maybe other markets too. I think myluxbox actually opened before Glamabox in HK as well.

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