KVossNYC Founder Kristin Voss On What It’s Like For A Small Brand To Enter Beauty Boxes

For voracious beauty shoppers, subscription boxes are unparalleled vehicles to sample brands they may not run across during their usual trips to stores or virtual visits to sites. For brands, gaining access to those shoppers can be a growth goldmine. However, getting into boxes isn’t as easy as receiving them. There are thousands of subscription box companies peddling different wares to distinct slices of American consumers. They each have their own practices, purposes, and plusses and minuses.

Kristin Voss, founder of KVossNYC, has learned about the particularities of subscription services from putting her brand’s merchandise in boxes from Ipsy, Goodbeing, Blessbox, Petit Vour, The Goofy Mermaid and The Organic Bunny, and trying to crack more. “I know that, when people try my products, they love them, so that’s why I went the route of subscription boxes,” she says. “It’s allowed me to elevate my brand to a level of exposure that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.” Beauty Independent picked Voss’ brain about beauty boxes to understand the lay of the subscription service land.

Breaking Into Boxes

Nearly three years ago, Voss scoured the web to identify the top 20 subscription services in the beauty industry and sent emails to them all to ask if they’d consider KVossNYC. Ipsy responded about a month later. For roughly a year, Voss was in discussions with the formidable subscription service in the beauty space. After Ipsy determined the brand would enter its glam bag, it was nine months before 202,000 units of KVossNYC lip balms arrived at homes via Ipsy last year. Subscription services don’t always take that long to break into or command that quantity. For Goodbeing, Voss had sixteen days to produce 2,000 units. She estimates unit volumes span from 500 to over 700,000 for beauty boxes.

The amounts paid by subscription services to brands and payment terms vary as well. “Everything is negotiated,” says Voss. “I have a file cabinet full of contracts, and not one contract looks like another one.” She pegs the outlays at primarily $1 to $2 per unit. In KVossNYC’s case, subscription boxes have mostly featured the brand’s lip products, which are priced at retail from $14 to $18. “With most beauty boxes that I work with, you are just getting enough to produce the product,” says Voss. Turning to the divergent payment terms, she adds, “Some people will pay you 25% at the beginning of the agreement. Some people pay 50% at the beginning of the agreement. Some people pay you 50% at receipt of goods and net 45 later.”

Voss explains subscription services typically come to her with the number of units they want, and she throws out a per unit figure that will make the unit volume worthwhile for KVossNYC. “When you decide on the cost share number — when I say, for example, that I’m going to do it for $1.25 — that’s for everything top to bottom,” says Voss. “That was super hard for me to navigate. The first time I did a box, I forgot about shipping, and that was $700. That blew the money I made on the box. I will never forget about shipping again.”

Voss subscription services

Maximizing Subscription Exposure

The period a brand’s product is within a subscription service’s box is critical. The box deposits the item into the hands of hundreds or thousands of consumers, but social media messaging can amplify the reach and sales. During the window of box participation, Voss attempts to post an image of the product included in the box a minimum of every third day and tags the subscription service in the posts. On a stellar day, Voss has drawn 100 new followers to KVossNYC’s social media accounts as a result of partaking in a box. In the month the brand’s lip balms were in Ipsy glam bags, she divulges it secured around 700 followers, and at least 1,000 mentions in posts uploaded by consumers.

Subscription service members are incentivized to buy a brand’s products by discount codes in the boxes that provide, for instance, 20% off of future purchases. Voss points out the discounts are among the elements of subscription box involvement that can be negotiated. To familiarize shoppers with KVossNYC products not showcased in the boxes, Voss throws in samples of other products into packages when subscription box users purchase products with the discount codes. She prepares for boxes by finalizing not only the samples for them, but the samples she doles out herself, too. Voss stresses, “Every single person that places an order gets a free sample.”

Assessing Box Outcomes

The month KVossNYC’s lip balms were in Ipsy glam bags, the brand’s sales rose far more than Voss anticipated. “When I met with Ipsy before the first round went out, they said most companies see a 35% increase in sales. I thought that would be great, but I saw a 75% increase,” she reveals. “I was such a new brand. It really depends on when you strike and how new you are.” KVossNYC hasn’t replicated the Ipsy results. Still, Voss isn’t disappointed by the impact of smaller subscription services. “Every single month I have something in a box, I see the benefits,” she says. “I see the value of it.”

On top of sales, box companies supply information and content. Voss notes Ipsy delivers data on an array of demographic metrics and product feedback from consumers. Petit Vour is a preeminent content producer. “They do really professional shoots. I couldn’t afford to have those professional shoots, and I’m reposting and sharing what they do,” details Voss. “That’s a really wonderful benefit of working with them.”

Voss cautions that big subscription box wins like being picked up by Ipsy aren’t repeated often — and it’s difficult to build a lucrative business from box to box. She doesn’t think it’s impossible, though. “I would like to see it translate more into a substantial financial future. It hasn’t yet, but I do believe it can,” she says. “This has been a good route for me to start and get my feet wet in the industry. Doing it this way has allowed me to be lean and get ready for the next step.”

KVOSSNYC subscription services