Birchbox and Glossybox are two of the most popular beauty boxes available worldwide, and I wanted to see what was their appeal and whether they were really worth it. Are they over hyped, or was I missing out? Now, it takes a lot to impress me (and I’ve had beauty boxes before social media existed), but remember, you are paying for the box and service, and not actually for the contents, because by law the samples or what they term luxe sized products are in fact free samples and not actually allowed for resale. However, people do judge them by the contents, because that’s what they are interested in. These are the criteria I will assess each subscription with:
- Quality of brands
- Size of products and presentation
- Loyalty scheme
- Flexibility to cancel or suspend a subscription
- Referral scheme
- Cost and promotions
- Customer service and delivery
There is a basic profile to fill out, but one should face the fact that it will rarely be used as most boxes are already curated, and one is chosen with the most features ticked on the profile. Customers shouldn’t be surprised if their profile is ignored, as people with dark hair may get shampoo for blonde hair, or people with dark skin get self-tanning lotions. The samples are already selected, and it really is the luck of the draw as to what selection you get.
Quality of brands
Birchbox ~ There are a variety of well-know brands such as Laura Mercier, and Eve Lom included, but not all subscribers will get these products. Birchbox do promote their exclusives which includes their own brand, and there is a heavy bias on hair care products that they sell in the shop.
Glossybox ~ Most boxes contain budget to mid-priced products (many are items that can be found on a chemist self-selection shelf), with a few niche brands. There are a very small percentage of premium brands represented, and there is no guarantee a subscriber will get those in their selection.
WINNER: Draw, although Birchbox have had slightly more premium brands on offer, there is no guarantee of receiving them, and they promote their own brands consistently.
Size of products and presentation
Birchbox ~ This can vary from box to box, but often there is a full sized product or a special travel size. However, I did experience a couple of boxes where more than half the samples were sachets. The products arrive as standard in a drawstring bag inside a box, but have offered a drawer type box and a cosmetics bag for some months.
Glossybox ~ Occasionally there is a full sized product, but usually is a budget or a niche brand. Products arrive in tissue paper inside a pink box; one month a cosmetics bag was offered.
WINNER: Draw, both have the occasional full sized product, but Birchbox tend to promote their own brand as the full sized item, and Glossybox include a budget priced full sized item.
Birchbox~ Birchbox points are awarded with each review of a box which are worth £5 in the shop, and a minimum of £10 is needed to redeem (so a maximum of two box reviews will allow you to redeem). Points are also awarded with purchases (£1 = 1 point), and referrals earn £10 worth of points. The points expire after 6 months, and if you cancel a subscription you still keep your points and can spend them.
GlossyDots ~ GlossyDots are earned via box reviews (50 per box) and 200 points for a referral. There is no shop, and points can only be redeemed when the total reaches 1000 for a free box. Dots are only valid on active subscriptions, and cannot be saved if you cancel and resubscribe later.
WINNER: Birchbox, as the program store points for 6 months even if you cancel, and can be redeemed with two box reviews or one if you have been referred by a friend. GlossyDots is one of the worst incentive programs I have ever seen, where it would take 20 box reviews to redeem. Finding referrals is not as easy when there is little incentive for the person signing up.
Flexibility to cancel or suspend a subscription
Birchbox ~ The monthly rolling subscription can be cancelled up to the last day of the month, or you can change the plan. The process is easy and a confirmation email is sent. One can suspend a month whenever they wish and resubscribe again.
Glossybox ~ All changes and cancellations must be done before the 14th of the month. A subscriber cannot suspend a plan and must cancel and start up another one if they wish to join again.
WINNER: Birchbox, as it offers options and flexibility. With Glossybox, the deadline is the 14th of the month, and there is little flexibility.
Birchbox ~ Both parties receive an incentive; the referrer gets £10 to spend in the shop, and the new subscriber gets £5 to spend in the shop.
Glossybox ~ The scheme seems to change and sometimes they have more points on offer, but in general it’s 200 dots for a referral.
WINNER: Birchbox (as both parties get something instantly).
Cost and promotions
Birchbox ~ Various promotions for discounted first boxes (usually 30-50% off) can be found, but codes may expire without notice. A flat rate of £2.95 postage per box is charged , and each box costs £10. A six-month subscription saves £2.95 with free shipping on one box, and a yearly subscription saves £20.
- Monthly ~ £12.95
- Six months ~ £64.75
- Yearly ~ £135.40
Glossybox ~ Very few promotion codes are available, and often only at the end of the month (after the 14th) where an order automatically triggers another monthly box unless you cancel within 14 days. Postage is £3.25 per box, and each box is also £10. They charge postage on a free box when they they are on offer (buy one box, get one free offers), unlike Birchbox that charges a single delivery charge for a similar promotion. There is a 50 pence discount per box for a three month subscription, £1 discount per box for a six month subscription, and £1.50 discount for a yearly subscription.
- Monthly ~ £13.25
- Three months ~ £38.25
- Six months ~ £73.50
- Yearly ~ £141.00
WINNER: Birchbox (more discounts are available and is cheaper).
Customer service and delivery
Birchbox ~ Delivery can be by courier which is dependent on you local courier. The customer service is not professional ( they work remotely) and takes a long time for queries to be answered (nearly a week). Social media uses the same phrases to pacify those with complaints, but my issue was never resolved, and I was accused of lying.
Glossybox ~ Delivery was by Royal Mail which was fast and reliable. The customer service took a while to respond (nearly a week), but my query was dealt with efficiently.
WINNER: Glossybox, (but it was hard not to beat customer service that accuses you of lying).
Overall Birchbox wins against Glossybox from my experience.
- Birchbox is cheaper, has better discounts, and a loyalty scheme that can be used even if you cancel.
- However, Birchbox delivery and customer service is poor compared to Glossybox that is more reliable in this area.
- As for quality and sizes of the samples, that will vary from each month, but Birchbox has a slight edge (but heavily promotes its own brand), where Glossybox curations have included a higher percentage of budget brands and items.
- In terms of cancelling, Birchbox is more flexible, and Glossybox has restrictions and more small print.
- Birchbox occasionally uses a drawer box, which is more useful and products are presented in a drawstring bag. Glossybox usually has a pink box, with items wrapped in tissue and with a black bow. This is actually important, as you are actually paying for the box or bag, and not for the items!
Overall verdict: These boxes are fine for the beauty novice, those who do buy budget items and want to try other products, people who live rurally and don’t have access to other brands, or those who don’t like to visit beauty counters. The information leaflets are advertising, hyped as advice and tips, and are usually random tips from people who work in the office and not experts. Having read some of them, I would avoid taking any of the advice. It is possible to get some contents of the boxes free directly from the company, or via a sampling website. In addition, with so many Facebook beauty box swap clubs, it does show that many of the curations aren’t popular or as successful as the subscription services claim to be.
*My analysis is based on the brands and promotions offered in the last 12 months for both subscription services in the UK, and for the record I have paid for all my boxes, and never received any PR samples, and ordered the boxes as a normal customer. Prices and terms and conditions were correct as of the time of writing (November 2016) and apply to the UK versions of the subscription services. Terms and conditions, and prices will vary with other countries, and are subject to change. You are advised to read the updated terms and conditions before signing up.
©2016. Beauty Super Spy.