Beauty Army Enters the Battle

Beauty Army knows what you want and lets you pick.

Beauty Army ( is a personalized beauty sample subscription service that allows you to select up to six luxury beauty samples each month for $12.  The company launched in January 2012.  Unlike other beauty subscription services (e.g. Birchbox, NewBeauty TestTube, GLOSSYBOX, Beauty Box 5, Ipsy)  that deliver the same variety of beauty products to all of their customers, Beauty Army tailors each box of samples to its customers’ beauty needs and tastes.  Some services, such as Birchbox, now include a few samples that are selected based on the user’s preferences in addition to the pre-selected samples chosen for a wide range of styles, skin types, and colorings; however, these other offerings still do not offer their customers the full luxury of choice as Beauty Army does.  Additionally, many services would have to alter their unique selling proposition in order to transition to a choice-based subscription.  For example, Birchbox defines itself as a discovery service, in which experimentation of different brands and various products is at the heart of the business.  To rid the surprise aspect of its boxes would be equivalent to Facebook charging its users to be on its site.


How Beauty Army works:

1. Complete a personal profile using basic questionnaire

Beauty Army

Beauty Army2

Beauty Army3

2. Based on a customer’s responses to the questionnaire, a set of 9 personalized beauty samples are populated and displayed for him or her to select up to 6.

3. The customer can update his or her profile for new selections or choose to skip a month whenever he or she wants.


Beauty Army’s value proposition is its use of big data to personalize product recommendations and allow its customers to choose his or her samples.

Why does big data analytics offer a competitive advantage for Beauty Army?

Big data analytics is the process of identifying unknown correlation or hidden patterns by analyzing large data sets.  Not only will big data analytics allow Beauty Army to personalize the customer’s subscription experience, but also allow the company to improve its accuracy of product recommendations over time based on the attributes gathered from the customer’s prior subscription preferences and the brands.  Additionally, big data analytics can be used to improve future sample offerings by identifying the more popular brands and the favorable brand attributes.  Another general advantage from being able to understand large data is the ability to provide transparency of the selection process and order status of a subscription as well as help a company and its brands optimize their marketing spend.

How else does Beauty Army compete?

Beauty Army also offers its own eCommerce shop, where customers can purchase full-size versions of the samples that they have received and liked (Good to Know: ~40% of Birchbox’s subscribers will purchase full-sized products on its site).  And like Foursquare, Beauty Army offers a badge reward system, in which you are a granted a certain badge and a reward for fulfilling badge requirements.  For example, to gain the recruiter badge and a free kit, a user will need to recruit 3 friends.  Reward programs are a great way to increase a customer’s involvement with the business and establish stickier customer relationships with individuals who are price-sensitive in a highly competitive industry.  See below for a snapshot of the badges available:

Beauty Army4

Beauty Army also offers gift packages (e.g. $36 gift bundles of 3-month subscriptions) and supports the Beauty Bus Foundation,  an organization that provides beauty and grooming services and pampering products to chronically or terminally ill men, women and children and their caregivers.


By the Numbers…

-Members: ~120,000 (Birchbox had ~45,000 members after one year since its founding)

-Paying Subscribers: ~4,500

(According to CEO Lindsey Guest, since launching in January 2012, Beauty Army has been doubling users and subscribers monthly)

-As of May 2013, +125 portfolio brands and accumulated 1.76 million consumer data points

-As of June 2013, revenue of ~$800,000


See Broke Beauty Blogger ( for a list of beauty subscription services and their offerings.

Sources: Beauty Army website, Birchbox website,,

“I’ll Pay You Back” or “I’ll Venmo It”

“I’ll pay you back”.  I’ve said this.  You’ve said this.  We’ve all at some point told someone this.  As the lender, you’re too embarrassed to remind the borrower to pay you back.  As the borrower, you struggle to find the most convenient, fee-free way to pay your lender back in a timely manner.

This past July 4th, my friends and I decided to spend the afternoon sailing along the coast of Lower Manhattan.  We made a reservation with Tribeca Sailing ( and were asked to put down a $450 deposit.  I offered to make the upfront payment and asked that my friends pay me back.  Our money was well spent as we enjoyed beautiful California weather in New York, views of the financial district and the Statue of Liberty.  At the end of our lovely excursion, the awkward conversation about paying me back was inevitably brought up.  One of my friends quickly responded, “I’ll Venmo it to you!”  Another friend paid me in cash and the three other friends forgot.  It wasn’t until 2-3 weeks later until I had been fully repaid.  I kept thinking how easy and guilt-free it was for my first friend to pay me back using Venmo.

Ever since my friends and I discovered Venmo, our concerns with lending money or returning money have disappeared.  Venmo allows its users to instantly pay, receive and transfer money with each other for free via mobile device.  Unlike a bank account transfer that charges an external transfer fee for sending money to an account at another bank, there are no fees for bank account transfers or debit card payments on Venmo.  All transactions are free if you pay with Venmo balance, bank transfer, or valid debit card.  No longer will you have to pay the $3 fee for transferring money from your Bank of America account to your friends Wells Fargo account or pay an ATM fee for withdrawing cash.

Personal Account Page:

Venmo Account View

Transaction Page:

Venmo Transaction Page

There are only 2 requirements for using Venmo:

1. Physically be in the U.S.

2. A text message-enabled U.S. phone

One of the biggest concerns with Venmo is the security of a user’s account.  Many of my friends still refuse to use Venmo because they fear the possibility of someone hacking into their Venmo account and accessing their bank account information.  I will attempt to simplify how Venmo secures transactions and your accounts to help calm your fears about Venmo (Friends, read this, add me on Venmo and let’s practice splitting the bill over drinks!).

  • All financial information is encrypted on Venmo, which includes your bank account information and debit/credit card number.  And like all other credit card transactions, you are able to file a dispute with your credit card company and bank for any charges you think are fraudulent.
  • All personal information is stored and processed using third party servers located in secure data centers in the U.S.  The information is protected by physical, electronic and procedural safeguards in compliance with applicable US federal and state regulations.
  • Any data exchanged between one account holder to another are sent securely over a 256-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encrypted connection, verified by VeriSign in order to prevent any third party interception.
    • What is SSL? SSL is a security technology that establishes an encrypted link between a web server (website)/mail server (Outlook) and a visitor’s browser/mail client.  When using SSL, all data exchanged over the internet is encrypted, including login credentials.
    • An SSL Certificate is needed to establish a secure connection.  The SSL Certificate verifies that a trusted third party has authenticated that organization’s identity.  All online businesses or websites that accept credit cards online require an SSL Certificate for website security.
  • All accounts on Venmo have bank-grade security and FDIC insurance.  FDIC insurance protects you against the loss of your bank deposits if an FDIC-insured bank or institution fails.  FDIC insurance is backed by the United States government.   Venmo guarantees all user funds against any unauthorized transactions.
  • When you send or receive money on Venmo, it’s actually put into a custodial account with Wells Fargo.   A custodial account is a trust account owned by an individual or institution, managed by a named party for purposes of rapid distribution of funds in that account.

For more information:

Another reason to try out Venmo…

There is even a social aspect to the Venmo app as you are able to label and share your transactions with friends through a newsfeed (i.e. “Tiffany paid Teresa for Karaoke!”).

Like Prada, Repin Prada then Shop Prada

Recently, a number of online retail businesses have emerged to compete with the pioneers of the industry (i.e. Vente-privee, Gilt Groupe, Ideeli, Etsy, Hautelook,…).  A few of the new players in the past three years include, One Kings Lane, Bonobos, lyst, shoptique, Vaunte, styloko, Nuji and Joss & Main.  As a result of the exploding online retail space, my time online has increased, I shop more and I receive more budget alerts from

I typically browse these sites when I’m bored or when I am desperately looking for something at a discount.  Recently, I’ve developed an obsession with afternoon tea and have been diligently scanning website after website for a steal on tiered cake stands…But I don’t spend time on these websites the way I do with Facebook or Pinterest, and I’m not engaged in discussion or sharing with my friends what trendy items I’ve just purchased, suggesting that online shopping is not a social activity for me.  I believe there is a disconnect between the bloggers/pinners, retailers and customers.

I believe the ideal online shopping experience can be created through a combination of features from Pinterest, Vaunte and Amazon.  I’d like to be able to shop the products in the photos that I’ve collected in my photo collages at bargain prices (or even have the option to buy them at retail price) and share my purchases with my friends or followers.  Currently, people repinning or liking a photo on pinterest or instagram does not translate into a purchase (most pins are taken from another blog and have no source), and people frequently respond to posts with “where can I get that???” (See the below pictures for examples).

Where can I get this??? Where can I get this??? Where can I get this???

I’ve also included Vaunte in the combo because I like that the company has blended editorial content with an ecommerce platform.  Just as you would browse through a fashion magazine for amazing steals and celebrity outfits, you would be able to view these deals and trends via the featured celebrity’s closet on Vaunte.  And moreover, you are able to shop the celebrities’ closets.  Vaunte bridges the gap between identifying a favorite fashion piece on a celebrity or in a magazine and being able to purchase it.

Finally, I would like to be able to compare the price and quality (used or new) of my favorite handbag across multiple sites like that on Amazon.  I believe price comparison helps convince buyers that they’ve found a great deal and eliminates the need to browse other sites, increasing customer retention and activity.  And of course, users should be able to share their purchases with their friends and followers so that others can also discover these fashion steals and purchase them.  I believe the integration of all these functionalities–follow, collect, share, compare, shop and then share again–would create a more sustainable revenue stream and establish the ultimate online retail platform.

This past week, Pinterest introduced price alerts or “Product Pins”, which is its first step to bridging the gap between pinning and shopping. But Amazon Collections has taken it one step further by allowing individuals to be able to “collect” or “like” and immediately shop the product from multiple sellers.  However, Amazon Collections lacks the social network experience, in which I am able to connect with my friends over an item or purchase, view others’ purchases or follow a hashtagged category such as #AfternoonTea (Amazon Collections has limited categories for browsing).  Additionally, Amazon Collections looks more like an online outlet, which is not very engaging for the user.

Amazon Collections

I’m excited to see what these online retail businesses will look like in the next few months!

Share with me your thoughts @tiffanydstone or comment below!