Sephora signs on to the subscription model

August 12, 2015 11:07 AM

Sephora has decided to make a play in the “beauty box” sphere with its own subscription service, Play! By Sephora.

The cosmetics retailer, No. 141 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, will launch a limited number of subscriptions in September in select markets (not yet named) and will offer subscriptions nationwide early next year. Play! By Sephora deliveries will center on a theme, contain five “high-performance, deluxe-size, prestige products” and cost $10 each.

The debut box, called “Uncover The Essentials,” will include a best-selling lip stain and moisturizer, and each box will contain only prestige products, “never beauty products that just fill up space.” Sephora also says its debut box will include such extras as a fragrance sample and the first of what will be a monthly Spotify list featuring songs inspired by the current box theme.

A Play! Book will be included in the box with makeup application tips and beauty hacks, and it will offer customers access to additional content through the Sephora To Go app. “Simply scan the images to shop and unlock augmented reality experiences. Or connect to user-generated ratings and reviews on, and check out fellow beauty lovers’ product content on Sephora’s Beauty Board,” the company says.

San Francisco-based Sephora, with Internet Retailer-estimated 2014 web sales of $228 million, is the latest cosmetics retailer to enter the subscription service market. Perhaps the most popular, with about 800,000 subscribers, is, No. 254 in the Top 500 Guide with an Internet Retailer-estimated $96 million in 2014 web sales. Started in 2010, Birchbox charges $10 per month for its box, or $110 for a yearly membership. Last year it opened a store in New York and raised $60 million in a second round of funding.

The goal of a subscription service is to entice consumers to try before they buy and discover products they might not have known about. A study this year by research firm Slice Intelligence found that Birchbox's customers spend more on its website after signing up for the subscription service—38% more than nonsubscribers. Data was from a panel of 2 million online shoppers and their anonymized receipts. Sephora gets a 5% boost in spending from shoppers who've signed up for Birchbox's subscription service, while Ulta experiences a 6% bump.

Other beauty box subscription services include,,,, and





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