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Curls in a Box: The Boom of Sampling Programs for Textured Hair

By: Michelle Breyer
Posted: July 22, 2014

Kelly Hill is a big fan of subscription sample boxes featuring hair care products. She has purchased boxes from CurlKit, as well as the Hot Coco Box from Cream & Coco and a Fetish Fix Box from Purgasm, both of which include both gourmet hair and skin products.

“I would have never purchased many products without getting the sample size first because some are expensive—$18 for a whipped pomade!” Hill says. “But when I got the sample and realized the quality ingredients she used, I understood why her price point was high and why it was worth it.”

Sample box subscription services have become one of the biggest beauty industry trends right now, with a growing number of companies offering an array of boxes focused on everything from hair to makeup, nail care to snacks, and babies to pets. And one of the hottest niches in the sample box category is boxes targeted at women with curls and coils. During the past two years, a number of boxes in this category have launched, including CurlBox, CurlKit, Dekem Dekem, OnyxBox, CurlMart and Curl Collection. Larger subscription box services like Ipsy and Birchbox also have offered boxes to the curly market.

And while some question whether sampling box subscription services are just a trend—the jury is still out on whether these boxes lead to significant sales—they have become a big part of the textured hair landscape for both consumers and brands. If you look at the statistics, it’s not a mystery why there has been such a boom in this space.

Seeking Product Options

Textured hair consumers, who are always in search of the Holy Grail product for their curls and coils, spend an average of $35 a month on hair care products, and those with coily hair spend an average of $37 a month. Compare this to the straight-haired consumer, who spends an average of $29 a month on hair care products, according to Wave III of the Texture Trends report, a consumer insights report on the textured hair market produced by TextureMedia. Forty-one percent (41%) of textured hair consumers sample hair care products before they purchase them, according to TextureTrends, and with the boom in sample boxes for textured hair care products, that percentage is growing.

The challenge for a curly consumer is to find the appropriate regimen for her specific curl type and concerns. Sample boxes give her the ability to try many different brands and types of products to find what’s best. “Curly consumers are heavy product users, and sampling gives them the opportunity to access a variety of products without committing to a full-size product purchase,” says Mariel Juarbe, brand marketing manager of curly brand Ouidad, which has sampled through Birchbox, CurlBox and CurlMart.

For brands in the category, these boxes provide a highly targeted way to reach this consumer while increasing overall brand awareness. “Boxes are a qualified sampling opportunity and a great way to target specific communities with special interests and needs,” said Richelieu Dennis, founder and CEO of Sundial Brands, maker of the SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage brands.

SheaMoisture has worked with a number of subscription boxes to promote new and existing products across categories. Dennis explains that sampling boxes are a valuable part of the company’s marketing strategy because they provide a relatively low-cost way to target specific communities with special interests and needs.

“Subscription boxes are also a great way to solicit valuable product reviews,” Dennis notes, “with many subscription services encouraging members to share their impressions on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, often incentivizing them to do so.” And product reviews are considered one of the two most powerful factors for consumers searching for new hair products—just behind ingredients, according to the TextureTrends report.