FabFitFun dabbles in content+commerce with quarterly VIP boxes

By Michael Carney , written on March 6, 2013

From The News Desk

Consumers increasingly want a brand narrative around the products that they buy. So it makes sense that connecting content and commerce is a hot business strategy. There’s been some debate, however, about how to combine content and commerce, and in what cases it leads to distrust or erodes brand authenticity. As our Erin Griffith and the guests of our ecommerce CEO Supper Club argued, it’s far easier for content companies to add commerce than the other way around.

FabFitFun should be happy to hear this. Launched in 2010 in partnership with E! News host Giuliana Rancic, the women’s health, beauty, and fashion publisher issues daily newsletters to residents of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, as well as a weekly nationwide edition. But now, FabFitFun is jumping on the commerce trend with the launch of a quarterly VIP Gift Box membership for its readers.

FFF CEO Daniel Broukhim is cautious to get lumped in with the Birchbox-esque monthly sample box crowd – although he should be so lucky to see this initiative reach that kind of scale (Birchbox has 200,000 subscribers). FabFitFun’s gift items will be full-sized, as opposed to sample-sized, and the contents of each box will eventually be customized. Boxes will be curated with a nod to the current season and will span the company’s three topical areas of health, beauty, and fashion...with some fab and fun mixed in, one would presume.

The FFF VIP membership will cost $49.99 per quarter, although its current readers can get the first box for $39.99, and the company claims that its initial package will have a retail value of $120. While the contents of future boxes will be a surprise, Broukhim revealed that this quarter’s box will include a $40 3.4 ounce bottle of MoroccanOil as well as jewelry from JewelMint. Some members will even receive occasional high value prizes such as iPad Minis or designer shoes, although there are few details on how often these items will be slipped in.

FabFitFun is owned and financed by Los Angeles-based new media company Charlie, which was co-founded by Broukim and his brother Michael, now a law student and a Beachmint strategy and marketing executive, as well as Adam Katz and Launchpad LA managing director Sam Teller. The company counts BeachMint co-founder and president Diego Berdakin as a special advisor.

The all-male founding team behind Charlie have long looked to Ben Lerer’s Thrillist and JackThreads as the prototype for what FabFitFun can eventually become. Having talked to several women in FFF’s target demographic, there doesn’t appear to be a great female equivalent, despite what Daily Candy, Glitter Guide, and the Everygirl would have you believe. With Rancic’s female perspective, and that of editor Katie Kitchens and her team, the lifestyle publication has already done a reasonable job of delivering on the content side of the equation. The challenge now is to delight its readers to the same extent with the products it delivers.

This will be no easy task, particularly in the crowded subscription commerce category. FabFitFun will have to compete with BirchBox, JewelMint, BeautyMint, or even celebrity-centric Quarterly Co. There’s a reason investors have soured on subscription commerce and daily or flash deals platforms. Consumers have been inundated with new flavor of the month offers in these categories for the last half decade, leading engagement and conversion rates to plummet.

None of this is to say that FabFitFun can’t pull this off. It just won’t be easy.

While FabFitFun doesn’t disclose its subscribership figures, the brand has 138,137 fans on Facebook and 155,381 followers on Twitter. Add to this Rancic’s more than 3 million Twitter followers, and it would seem the company has a sizeable audience to which it can push the new membership. The fact that the company chose a quarterly model and further a passive commerce experience should help initially, as well. It’s unlikely that the full-sized $50 subscription would work on a monthly basis, but might be more palatable four times per year.

Long term, success will be determined by FFF’s knowledge of its audience and its “curatorial” abilities. Consumers are generally smarter than they are given credit for, and should be happy to pay for value and delight, but will have little patience for anything less.