User data helps Bulu Box add weight loss product, gain paid subscribers

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Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 12:00 am

On Fat Tuesday in February, Bulu Box released its weight loss product.

You could say Bulu Box has started to think outside the box. Its monthly subscription box of vitamin and supplement samples, that is.

"Right now we're focused on subscribers and converting those subscribers into long-term purchasers, which is really where the value of our company is," co-founder and CEO Paul Jarrett (left) told Silicon Prairie News. Jarrett's objective: get his startup's buyers of sample boxes to begin purchasing full-sized products in its online store.

With this objective in mind, Bulu Box earlier this year made two changes. In January, it began offering customer rewards. Points—gathered by reviewing, sharing and completing short surveys—have had a "dramatic impact," Jarret said, noting it's helped keep customers loyal.

A month later, Bulu added a weight loss box.

"When we looked at the (subscriber) data … it all circled around weight loss," Jarrett said. Many of Bulu's subscribers didn't say that up front, he said, but when his company began looking at their profiles—walking twice per week, for example, is considered their workout—its core audience became evident.

Today, in comparison to January's numbers, Bulu's doubled its customer retention rate and has grown its subscriber base five times. The startup also is now looking in preferred pricing with manufacturers and vendors, resulting in increased margins of 10 to 30 percent and access to "thousands of new products," Jarrett said.

And Bulu's revenue? That's up, too. Since January, it's increased month-over-month—the only stat Jarrett would share around the company's financial well-being. The startup brings in revenue from four streams: subscriptions (its largest stream), full-size product sales, promotional sales and providing data about sampling back to brands.

A sample of Bulu Box's subscriber data highlighting three weight loss programs.

So have any hiccups come Bulu's way? "Oh yeah, there's been plenty of hiccups," Jarrett said, noting misspent marketing dollars and troubles with shipping—the startup fulfills its subscription boxes but drop ships its store items.

One "huge mistake," he said, was starting Bulu on Shopify, an ecommerce platform that doesn't offer the same capabilities—such as user profiles and rewards points—as the startup's new choice, Magento.

"You probably don't hear about our mistakes, because we've just been hammering through all of them," he said with a chuckle.

With lessons learned from his startup's first year—the company celebrated its anniversary May 21—Jarrett is optimistic about what lies ahead. He recently added Bulu's ninth full-time team member—a "big hire" who used to work for his former employer, Complete Nutrition—and hired on four summer interns.

"Five years down the road, the ultimate value will just be our customer base and the data that we're acquiring on that," he said. "Vitamins and supplements are a low-tech industry and we're kind of shaking that up."


Credits: Screenshot from Paul Jarrett photo and data image courtesy of Bulu Box.

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