Helping Customers Find Products They Love

To understand how product-service systems work, I analyzed Birchbox’s business model and strategy. I decomposed the Birchbox ecosystem and looked into how each part interacts one another to co-create value. My final poster showcases my understanding of product-service systems in Birchbox’s case.

Skills: Sketch, Document Design

05-652 Service Design
September 2018
Individual Project

Project Goal

As technology continues to advance, consumers have constant and unlimited access to information and communication channels. Thus, we are experiencing a shift into a service-oriented economy whereas companies focused mainly on providing products. I began exploring service design by understanding how product-service systems work and add value to all stakeholders involved.


Innovation from Service Design

Coming in with minimal prior knowledge on service design, I began the project by learning about the differences between products and services, service design, and product-service systems through in-class lectures and readings.

Service Design.png

Next, I looked into how co-creation of value occurs in product-service systems, specifically by understanding the principle of density.

Density Diagram.png


I began by exploring three different product-service systems, ranging from a wearable technology, a lifestyle store, to a subscription service, and sketching diagrams for each.



Design Process

Initial Design

I selected Birchbox as my product-service system, because it has an interesting business model that involves three main groups of stakeholders (Birchbox, customers, external beauty companies, and Birchbox) which was different from many other product-service systems in which the ecosystem revolves around just the service provider and end users.

I analyzed Birchbox’s ecosystem more in depth this time and decided to organize my poster into three main parts:

  1. Discussion of how the Birchbox’s business model adds value

  2. Diagram showing how value is co-created

  3. Section elaborating on the customer experience as a whole

Initial Design.png

Feedback on Poster

During the in-class critique session, I received valuable feedback from my classmates on my poster, in which I incorporated heavily into my design iterations and final poster.

  • Too text heavy – Should try to combine the content in the latter section into a comprehensive diagram

  • A few of my classmates were still confused as to how Birchbox works and what the main innovation is, which meant that I needed to redesign the diagram to explain this better

  • They thought the three different sections made sense, but the sections seem too isolated – Need to show how the different parts of Birchbox interact

  • I mention “Birchbox & Partners” in my diagram, but it isn’t explained well and adds confusion

Iterations on Design

I played around with different diagram designs, with the aim of conveying Birchbox’s product-service system clearly while illustrating how the locus of interaction shifts between different stakeholders

First Iteration.png

Final Design


With the monthly subscription service, Birchbox challenged the conventional model of how customers try and buy beauty products. Instead of putting the burden of selecting the right products on the consumers, Birchbox servitized beauty products and created an ecosystem in which customers fill out individual profiles in order to receive a personalized box of five beauty samples which they can test out different products at their own convenience.

Birchbox partners with over 500 beauty companies, allowing the co-creation of value to occur between three groups of stakeholders. Firstly, Birchbox is now able to rebundle beauty samples from all types of brands, which makes it extremely easy for customers to test out different products. Before, customers had to physically visit different stores and ask for samples or buy full-sized products, which was time-consuming, inconvenient, and expensive. Now, they can test out products that were specifically selected based on their preferences at the comfort of their own home. Lastly, after customers try out the samples that they received, they can purchase full-sized versions of products they loved and are encouraged to leave reviews on all the samples they tried. This allows Birchbox partners to hear directly from consumers and improve their product offerings.