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The Case for DTC Customization with Prose Co-Founder Paul Michaux

Adrian Alfieri

Adrian Alfieri

Paul Michaux is the co-founder and VP of Product and Customer Experience of Prose, a hyper-custom beauty brand that generates made-to-order hair care products based on hair type, geography, and lifestyle habits.

Prose has a team of chemists, researchers, and designers who create products tailored to your needs, always made with natural ingredients. We sat down with Paul to dive deep on:

  • Building a thriving business built on personalization
  • Leveraging customer data to improve their business
  • Creating a subscription model on transparency and trust

"All our customers are unique in geography, hair type, and lifestyle habits, but they have one thing in common: They love solutions that cater to all their needs. That’s where the value in customization and personalization comes into play.”


Customization-as-a-Service

Paul believes that Prose's approach to custom beauty is crucial to its success, as the company offers an online quiz with 25 questions that capture 85 data points.

The answers make recommendations with personalized formulas in the form of hair care products. In other words: Prose carries no inventory; all products are made-to-order.

Paul started Prose to question two norms in the beauty space:

  • Rethink how brands fundamentally engage with their customers
  • Chart a new course for sustainability (Prose is a certified B Corp and a Public Benefit Corporation)

"We're challenging the status quo that you can sustainably provide great products to your customers."


Building The Product Around The Customer

Prose creates value for its customers before they even purchase. 

Their homepage consultation explains the causes behind common scalp issues, recommending ingredients that will make your hair healthier.

More directly, Paul points out that "Our ethos behind the consultation is to treat everyone as a valued customer. You don't have to buy something for us to take care of you."

Investors initially questioned this business model early on, arguing that it would conflict with the rise of one-click checkout in eCommerce.

But, Paul and his team stand by their 25-question quiz approach. Prose knows that it could sell more products without it, but it's more paramount to provide consumers with a tailored experience. Paul calls their intro consultation useful friction – a key differentiation.

"Not everything is about selling products; it's about building relationships. And, the more personalized and connected you can be with your customers, the stronger that relationship will be over the long run.”


Leveraging Data to Design New Products

Data is what drives Prose's innovation process.

To date, Paul's team has captured more than three million consultations. He calls this the company's treasure chest. Each consultation result offers opportunities where Prose can grow.

After a customer completes their purchase, they can access Prose's proprietary tool, Review and Refine. R&R lets customers offer direct feedback on their custom formula.

"I think more and more people understand the difference between a custom product and just a custom recommendation."


Optimizing the Subscription Model

It's no surprise that Prose maintains a high customer satisfaction score. 

They've built their website to efficiently help customers find products tailored to them, make tweaks when they need something different, and set up a monthly subscription without worry.

Speaking of subscriptions, for other brands considering a subscription model, Paul recommends two things:

  • First, build trust with your customers. Once you have their buy-in, you can add subscriptions.
  • Empower your customers to share feedback. It will increase subscription LTV for those existing ones because they know you listen.

Ultimately, though, Paul believes you have to think about what is best for the customer if you want to last in this business.

"Subscriptions are crucial to growth, but if you're just trying to lock someone into a subscription before you’ve built trust with them, it's not going to end well."

Adrian Alfieri

Adrian Alfieri

Y Combinator
Liquid IV
Bev
Bev
Muddy Bites
MatchaBar
Remedy Organics
Facetheory
Krave Beauty
Stryx
One Blade
Doe Lashes
Barukas
Red Bay Coffee
Gooey.
Siete Foods
Sunsoil
Ugmonk.
Munkpack
Simulate
Everyday Dose
Backbone
ZBiotics
Semaine Health
Somos
Magic Mind
Uprising
Zox
Huron
XCJ
BelliWelli
Culture Pop
Bubs Naturals
Summer Water
Strong Coffee
Ritual Zero Proof
Wellnesse
Heights
Taika
Immi
Fly By Jing
Y Combinator
Liquid IV
Bev
Bev
Muddy Bites
MatchaBar
Remedy Organics
Facetheory
Krave Beauty
Stryx
One Blade
Doe Lashes
Barukas
Red Bay Coffee
Gooey.
Siete Foods
Sunsoil
Ugmonk.
Munkpack
Simulate
Everyday Dose
Backbone
ZBiotics
Semaine Health
Somos
Magic Mind
Uprising
Zox
Huron
XCJ
BelliWelli
Culture Pop
Bubs Naturals
Summer Water
Strong Coffee
Ritual Zero Proof
Wellnesse
Heights
Taika
Immi
Fly By Jing
Ready to sell subscriptions without ripping your hair out?
Ready to sell subscriptions without ripping your hair out?

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It's painful hiring said world-class engineers, but we've done it (hence why Skio ends up being best-in-class).

Click here to see the Skio team
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