Sephora is a chain of cosmetics stores and a French brand that is rapidly growing each year… if you haven’t heard of it, as your girlfriend, wife, or any other individual that wears makeup. They were one of the first to enter the e-commerce world in 1998 and one of the first to enter the mobile site market.
According to an article on an interview with Julie Bornstein (chief marketing officer and chief digital officer for Sephora), over the last three years Sephora’s mobile sales have grown 100% each year. Julie also mentioned the importance that Sephora places on having their web development team in house. “Marketing and internal IT expertise are both at the table. Each group can imagine things that are possible that the other might not have dreamed of.” The result of this collaboration can be seen in the strength of their digital strategy that other companies can only dream of. So what makes Sephora’s digital strategy so special, so game changing? To sum up the rest of this article… they have every corner covered.
In-Store and Digital Strategy Combined
For starters, almost anything you can get in-store you can find online and vice versa (sans a few specials specifically for online or in-store). Going in to a store you can get free samples of most of the items in the store, and when you shop online there are three free samples (customers get to choose which ones) that also get mailed out. Every week there is one extra sample that Beauty Insiders (more on that later) get to choose from along with the three samples. This means that customers don’t feel the need to go in to the store to get the free sample perk, and feel satisfied each time they receive an order with extra little item they didn’t pay for. Win-win situation!
Sephora + Pantone Color IQ
To explain it simply:
“Color IQ is the first and only beauty service to scan the surface of your skin, assign it a Color IQ number, and then find your scientifically precise foundation match from over 1,500 options.” –Sephora.com
What does this mean when we’re talking about Sephora’s digital strategy? Customers can go online to their website, punch in their Color IQ number, and get a result of all of the products (and shades) that are recommended for them. Anyone who has tried to find the perfect foundation amongst the thousands of different options knows how difficult this task really is. While in-store customers have the option of having the results emailed to them so they can shop online and remember what the Color IQ number actually was.
More Than an Online Store
In addition to being able to purchase a product on their website, there are several other benefits built in to their website. The first one is Beauty Board, built as almost a social media of its own. Users can post pictures of their makeup and “tag” the products that they are wearing. Other users can like the pictures and also click on the products in order to purchase it themselves. This is a brilliant idea. Not only are Sephora customers sharing with each other, they’re also indirectly promoting the products that they’re wearing. This is a big win for both Sephora that wins the sales, and for customers that get to see real pictures of people wearing makeup products before making purchase decisions. This is a great way of having people be a part of a community online, making them less likely to stop using the site once they get engaged in Beauty Board.
“The concept is that pictures are everywhere, and we know that beauty lovers love to see ideas for looks and products to buy,” commented Julie Bornstein, CMO and chief digital officer of Sephora Americas. “Beauty Board is taking a lot of what consumers at large are doing and making it more practical—a place for consumers to browse for inspiration and discover products to buy at sephora.com.”
Sephora TV and The Sephora Glossy are two other ‘How-To’ features on the website. On Sephora TV customers can learn different techniques and methods for applying makeup and using different products sold at Sephora. The Sephora Glossy is almost an online magazine exclusive to the Sephora site that keeps readers up to date on news, trends, inspiration, new products, and different methods and techniques.  Sephora has a Beauty Talk segment on their site as well that is essentially a discussion board for users to ask questions, get beauty advice, and comment on discussions.
Sephora is very active on its Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages. The pages have millions of followers with more following the brand each day. This means that even while customers aren’t on Sephora’s website, they’re still connected via most of the social media platforms that they’re on.
What’s better than a store through which you can get free stuff using your points? Nothing. Becoming a member at Sephora is absolutely free, and any user gets a birthday gift during their birthday month (redeemable online or in store), rewards, and access to promotions. When anyone joins they become a ‘Beauty Insider’. If the customer spends $350 a year or above, they achieve ‘Sephora VIB’ status. Sephora VIB’s get all of the previously mentioned benefits including first dibs on new products, seasonal VIB-only gifts, advanced access to sales, and private VIB only shopping events. Shoppers that spend more than $1000 per year get VIB Rouge status and all of the previous perks plus extras. These extras include free shipping on all orders, unlimited access to the beauty studio, exclusive rouge events, and special gifts. The points earned by members can be redeemed for items from the Reward Boutique both in-store or online.
When a customer is browsing the website online, they can click on a little heart over a product and it gets added to their ‘Loves’ section. This is saved on the users profile and users have all of the items they are interested in saved in one place. Another great part of the website, combined with the membership, is that it saves all purchases made in-store and online. This means that shoppers can simply click on a product on their purchases list and order it when it runs out in a very efficient manner. Both of these items help users see the benefit in shopping online at Sephora.com instead of other retailers. Even free samples the customer ordered are included on this list in order to be a quick find for customers after they run out of the small size and forget what they had ordered. This also presents a unique selling advantage for companies trying to get samples out through retailers. In the in-store method of receiving a sample, typically customers receive something and misplace it or throw it away once they are done with it. This is definitely a value for suppliers looking to team up with a retailer that is doing samples right!
Considering Sephora has been owned by Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy LVMH as of 1997, it’s remarkable to see what a powerhouse of a luxury brand can do when it has the right team of digital experts.