Sephora Gives Itself a Makeover

Discussion
Apr 12, 2012

Sephora is making changes and, according to reports, they are more than cosmetic. The retailer is adding iPads to the counters in its stores, equipping sales associates with iPod Touch devices, and adding Instagram and Pinterest functionality to its mobile and web sites.

Julie Bornstein, senior vice president of Sephora’s digital operations, told TechCrunch the changes are the most significant on the company’s consumer-facing tech side since it first launched its website in 1999.

“Digital is a must for the future of retailing,” Ms. Bornstein told Mashable in another interview. “With social, digital, mobile and website updates, we’re giving our clients the most personalized experience ever seen in the beauty industry, and connecting clients with our experts in ways that are most relevant to them. We’re excited to makeover the future of shopping.”

The Mashable piece described Sephora’s integration of Pinterest. Like other sites, Sephora has a “Pin It” button next to items it sells. The beauty chain then takes the concept a step further with its own Pinterest site where consumers can find the favorite items of Sephora employees.

The company’s site has become more targeted for customers who may now search products by 25 different tagged characteristics, such as ingredients and price.

The use of the Apple devices in stores is intended to put more information in the hands of both employees and customers. Products on shelves can now be scanned for reviews. Employees can reference Sephora’s website directly on the floor.

Discussion Questions: What elements of Sephora’s digital makeover do you see having the most potential to improve its customers’ experiences? Do you see any as being distracting or irrelevant?

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13 Comments on "Sephora Gives Itself a Makeover"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

The initiatives Sephora are are taking with On Tech In-Store iPads is brilliant. They know their market well, and they know how to capitalize by integrating their web site, e-commerce, and in-store shopping experience. Sephora will stay ahead of the competition and ahead in the game.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Sephora is a perfect testbed for truly integrating digital into the real-world store experience. I love the idea of having real-time visuals (how would I look in this?), background material on the cosmetics, info on what is selling elsewhere and online — all for customers and experts to interact with. I could imagine arming sales people with lots of information on what is selling where, training on the product, training on trends, etc. All of these things are relevant in many retail environments, but even more so at Sephora. The rest of us should be following closely to see what works and what doesn’t.

Robert DiPietro
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

This is relevant and works on multiple levels:

1 – gives the customer a great resource to gather information which they may do on their smartphone anyway;
2- provides a level of ‘coolnesss’ to the shopping experience;
3- helps the associate close the sale by having ways to get at information during the process.

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
10 years 1 month ago

Sephora clearly gets it and is implementing a forward looking strategy here. There are a couple of things they are doing particularly well. They are being transparent with their customer and giving them a choice of ways to interact; this reinforces them as a trusted voice within the category. Also, they have not forgotten their associates here. They are arming them with technology and information so that they can be a source of information to customers and serve them quickly and efficiently on the floor instead of standing behind the cash wrap.

David Schulz
Guest
David Schulz
10 years 1 month ago

All those tools for e-research may be useful, but sales floor associates armed with taste, an eye for skin complections or hair color and knowling what complements them would be much better than an IT-wannabe trying to sell beauty.

Carlos Arámbula
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

It will definitively enhance the consumer’s experience. I believe the real breakthrough will be the evolution of customer service after learnings from this initial digital makeover are analyzed and incorporated into service.

If the customer is able to personalize his retail experience and needs remotely — before heading to the store — the Sephora employee should be able to deliver a positive experience almost all of the time.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Customers now use a combination of online and offline touchpoints for the majority of purchase decisions,and it raises the expectations for the quality of all those touch points. So in the long run, creating better digital content is certain to benefit Sephora’s shoppers online and in-store.

Focusing on content to enhance shopping experiences is such an important tactic, it’s shocking how few retailers are willing to invest in it. A quick look across the web will reveal that the overwhelming majority of retailers use exactly the product data provided to them by the product manufacturers with no enhancements. So the shopping experience is identical (and commoditized) across all those retailers.

In this case Sephora is investing in improving product content to give their shoppers better and more individually relevant shopping experiences. It’s a great tactic, and sure to give them a competitive advantage.

Collin Prior
Guest
Collin Prior
10 years 1 month ago
Sephora’s ability to link products with reviews and feedback has the greatest potential to improve its customer experience. Beauty products are designed for style and to make people look good. For this reason, feedback and recommendation from peers is important. Allowing people to get that in-store from their peers is the next best thing to shopping with a friend. By connecting the consumer in-store to reviews and usage, Sephora is gaining credibility with consumers. No longer do you just ask the sales staff or maybe the friend you came with, but you can check with all your friends, celebrities and past consumers to see what they think, while at the same time trying the product yourself. Sephora is using these elements not to replace sales staff or their existing flow, but to augment and educate customers about their products and services. This assists the buying experience while promoting sincerity and trust through available information. Giving consumers the ability to browse and explore more information helps to engage them in the products increasing their likelihood to… Read more »
Gordon Arnold
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

This is a great way to keep in step with the market and the right move towards digital customer interface.

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

I have yet to see it in their stores, but I do hope Sephora invest in the training and management resources to make the digital integration successful. It’s one thing toad digital elements and tools into the store, but it is another to use it successfully to enhance and elevate the customer experience.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 1 month ago

Sephora can fortify its leadership with these new tools. The ability for sales associate and customer to search easily is a big step. Sephora has an amazing cross section of brands and products and helpful associates. For many shoppers, it is the go to place for new or existing products featured in ads, magazine online sites, etc. Having the tools to find features and benefits of all the products, inventory status, news, social media interest, etc. — as well as the the suitability for a an in-store client — well, that sounds like an improved shopper experience to me.

One of the gaps now is waiting while an associate can access a free computer to find out if it is carried — Sephora has many web only products, as well as all the continuous new information and products. Tying it together is a big step forward.

Tim Callan
Guest
Tim Callan
10 years 1 month ago

The addition of mobile checkout devices is a new, hot trend. In addition to Sephora, we’ve recently seen Nordstrom and Gucci announce the same thing. It makes great sense as it’s been unambiguously demonstrated that excessive queuing can cost sales and have a detrimental effect on customer satisfaction and return visits. These devices are a relatively inexpensive response. They also are highly flexible as they can be pulled out during peak traffic periods, put away when things are slow, and shifted around the store as needed. I predict that this is going to be a very common trend and that 24 months from now we’ll see some flavor of mobile checkout in more than half the large retail chains in North America.

Bhanu Oberoi
Guest
Bhanu Oberoi
10 years 21 days ago

It is great to see retail reaching new heights.

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