How Beauty Chain Sephora Is Taking Retail DigitalBy: Abby Johnson - May 22, 2012
Cosmetics retailer Sephora is known for the very hands-on, but pressure-free experience it offers to consumers in its physical stores. The company, however, is also making a name for itself in the online world as it ramps up its digital efforts.
Sephora recently rolled out a “digital makeover,” which included a new website, a deep integration with Pinterest, and an iOS program that brings devices into every store. According to Julie Bornstein, the Senior Vice President of Sephora Direct, all these changes emphasize the company’s focus on meeting consumer needs in the digital age.
“When we look at our consumers, we truly believe that digital is the reality – it’s the way the world is going,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re out there testing things early, so we’re ready for the next changes that come.”
As Bornstein explained, Sephora has been a strong advocate of innovation all along. When it came to the U.S. in 1998, the company essentially reinvented how cosmetics are purchased.
“I think it’s [innovation is] part of our DNA,” said Bornstein.
“We really believe in leveraging whatever trends, whether they’re digital or product related or color related,” she continued, “and being out there one step ahead of consumers so that they can find what they are looking for.”
Sephora’s passion for consumers is evident in its most recent changes. For instance, the company’s new website is clearly focused on making the site easy for consumers to use. Bornstein tells us that Sephora went through all its nearly 14,000 products and tagged them in order to make product searches more accurate. The company also added content to the site to include lists of their favorite products as well as industry favorites.
“We really added a lot of intelligence to the way you search and shop for beauty,” she said.
In terms of the Pinterest integration with Sephora, it allows users to pin products and brand pages easily. Sephora has also added its own boards, which highlight specific looks and products.
“The reason we were drawn to Pinterest is because, unlike other social media forums, this one is so great in the world of fashion,” pointed out Bornstein.
“It really is about inspiration and aspiration, and that works very well with our product set.”
In another effort to bridge its offline and online shopping experiences, Sephora introduced an in-store iOS initiative. The company has brought in iPod Touch devices to speed up the checkout process for consumers. Furthermore, Sephora is testing the use of iPads in multiple stores to allow consumers to interact with its menu of services, which includes the option of emailing instructions for certain makeup techniques.
“It’s a mix of, I would say, bringing great information to the consumer and also just making the shopping experience a little more seamless,” said Bornstein.
She went on to say that Sephora encourages consumers to use their mobile devices to check reviews and keep track of items they want. The company believes that, if consumers are more informed, they will have a better shopping experience.
This week, in yet another effort to enhance its digital experience, the company also launched its “15 Days of Beauty Thrills” for its loyal clients. As of Monday, fans could sign up on Sephora’s website to win a prize with any online purchase.
Although not every retailer is on board yet, it’s clear that digital is having a significant impact on the ecommerce industry. Facebook, for example, has drastically changed the way the Internet works and, therefore, what users expect on other sites.
Sephora is looking at these changes as opportunities and is hoping to capitalize on them for the best interest of consumers and the overall retail industry.
“I think there will be an evolution in the way ecommerce functions, and it will become more integrated into your social experience,” said Bornstein.
“We’re excited about where beauty and digital meet, and how we can really change the beauty purchasing and exploration experience.”