How did mobile become the ‘glue’ in the Sephora shopping experience?

Discussion
Source: Sephora/iTunes
Jun 21, 2017
Matthew Stern

One of the driving forces behind Sephora’s success has been a strategic dedication to embedding the mobile experience into every step of the customer journey — before the shopping trip, in-store and after.
“Mobile really does become the glue for our clients between their interactions with Sephora,” said Mary Beth Laughton, SVP of digital at Sephora, at the Internet Retailer Conference and Expo in Chicago.

Ms. Laughton described the Sephora customer journey and the tools used at each step.

To draw customers into stores, Sephora employs a few different uses of mobile, including sending location-based targeted texts promoting a limited-edition product to customers who lived near the stores where the item was available. Sephora also creates daily mobile content to bring users to the site, and launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot which allows customers to book an appointment with a stylist

Sephora has built numerous features into its app that allow customers to utilize their mobile device as an in-store companion. With the Digital Makeover Guide feature, for instance, a customer takes a “before” picture of herself and uploads it to the mobile app. Then she undergoes a makeover, during which the stylist notes products and techniques she uses in the app.

Following the makeover, the customer uploads an “after” photo so that during her next visit she can pull it up alongside a saved list of the products used to achieve the look. After the visit, the customer receives personalized emails with pictures, tips and products to use in recreating the look she got.

At home, the customer can also call up Sephora’s Virtual Artist module, an augmented reality tool which allows users to “try on” products such as eyelashes and eyeshadow in-app and buy products as well.

“I encourage you to think beyond mobile commerce,” Ms. Laughton said. “Mobile commerce is critical and you have to get that right, but mobile can do so much more. It can inspire, it can educate, it can play with consumers.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What lessons can other retailers take away from Sephora’s use of mobile throughout the customer journey? Should all retailers feed the mobile addiction like Sephora has set out to do?

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"Technology changes culture, retail reflects culture, eventually technology becomes part of the fabric."
"It’s ironic that Sephora has found a way to deliver a higher touch experience, without associates, simply by leaving people alone to play."
"Emulate them now. Just do it. This is the future for all retailers, with or without stores..."

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13 Comments on "How did mobile become the ‘glue’ in the Sephora shopping experience?"

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Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Sephora is one of the first national brands to finally crack the code on several emerging technologies including augmented reality, chatbots and artificial intelligence. They have combined these technologies into a compelling customer-facing experience on mobile that drives engagement, adds value for the shopper and enriches the brand value proposition. In my opinion, therein lies the greatest lesson for us all: this is an inspiration for the deployment of emerging technology that actually enhances and enriches the experience.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

All retailers today need to have an app that provides a great shopping experience. Too many retailers still think of their app as their website for buying merchandise. Apps have so many opportunities to be, as Sephora has discovered, a companion with you all the time on your smartphone whenever you need it. The more creative a retailer can be with how they develop their app and how customers can have pleasure using them, the more successful they will be building their brand and loyal customers. An app truly is the connection between customer and retailer. When a retailer provides an app that provides an excellent user experience for the customer, as Sephora has created, the benefits are infinite.

Jerry Gelsomino
BrainTrust

I believe this is an example of a philosophy coined by Harvard Business Review, calling for companies to focus on knowing the end-users’ “job to be done.” All the technology, including mobile, is aimed at the shopper’s desire to enhance their appearance, probably to look “naturally beautiful” without revealing to others others their secrets, and the process of service design has been made easy.

Vahe Katros
Guest

Technology changes culture, retail reflects culture, eventually technology becomes part of the fabric. Consider the following:

“On average, approximately 1 million selfies are taken every day for individuals in the 18-to-24-year-old demographic. On Instagram alone, there are 58 million photos with the hashtag of selfie.”

Vanity and aesthetics, fueled by social media and the need to always look good makes Sephora’s focus on mobile a natural. It’s where it’s at.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Emulate them now. Just do it. This is the future for all retailers, with or without stores, but in particular it’s especially relevant for those with expensive physical assets out there (uh, stores).

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

Using any technology just for technology sake is not a good idea but providing customers with a valued service? That is what wins. Sephora has done just that and quite successfully! I especially like the Virtual Artist module so one can try new things and see how it will look on them before they buy. Cool!

For my 2 cents.

Dan Frechtling
BrainTrust

Sephora’s “try before you buy” digital ethos includes in-store, online, and mobile. In-store devices like Color IQ scanners recommend “scientifically precise lip, foundation and concealer matches.” Online it learned from YouTubers and hosts a Beauty Workshop of curated videos. The Digital Makeover Guide in the app is another tactic in the digital strategy.

It’s ironic that Sephora has found a way to deliver a higher touch experience, without associates, simply by leaving people alone to play. Other categories that thrive on how-to imagery — fashion, furniture, home renovation, gardening, cooking, and the like — can apply mobile and digital lessons from Sephora.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

This is a great example of technology not being used for the sake of technology, but to actually engage the customer and improve their shopping experience. Each tool works in synergy across the different touch points adding value along the way. Only parts of the Sephora implementation are specifically transferable (supermarkets probably wouldn’t add value by letting customers “try on” products); however, the approach and strategy Sephora has deployed is something we can all learn from.

Cristian Grossmann
BrainTrust
Cristian Grossmann
CEO, Beekeeper
5 months 24 days ago

Beauty retail is faring much better than traditional retail. Traditional retailers can take a page from Sephora’s book when it comes to utilizing technology to grow closer to customers. And not just mobile—AR, AI, and chatbots are great tools to get consumers engaged and increase stickiness. Targeted texts and personalized apps with best practices and genuinely useful information for customers helps build trust.

Sending real-time information that provides value to the shopper and is also engaging is an approach other retailers should definitely explore. Use these tools to gather intel about your target audiences and feed information back to them in a way they want to receive it. Show them you’re listening.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Sephora has a great advantage in the appeal of the “look” with their products and the way consumers shop for their products. Add to that a very Amazon-way of thinking about the customer first and at the center of the experience (and NOT the technology at the center where so many other retailers get it wrong) and you get a winning combination that delivers real value to the customer in a fun, experiential manner that they enjoy so much, they keep coming back and keep finding new ways to use the apps and tools. Mobile devices have become so personal to everyone, in a way even wearables have yet to achieve, that Sephora has found a brilliant combination of leveraging chatbots, AI, apps, and augmented reality in the most transparent way that it all just becomes an extension of the normal shopping experience for the customer. Therein lies the key — transparent technology that fades into the experience and doesn’t get in the way, truly removing, not adding, friction while blending commerce seamlessly into the… Read more »
Keith Nealon
Guest
5 months 24 days ago

Sephora is a digital trailblazer that has always been willing to go above and beyond to stay in step with their customer’s expectations. They were one of the first to explore video, launch store beacons, and they are continuing to adapt their experience for shoppers who turn to social applications like Snapchat and Instagram before making a purchase.

The lesson that retailers can learn is that with the advances and accessibility of technology today, having a mobile channel is no longer optional. This is especially true for retailers whose target customers are Millennials or Gen-Z. It’s important to note however, that mobile’s role in retail extends beyond just an on-the go checkout or visual features. Customers expect every aspect of a retailer’s customer experience to offer mobile functionality. For example, retailers should expect mobile to be a growing channel for their payments and loyalty programs. Research from IPSOS and Vyze shows that Millennials are much more likely to want a mobile application (16% vs. 1% of shoppers over the age of 55).

Julie Bernard
BrainTrust

Approaching mobile moments as opportunities to inspire and activate consumers with meaningful experiences is exactly the right strategy. Sephora is wise to think about location and context of their in-app engagements, and it appears they can take these app-based experiences even further.

The personalization of an omnichannel make-up buying experience — in this case, in-app interactions stemming from an in-store makeover — shouldn’t stop with a saved list of products. The strategy should take the Sephora customer beyond the re-creation of a look and into the inspiration phase. In other words, what can Sephora’s Virtual Artist module do to anticipate the shopper’s affinity for a new experience they haven’t thought of yet? Location data and deep audience insights can drive this opportunity.

Franklin Chu
BrainTrust

Mobile is a significant force, shaping the future of e-commerce as shoppers increasingly adopt mobile shopping. Mobile allows shopping to take place anywhere, anytime and it allows retailers to offer online-to-offline (O2O) service to shoppers, which eliminates the layers and costs of intermediaries with more direct relationships. Sephora has adopted mobile as the interface between its stores and shoppers to provide valuable content, plus services powered by augmented reality (AR) technology to help consumers make better purchase decisions. Sephora’s mobile leadership is a smart move to attract and retain customer traffic in the competitive beauty and cosmetics market.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Technology changes culture, retail reflects culture, eventually technology becomes part of the fabric."
"It’s ironic that Sephora has found a way to deliver a higher touch experience, without associates, simply by leaving people alone to play."
"Emulate them now. Just do it. This is the future for all retailers, with or without stores..."

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