News Feature | April 10, 2014

Sephora Goes Social To Find And Spark Conversations

By Hannah Ash, contributing writer

Sephora Store Front

Sephora Gives Customer-Centric Retailing A Flawless Veneer

From the streets of Paris to the streets of anytown America, Sephora knows its way around retail commerce strategies. Since its inception in 1970, French cosmetics retailer has slowly rolled out a series of initiatives that have all but made it a household name in certain markets around the United States and the world. From a brick-and-mortar retailer in the 1970’s, parent companies Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy have swiftly ushered the little retailer that could from operating a word-of-mouth boutique to a leading retailer for luxury cosmetics. It did so through initiatives that continuously raised the bar in terms of what the store offered customers and in terms of what customers wanted from a cosmetics supplier. Today, it is taking Sephora in a new, and very social, direction as it marches on toward more sales.

Sephora was one of the first specialty stores to aggressively launch an online store; Sephora Online launched in the U.S. Market in 1999 and launched in Canada is 2003. With over 1,700 brick-and-mortar stores currently in operation, the cosmetics retailer has withstood the recent economic downturn. By all accounts, business is thriving for Sephora. Sephora has aggressively sought out partnerships that would expand its reach wherever and whenever. In 2006, Sephora teamed up with J.C. Penney to offer its products to a more mainstream audience — today, more than 400 J.C. Penney Stores share showroom space with Sephora. It previously teamed up with Amazon to offer another strong online channel of sales to Amazon’s many customers. To reach J.C. Penney Stores that didn’t have Sephora’s within them, the cosmetics retailer teamed up with the department store to offer in-store kiosk stocked with Sephora's popular products, such as Dior and Philosophy. To promote its loyalty program, Sephora leverages in-store signs to promote its Beauty Insider program.

Sephora’s newest attempt to meet the customers where they are shows no signs the retailer is slowing down. The beauty retailer is taking to the streets again — the streets of social media. Last month, the retailer rolled out a new social network called Beauty Board, which will provide a platform for Sephora fans to share photos, tips, and tag products. Johnna Marcus, director of mobile and digital store marketing for Sephora reflects, “What’s underscoring this is that there is no such thing as having an idea, walking into a store, doing all of your research and consideration physically in-store, and then checking out or doing the same thing online. This purchase process and consideration has become more meandering, and we’re using mobile as the thing that jumps into those places.”