Sephora Merges In-Store & Online Shopping Through Digital Innovation

Cristina Avila    March 11, 2015

Sephora Logo

Organization Name: Sephora

Industry: Health and Beauty

Name of Contact: N/A

Web References: Forbes, Venture Beat, Fast Company, Mobile Commerce Daily, Digiday

Description of How Social Media is Used for Business Performance:

With over 1,900 locations worldwide, global beauty chain Sephora is a leader in digital innovation, providing shoppers with a custom brand experience which transitions seamlessly between online and in-store environments.

Sephora Store Front

Sephora is a visionary beauty-retail concept founded in France and is highly regarded as a beauty trailblazer, thanks to its unparalleled assortment of prestige products, unbiased service from experts, interactive shopping environment, and innovation.

Sephora Innovation Lab

Innovation is what fuels this beauty retailer’s latest exploration, a San Francisco-based Innovation Lab. The Lab serves as a test environment for a broad range of digital experiences across web, mobile and brick-and-mortar. This test environment consists of a full-service Sephora store model, meeting areas and brainstorming spaces.

“As new ideas emerge, the Lab team will source, develop, evaluate, test and eventually launch new offerings and technologies for shopping in-store and while on the go. We’re completely focused on making shopping more efficient, intelligent and fun for our clients” says Julie Bornstein, EVP, CMO & Chief Digital Officer at Sephora.

Over the next year, Sephora plans to gradually roll out new digital “experiences” ranging from expedited shipping and a virtual make-up artist to augmented reality and in-store beacons. These experiences will utilize the brand’s existing mobile app, Sephora To Go.

Sephora To Go was designed as a mobile shopping tool to compliment the in-store experience by offering users more interactive and customized features by switching to the app’s “Store Mode.”

Sephora Mobile App - Store Mode

According to industry experts, the future of social media will focus on mobile more than ever. Young users will continue to crave social media that is more specific to their needs and offers the basic functionality of being mobile friendly – niche applications readily satisfy this. Need-specific apps will continue to grow in popularity as consumers place an emphasis on more personalized content, user-friendly tools and unique experiences.

“Mobile has been huge for us – from a traffic and sales standpoint, to connecting our customers with the best content… our apps have more than 2 million downloads” says Bornstein.

Utility continues to be at the core of Sephora’s digital strategy, with the company’s mobile app showcasing features like a 2-D barcode scanner to connect customerS with reviews and product descriptions while on the go.

In 2013, over one third of traffic to Sephora’s website was from a mobile or tablet device and more than 50% of Sephora’s e-blasts were opened using the same. Mobile devices will become more and more important in the customer decision making process as shoppers continue to utilize them for product research before, during and after a purchase.

Everything that Sephora does in mobile is focused on making the customers’ life easier. “We don’t think in silos. We think of the (entire) customer experience and then decide on the best technology that supports that experience” says Johnna Marcus, Senior Director at Sephora Innovation Lab.

Rather than discourage “showrooming“, Sephora designed their iPhone and iPad apps with their most loyal and tech-savvy customers in mind, encouraging them to pull out their phones while in-store. Using their Beauty Insider Account, users can now move seamlessly between in-store and online channels with the same functionality, product selection and personalization. As Sephora has discovered, more product knowledge and a seamless shopping experience leads to a happier and more loyal customer.

Lessons for Others: 

It is estimated that 95% of all apps downloaded are abandoned within a month, while 1 in 4 apps are only ever used once. These are eye opening stats for brands and app developers entering the mobile market.

In order for an app to be vital to a user, it must be designed to provide a personalized experience based on behaviour, intent, time and location. The app must also provide a function that makes the user’s life more convenient. As a result, users will become dependent on the app and utilize it over others.

Innovative apps like Sephora To Go make users increasingly reliant on their mobile devices. As technology advances and app capabilities expand, the need for retailers to optimize mobile marketing within the traditional retail store setting will become more important for connecting with customers.

The following audio clip provides more insight into why brands should be active in mobile marketing in 2015 and in the years to come.

Submitted By: Cristina Avila

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