Our latest FRANkademy session on social business and retail has tweaked all our brains into retail mode! We spent quite a far bit of time hunting for great examples of retailers putting social and innovation into their offerings. But they’re really not too uncommon these days. One stellar example is the cosmetics retailer Sephora, which is best known for its bricks-and-mortar stores that not only offer a huge variety of brands and products, but continually enhances the retail experience for its customers.
The 1,600 store retailer is taking its US digital operations to the next level with what its calling “a social and mobile makeover”. The updates include an overhauled website with ultra specific search functionality and improved mobile web and iOS apps, all of which go a long way in helping customers find the products they want, helping them buy with greater confidence and improving efficiency.
“Digital is a must for the future of retailing,” said Julie Bornstein, senior vice president, Sephora Direct. “With the social, digital, mobile and website updates, we’re giving our clients the most customizable experience in the beauty industry, and connecting clients with our experts in the ways that are most relevant to them. We’re excited to makeover the future of shopping.”
Website functions to help the customer, whatever their needs are
The revamp has been three years in the making, and the result is the best-organized search for beauty products on the web. The newly improved search function on Sephora’s website enables anyone to find the product they are looking for. Each product on the site has been tagged with over 25 attributes (for what age, colour, ingredients, benefits, fragrance, formulations, price etc.). And of course, this detailed product tagging creates massive opportunities for search engine use as well. Sephora has enhanced their online shopping experience to make it as easy, hassle-free and flexible as possible. Once shoppers have found the product they want, they can buy it online (in half the time as before), or they can check if it available in one of its physical stores.
Their new website also allows users to create favourite product lists, learn the latest trends through frequent style updates, get personalised advice, watch tutorials from the editors, and interact with experts instantly. All these features are also available on the mobile site, reflecting the company’s dedication to creating a seamless experience across all channels.
In-store digital and social integration
After perfecting its in-store app-powered scanning capabilities, Sephora will soon begin installing iPads in more than 100 of its stores this year, to let customers navigate Sephora’s thousands of products, menus of services offered at the Beauty Studio, and get tips on makeup and styling. The iPads will help personalise the shopping experience for customers and offer help and advice on demand. For example, a customer considering booking in a treatment or buying a product can view videos of the treatment. Customers can scan a product in-store on the iPad and see all its details, and what others are saying about it via social media and online reviews. They can also look up their own personal shopping history and their wishlists, which all get synced between the web and mobile apps.
Every store will also be outfitted with iPod Touches for sales staff to use for mobile point of sale, to look up customers’ purchase history or access customers’ loyalty points. For example, after a customer gets a complimentary makeover at the Sephora Beauty Studio, staff can scan the product beside the customer (who is seated at the mirror admiring themselves) which is added to the customer’s profile. The customer can pay right there and then and walk out – no lines and no hassles.
Social plays for awareness and reputation building
The company has also developed an official Pinterest integration, adding “Pin it” buttons to all its brand and product pages. Staff have been invited to create boards so that shoppers can see what products the experts are using. Sephora is already running a popular sweepstakes on Pinterest:
Sephora’s new Instagram feed (which is also a board of its own on their Pinterest account) gives followers a behind-the-scenes look at the company and its staff, and what trends and products are driving buzz in the beauty world.
Many retailers are hesitant to bridge the online and offline world, but Sephora is doing it right – putting the customer at the centre of their strategy and constantly creating value for them.