Sephora's Ecommerce Strategy From AR,AI to Email and Mobile

brought to you by WBR Insights

Tuned-in ecommerce companies know there's more to success than any single strategy will allow. Brands who can fight the war on many fronts have the greatest chances of success, and it's this philosophy which beauty brand Sephora is employing to become the master of its industry.

Sephora has long been highly regarded for its innovative products and in-store experiences, but now with email, mobile, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence technology, it's conquering ecommerce as well.


Like many brands, Sephora has long used email marketing to deliver newsletters and special offers to its loyal customers. However, the company noticed a real paradigm shift was possible when they started using data to drive a more client-led email strategy.

Thanks to other elements of its digital presence, Sephora discovered it had access to reams of customer data which could be used to personalize its email campaigns like never before. By looking at the data holistically, Sephora was able to send out behaviorally-targeted communications. The new campaigns led to an 80% higher open rate than traditional impersonal emails.

"The way our campaigns were built led with product, but we also wanted to make sure there was a focus on the individual client and her experience with us. We developed clear objectives for what we wanted to accomplish around speed, workflows and sales impact," said Director of CRM Strategy at Sephora, Emmanuelle Paput. "We would send communications about a new product launch to our entire audience. Now we've moved toward a more targeted approach to be more relevant for our clients, and now we only send communications if it makes sense for each client."


Showrooming is now commonplace. Many consumers today think nothing of using a brick-and-mortar store to view, test, and try on products before heading online to purchase them at the lowest price possible - and it's hard to blame them.

Sephora wants to exploit this practice by allowing in-store customers to use their smartphones to access additional information about its products. Customers can scan Sephora products using the Sephora app and access a wealth of information, including professional reviews and user ratings. Sephora understands that if it can keep people browsing in-house - whether that's online and/or in-store - it stands a far better chance of closing the sale itself, rather than losing the customer to the likes of Amazon.

This mobile technology is also used to activate beacons around the store. The beacons ping special promotions to visitors' smartphones and send push notifications that give customers another chance to pick up any items they may have left languishing in their online shopping cart.

"When a shopper comes into Sephora, she will be prompted to switch her app to 'Store Mode,' allowing her easy access to all of the features she needs while shopping, like the ability to scan products for ratings and reviews, look up past purchases, view her wish list, and pull up her scannable loyalty card and saved gift cards, saving her an additional step at check-out," said Vice President of Sephora's Innovation Lab, Bridget Dolan. "It also rewards pre-shop efforts by popping up the items she's left in her cart that are available in this store."

AR and AI

Sephora has also partnered with AR and AI specialists Modiface to create an app which allows customers to "try on" beauty products using their smartphones.

The customer takes a selfie and can then use the Virtual Try-On function in the Sephora app to get an idea of how they'd look with different products - without the need to apply and remove makeup.

"The problem of product discovery has been substantial, but it can be addressed partially with augmented reality-based try-on," said Founder and CEO of Modiface, Parham Aarabi. "However, using AI to actually match shades and recommend products before trying is a key step. We have been working on this for almost five years now, but we felt that the technology was finally accurate enough for large-scale deployment."

Final Thoughts

Sephora is taking a truly broad and experimental approach to its ecommerce and omnichannel experiences. We have no doubt the brand, through its innovation center and smart partnerships, has many other exciting ideas up its sleeves, yet and can't wait to see what it comes up with next.

The innovative application of digital technology is set to be a hot topic at eTail Canada 2019, taking place in May at the Hyatt Regency Toronto, ON.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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