Sephora, the high-end beauty retailer owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, operates more than 1,600 stores worldwide where customers can try and apply make-up before they buy. Under digital head Julie Bornstein, Sephora is in the midst of its own “social and mobile makeover,” bridging the worlds of offline and online — stylishly, of course.
Case in point: today Sephora announced a partnership with Pantone, the global color authority, for a digital app. Dubbed SEPHORA + PANTONE COLOR IQ, it's described as "the most advanced foundation matching solution available in North American beauty retail. Using Pantone’s color capture and measuring technology, SEPHORA + PANTONE COLOR IQ is the first and only beauty system to scan the surface of the skin, assign an official PANTONE® SkinTone™ number, and match a scientifically precise foundation shade from Sephora’s 1,000 foundations, brands and formulas." The service launches today at Sephora's Times Square flagship in New York, and on August 2nd in San Francisco.
Social business, as Brian Solis calls it, is de rigueur for brands today, iterating from social to digital and experiential. That's why Sephora is taking its digital operations to the next level in a redesigned website with amped up search, an iOS mobile app and a new mobile website, Sephora is installing iPads in more than 100 of its stores in an integration with Pinterest replete with “Pin It” buttons for all its product pages.
It’s the biggest technical overhaul since the brand launched in 1999, according to Bornstein. “I’ve been in e-commerce for more than 12 years, and things have changed dramatically in the last two years. It’s an exciting time, and we’re really just starting to figure out what’s possible with social commerce. Having new ways to connect with our customers – through Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and on our site, BeautyTalk– gives us more insight into what customers want than ever before."
"We’re giving people a great experience today, and we’re also keeping up with the new generation of shoppers. My kids don’t know life without an iPad. We’re making sure that Gen Y, Millennials, Gen Z are able to shop the way they expect to. Why wouldn’t we have iPads in stores?,” she commented to Forbes.
Sephora's in-stores iPads are being tested in the U.S. as a precursor to a wider rollout, she adds. “You can easily scan a product on the iPad and see what others say about it, or you can even look-up your own personal shopping history to find the right product. People want to know what the favorite product is from someone in the know, who has tested thousands of products.”
She's also a big believer in “the importance of delivering a holistic digital and 'IRL' [in real life] experience, while also enhancing the individual path each customer takes to engage with the brand and their favorite products.” As Wired quoted her, “We see using technology as a form of customer service, because it helps customers navigate to the best products for them, adding information and comfort to the buying experience.”
The brand's iTunes app scans product barcodes to retrieve product reviews, and mobile POS eliminates waiting in line. Mobile payments are the next digital/physical frontier for Bornstein and her team to navigate.
“Customer demands far exceed the capabilities of the marketing department,” comments Solis. “While creating a social brand is a necessary endeavor, building a social business is an investment in customer relevance now and over time…As a social brand, we are competing for the moment. As a social business, we are competing for the future in all that we do today.”