Consumers are “the best sales people we have in our stores because these women know about beauty — they really love it,” noted Bridget Dolan, Head of Digital at Sephora. To tap into this opportunity with shoppers, Sephora has created a thriving community of brand fans and advocates through its Beauty Insider Program and BeautyTalk community. Through the BeautyTalk community, Dolan explained, consumers can “share their unique perspectives on why a product is so great.”
Dolan joined Katy Keim, CMO of Lithium, during the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago, June 11-14, 2014, to discuss BeautyTalk and share their insights in a session, titled: Build Your Own Social Network And Stock It With Super Fans. Key takeaways included a look at how community building and one-to-one engagement are the future of social commerce.
By 2017, 50% of sales will be influenced by digital touch points, noted Keim. However, she explained that traditional advertising tactics are no longer effective. Instead, consumers are seeking feedback from their peers (82%) and product/technical experts (86%).
Retailers have an opportunity to engage consumers by creating a “network of shared value,” Keim said. “Instead of broadcasting and advertising to consumers, telling them what they should want, [retailers can build] a connection between what consumers want (trust, value, on demand) and brands can get what they value (advocates, insights about services, sharing earned media).”
A Switch In Social Perspective
In 2008, Sephora initially launched ratings and reviews. Among the more than two million products on the e-Commerce site, some products garnered more than 20,000 reviews. The retailer’s Facebook page also was being flooded with beauty questions and product inquiries. Sephora eventually partnered with Lithium to launch BeautyTalk, which creates a Facebook-like experience on the e-Commerce site. Consumers can now visit specific chat areas based on their topics of interest, and can ask questions and make recommendations.
“Questions are often immediately answered,” Dolan said. “Consumers are no longer wondering if they should purchase a product; they learn they should in that moment.” With BeautyTalk, she added, consumers have “passionate, unbiased expertise at their fingertips.”
Gamification also is integrated into the BeautyTalk community experience, delivering additional customer engagement. Consumers can compete in a series of challenges and receive “hearts” for participating in conversations.
Hearts are added to customer accounts based on how often they post, the helpfulness of their posts and whether other visitors enjoy their content, Dolan explained. “There are 38 different levels in our BeautyTalk community, so customers can move up the ranks based on how often they post, the quality of the content and how many questions they answer.”