Sephora Enhances Employee Communications During COVID and Beyond

Perhaps one of the hardest-hit retail categories during the pandemic has been beauty, a vertical that has relied on customers sampling products and hands-on interactions as part of the in-store experience. To make the most of opportunities as it prepared its stores for reopening, Sephora focused on elevating field communications with its 12,000 retail associates, providing them with vital tools and timely information that would keep employees up-to-date and engaged across its 530 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Over the last 20 years, Sephora made history by scaling an open sell and try retail format, enticing clients to come into stores to discover new products, have their makeup professionally done by beauty experts or search for the perfect gift,” said Joan Willat, SVP of Store Experience and Business Operations at Sephora in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.But COVID-19 completely changed the way we needed to operate during these times to best protect our communities, our shoppers and our employees. Despite these challenges, we’ve been able to make operational changes, reopen our stores and continue to deliver on the great client experience we are known for.”

Even before the pandemic hit, Sephora’s leadership knew it needed better, clearer, more engaging ways to communicate with field teams, Willat explained. One of the retailer’s keys to success in this “new normal” has been an adaptive communication strategy.

In May 2020, Sephora partnered with communication and execution platform Retail Zipline to maintain necessary team communications during nationwide store closures due to COVID-19. Sephora’s headquarters and District Managers (DMs) needed to keep field teams engaged, empowered and informed in order to set them up for success in preparation for reopening — and all this had to happen while everyone was working remotely.


With health and safety guidelines constantly evolving, clear communication and follow-through are more important than ever. The Retail Zipline operating system helps headquarters communicate critical information to their fleet of stores to track execution of tasks, communicate to associates and ensure the brand experience is consistently delivered in every single location.

Designed with store associates in mind, the platform is accessible via mobile, tablet and desktop devices and covers four types of communication: 

  • Nice-to-know information, such as letters from the president or community events; 
  • Need-to-do information such as posting marketing materials, moving inventory or sanitizing handrails; 
  • Evergreen resources including policy and procedures, best practices and standard operating procedures; and
  • Dialogue, discussion and debate channels, so people can share ideas about what’s working and what’s not in a collaborative group setting.  

So far, Sephora has boosted its operations through the new platform in several ways. DMs are now equipped with a customizable communication and insights tool that keeps them up to date on legal implications as reopening policies shift, increasing their job confidence and ability to swiftly adapt operations. The system also has enhanced employee communication and task management, as well as increased engagement via fulfilling associates’ need for real-time, quick-hitting information.

“To boost morale and engagement among retail employees, Retail Zipline helps store associates on the front lines understand why they’re being asked to do something, and confirm with HQ that they’ve completed that task,” said Retail Zipline CEO and Co-Founder Melissa Wong in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.Understanding the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ keeps associates engaged and gives their work meaning, which ups performance. This is especially critical when it comes to executing on social distancing, sanitation and other COVID-related safety measures, as it can directly impact anyone who enters that store.”

With store environments more complex than ever before and changing by the day, keeping field teams engaged, empowered and informed with the information they need has been the key to successfully delivering Sephora’s unique retail experience amidst a pandemic — and into the future.

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