Sephora Sees 167% Boost In Mobile Orders During 2012

Mobile has become an essential shopping tool for consumers. In fact, during the 2012 holiday season, 80% of smartphone and tablet users tapped their devices to browse and buy inventory, according to research from Google. To keep pace with these mobile behaviors, retailers must strive to create more seamless experiences across digital and physical channels.

Sephora actively pursues this goal by investing in cutting-edge mobile strategies that address consumers’ growing dependence on tablets and smartphones. During a keynote presentation at the January 2013 Mobile FirstLook conference, titled: Sephora: How the World’s Largest Retailer of Fragrances and Beauty Products Views the Future of Mobile Retail, Johnna Marcus, Director of Mobile and Digital Store Marketing, discussed the brand’s past mobile investments, as well as top priorities in 2013.

Internal consumer research validates the retailer’s increased focus on mobile marketing and commerce: More than 50% of Sephora emails are opened via smartphones and tablets, Marcus revealed. Additionally, one-third of all Sephora e-Commerce traffic is derived from mobile devices. Improving service to these on-the-go consumers has been profitable for Sephora: the retailer has seen a 167% increase in mobile orders from December 2011 to 2012.Tools and strategies currently leveraged by the retailer include: iPhone and iPad apps, Passbook integration with gift cards and the Beauty Insider loyalty program, as well as a mobile-optimized web site.


“In our opinion, women have always been early adopters of technology, especially if it is socially relevant and will make their lives easier,” Marcus explained. “We recognize and see this as an opportunity to innovate and try new things early on.” Sephora has focused on creating compelling brand experiences for mobile consumers since 2010.

Currently, Sephora has two mobile apps: Sephora To Go for iPhone and the Sephora App for iPad. The iPhone app plays more of a “utility role” by offering seamless access to a barcode scanning tool and product ratings/reviews, Marcus explained. Conversely, the iPad app is more “experiential,” allowing loyal customers to have more detailed and memorable browsing and buying journeys.

Together, the iPhone and iPad apps serve the needs of Sephora shoppers who have their mobile devices “attached to them at all times of the day,” Marcus explained. “We’re mobile because that’s where our customers shop and where they want to interact with us.” 

Sephora Uses Mobile To Improve Product Discovery And Education

Sephora is inspiring consumers through a variety of mobile tools and technologies to use their smartphones as “digital, personal shoppers,” according to Marcus.

The retailer is using mobile strategies to enhance the following for consumers:

  1. Product research: The smartphone is a natural pre-purchase device, Marcus noted, enabling consumers to scan items, create digital shopping lists and access ratings and reviews while browsing in stores. Consumers can refine decisions based on the products they scan and the digital research they conduct. 
  2. Shopping inspiration: Marcus explained that consumers can learn about new, cutting-edge beauty trends via Sephora Tumblr, an editorial outlet. Once a product or style piques consumers’ interest, they can learn more by conducting research via smartphones or tablets before trying the product while in stores. Products then can be purchased either in-store or online.

“The buyers’ journey is no longer linear,” Marcus explained, “due to the convenience of mobile commerce.” However, the glue of the cross-channel experience is the Sephora Beauty Insider loyalty program, she added, which “makes the experience cohesive by allowing consumers to move seamlessly between channels: Once consumers are signed in, we know who they are, what’s in their baskets, and their past purchases ― across every channel.”

Apple Passbook And “Endless Aisle” Spotlighted For 2013

This year Sephora will focus more on enhancing the connectivity between online and in-store shopping experiences, according to Marcus. For example, the retailer will be promoting consumers’ abilities to redeem and store gift cards, as well as access loyalty account information, in Apple Passbook. Sephora was one of the first retail partners of Passbook when it launched in September 2012. Within the first 90 days of the release, more than 400 thousand Beauty Insider passes were created.

Sephora also plans to implement an “endless aisle” strategy in brick-and-mortar stores. During the 2012 holiday season, the retailer piloted a display of must-have gifts from Sephora beauty editors, touting product images, descriptions and QR codes. Rather than forcing consumers to purchase items in stores, they could scan a QR code, enter a free shipping code, and have the product delivered directly to the gift recipient.

“The idea of endless aisle means you don’t have to lose inventory due to lack of physical space,” Marcus said. “This is another example of how mobile and stores are really merging.”

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