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Sephora builds Instagram-like commerce feature to retain loyalty members

Sephora continues to make content a key part of its strategy to create a mobile and social powerhouse, as evidenced through a new application feature that centers around the retailer’s loyalty program.

The beauty retailer has rolled out an initiative called Beauty Board within its iPhone app that leverages mobile photo-sharing to connect loyalty members with each other. Beauty Board builds on an effort that Sephora rolled out last year called My Beauty Bag.

“Sephora has always been seen as a pioneer in mobile commerce, so it’s no surprise they’ve decided to integrate a social component into their user experience,” said Esha Shah, San Francisco-based manager of strategy and innovation at Fetch.

“Sephora sees mobile not only as a device to purchase on, but a device which can assist and enrich the user’s experience with the brand,” she said. “Adding a social component into the user experience is a smart move because it gives their consumers a new and more organic way to interact with the brand.

“This will instill and strengthen brand loyalty. I’m sure if Sephora’s platform is successful, we’ll be seeing more brands follow suit.”

Ms. Shah is not affiliated with Sephora. She spoke based on her expertise on the subject.

Sephora did not respond to press inquiries.

Mobile inspiration
Beauty Board can be found under “Inspire Me” in the menu section of Sephora’s iPhone app and is only available to members of the Beauty Insider loyalty program.

Consumers can choose to either take a photo or upload a picture of a particular makeup look.

The photos can also be cropped, customized and enhanced with similar features that Instagram and other mobile photo-sharing apps offer.

Beauty Board is set up as a feed of pictures that consumers can scroll through and shop from.

Each upload includes a title and is categorized into a product category, including makeup, nails and hair. Additionally, consumers can add a description that details the techniques used to create their look.

Consumers can then tag Sephora products that were used to create their look via the app.

Beauty Board also incorporates a cross-screen initiative called My Beauty Bag that Sephora rolled out last year.

My Beauty Bag integrates with Beauty Insider to track products that consumers either like or buy on the company’s mobile and Web platforms and in-store (see story).

The idea is that consumers always have access to their past transactions that is used as a shopping cart.

Beauty Board ties in with the liked products and past purchases from My Beauty Bag that can then be added to a shopping cart and bought straight from the app.

There are also search and sorting features built into Beauty Board for consumers that are looking for beauty inspiration around a specific type of look.

Another screenshot of Beauty Board

Content-first strategy?
Mobile has played a significant role for Sephora in both digital and in-store sales.

This past holiday season, Black Friday mobile sales spiked 300 percent year-over-year. Mobile and tablet sales represented one-third of all Thanksgiving weekend digital sales (see story).

However, what makes Sephora stand out in the mobile space is how the retailer blends content and commerce together.

For example, Sephora also has a program called Sephora Shares that recommends third-party apps and digital content to app users (see story).

Instead of focusing solely on driving sales, Sephora also plays up content in mobile commerce to hook users and bring back repeat traffic and engagement.

The strategy takes advantage of the fact that consumers are already uploading pictures and accessing social media content from their smartphones and tablets multiple times per day, giving Sephora the opportunity to build a longer-lasting relationship with consumers.

“The beauty vertical offers a lot of angles in terms of content categories,” Ms. Shah said.

“By nature beauty products are interesting to look at and moreover they are lifestyle products that consumers want to incorporate into their routine,” she said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York