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Sephora’s commitment to digital beauty leadership includes beacons, augmented reality

Sephora is freshening up its commitment to being a leader in digital beauty retail with mobile tactics playing a key role, including the introduction of in-store beacons to send birthday alerts and loyalty program updates as well as an augmented reality application.

The beauty retail brand is gearing up to launch several new digital experiences that are likely to ramp up commerce even more, including a free shipping program for Rouge Beauty Insider members and the Pocket Contour mobile app. However, its beacons strategy, in addition to the augmented reality app, will offer consumers an added layer of customization during in-store visits as well as provide for memorable shopping processes.

“Since 2010, Sephora has built our mobile experiences with the store shopper in mind,” said Bridget Dolan, vice president of Sephora‘s Innovation Lab, San Francisco, CA. “Our customers are very digitally savvy, and constantly have their phones in hand when shopping in the store.

“When we launched our Sephora To Go app, we gave in-store customers the ability to scan any product in store to read ratings and reviews – a feature that enhanced the shopping experience – ­and Beacons are the next strategic step in the evolution of our in-store messaging.”

In-store beacons
Cosmetics enthusiasts are likely to respond positively to beacons that will be placed in Sephora’s bricks-and-mortar locations. The brand, which has an extensive loyalty platform, will be able to send customers birthday alerts to remind them to pick up a special package, which is complimentary with a purchase during their birthday month.

Consumers that opt-in to the technology can also receive personalized alerts that may be able to help them navigate the colorful, stocked shelves of beauty products and streamline the shopping experience. Members of the Beauty Insider rewards program will also receive updates and can be alerted when new trainings are occurring in-store.

Beauty Insider members would likely appreciate receiving alerts displaying their current number of rewards points, which can be redeemed at checkout for special items and sample sizes of certain popular products.

“We focused our Beacons messages on being truly relevant and useful for customers in-store, giving them a customized, personal shopping experience,” Ms. Dolan said. “When a shopper comes into Sephora, she will be prompted to switch her app to ‘Store Mode,’ allowing her easy access to all of the features she needs while shopping, like the ability to scan products for ratings and reviews, look up past purchases, view her Œloves’ wish list, and pull up her scannable loyalty card and saved gift cards, saving her an additional step at check-out.

“It also rewards pre-shop efforts by popping up the items she’s left in her cart that are available in this store. And lastly, it lets her know about all of the perks available to her in store, like free mini makeover services and a free gift during her birthday month.”

Sephora is also planning to roll out the Flash program, which will enable top-status Rouge Beauty Insider customers to receive free two-day shipping on all purchases made via mobile or online. Consumers interested in this offering that do not belong to the Rouge Beauty Insider platform can access the service by paying a flat fee of $10 per year.

Augmented reality
Sephora will be delighting customers in April with the launch of its premiere augmented reality experience, which is set to be available on the Sephora-to-Go iPhone app.

Guests can hover their mobile devices over nine participating brand founder faces, including Kat Von D and Laura Mercier, that will be featured in display cases and store windows.

After scanning each image, clients will see various content options such as product videos, founder interviews, animated GIFs and YouTube playlists. Products will also be linked back to their pages, so that consumers can purchase them easily while still in the app.

Sephora also recently introduced the Pocket Contour Class service for its mobile site and app, which shows customized, step-by-step makeup introductions to guests (see story).

Customers can upload a selfie of themselves to receive the makeup application tips, as well as tailored product recommendations. The service seeks to use mobile to help clients better understand the importance of contouring, which helps beauty users bring out their facial features with specific products.

“Sephora has always been an early adopter of new, digital experiences and an incubator of emerging brands,” Ms. Dolan said. “We’ve seen that our customers online are watching product how-to and brand videos on product pages before purchase, and we wanted to offer a similar experience in-store.

“Augmented reality will bring digital storytelling in-stores and allow the Sephora shopper to access the information she wants in her shopping journey on her own terms (and her own phone). Sephora customers can learn more about why a brand founder created a product, watch their how-to videos, or learn more about their use of a new, effective ingredient,” she said.

“From there, we¹ll continue to look for ways to use the technology to enhance our customers’ in-store digital experience.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York