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Sephora muscles into subscription services with help from mobile offers

Sephora is betting mobile can help it compete in the subscription services space, with plans to include mobile offers, Spotify playlists and codes for accessing content via smartphones when it starts testing beauty boxes this fall.

The beauty retailer announced plans to roll out the Play! By Sephora box in several test markets this fall, including Boston, Cincinnati and Columbus. Although Sephora will face stiff competition from marketers who have already made their mark in the field, such as Birchbox and Glossybox, the brand is aiming to add a dose of mobile to its service to further customer engagement and drive purchases of full-size versions of the featured items.

“Integrating Spotify playlists into monthly beauty boxes will give Sephora a competitive edge by creating anticipation and consumer hype around its core product offering,” said Laura Sossong, senior consultant at Boston Retail Partners, Boston.

“Selecting the right music will further cultivate an emotional connection with the customer, elevating Sephora’s perception and positively enriching the experience and relationship with the brand lifestyle.”

Complementing with mobile
Sephora is planning to differentiate itself from its competition by including mobile-specific offers in the boxes, alongside the designer sample products that makeup enthusiasts can look forward to receiving.

The box, which will retail at $10 per month, will include beauty items as well as Spotify playlists, likely to offer subscribers a curated list of songs to coincide with the monthly theme. Sephora will also ensure that each box comes equipped with a Play! Book, stocked with application tips and scan-to-shop codes for mobile users.

Additional mobile content may be unlocked as well. The move to scan-to-shop codes suggest the retailer is seeking to offer on-the-go customers a streamlined checkout process for purchasing a full-size version of any sample products which they find desirable, or buy other featured items showcased in the Play! Book.

As more beauty marketers foray into subscription boxes, mobile could be the ideal channel to close the gap between enjoying samples and turning customers into longstanding fans of specific products.

For example, if a user enjoys a moisturizer featured in the September box, he or she can scan a Play! Book code to receive more information on it and place an order for a larger version to use after the sample is depleted.

“Scanable mobile codes add tremendous value, incentivizing purchases by giving customers the instant ability to buy their ‘must-have’ items,” Ms. Sossong said. “The codes further promote repeat purchases by active beauty box subscribers by creating excitement around the content of future offerings.”

Additional content
Subscribers will also receive Play! Pass coupons to use for in-store activations, demonstrating the brand’s desire to increase foot traffic in its bricks-and-mortar locations. Coupons may be used for offerings such as one-on-one tutorials to show customers how best to use that month’s featured products.

Sephora will begin testing the service in Cincinnati, Boston and Columbus this September, with a rollout to more cities expected to occur in 2016.

Consumers in those metropolitan areas who plan to purchase the September box can expect to see samples such as Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil and Marc Jacobs Beauty Highlighter eyeliner in Blacquer included.

The brand is likely launching this service to ensure its status as a leader in the beauty industry and fend off competition from fellow subscription box marketer Birchbox, who also offers designer samples and recently introduced a bricks-and-mortar store in New York City.

The strong mobile elements to the box will likely help Sephora succeed in the space and gain more revenue from time-strapped consumers.

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 (see story).

The beauty retailer’s latest iOS app refresh launches new features such as an in-store scanner and a new search capability in its Beauty Board to capitalize on product relevancy and customer recommendations (see story).

“Mobile offers, especially if they are exclusive, keep customers stimulated and engaged and will become increasingly vital to remain competitive in the subscriptions services market,” Ms. Sossong said.

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