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Sephora uncaps omnichannel expansion with new bricks-and-mortar connected boutique

Sephora is rolling out its third Beauty Tip workshop in the United States, enabling shoppers to take advantage of mobile-enabled experiences such as browsing products on in-store iPad stations and receiving customized digital makeover suggestions that can be emailed directly to their smartphones.

The beauty giant, which is bringing its fourth North American Beauty Tip workshop to Chicago, is allowing cosmetics fans to receive more personalized in-store shopping experiences through an array of mobile activations, including iPad stations boasting shoppable product galleries. Sephora’s decision to place mobile at the heart of its new bricks-and-mortar location highlights the brand’s dedication to being a digital leader in the retail space, particularly where driving impulse purchases is concerned.

“Sephora has always been digitally engaged; in fact, we were the first prestige beauty retailer on the Internet, so digital has always been in our DNA,” said Mary Beth Laughton, senior vice president of digital at Sephora. “Mobile is an extension of that.

“We want to be where our clients are, and they are on their phones for all types of uses, including learning and shopping. We knew early on that there’s a connection for her; she doesn’t need to choose between a Sephora store or mobile, both complement each other and all the tools we’ve built support that theory.”

Uncapping in-store sales
Sephora’s new store, located on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, is the fourth Beauty Tip workshop introduced in North America, behind stores in San Francisco, Boston and Toronto. It is also Sephora’s fourth hundredth free-standing store in North America.

The new storefront offers an endless aisle aspect to shoppers, thanks to the variety of interactive digital options. The core of the bricks-and-mortar experience is The Beauty Workshop, which functions as a workstation where consumers can attend beauty classes taught by Sephora’s associates.

Shoppers can also interact with iPad stations showcasing makeup tutorials via Sephora’s Virtual Artist technology. Meanwhile, the Beauty Board section displays a shoppable gallery of products featuring user-generated content on the digital screen, enabling consumers to imagine how the items may look on themselves.

Each station in the Beauty Workshop comes equipped with its own iPad, showcasing how brands can leverage these devices as educational must-haves. The stations also include USB ports and Wi-Fi so that clients can browse and share favorite looks with friends directly from their seats.

Additionally, the beauty marketer is integrating email into its in-store experience via the Digital Makeover Guide, an interactive face chart that records any services a customer receives and also offers customized product recommendations and makeup application tips.

Individuals can choose to email themselves these recommendations, making it easier for them to research items of interest at home and make a purchase directly from their mobile devices or desktops.

Makeup fans may also book a personal makeover at one of the 14 available beauty studio seats via Sephora’s mobile Web site or application.

In one of the latest signs that Sephora is putting more stock in mobile-enabled services, users of its application can now schedule appointments at nearby locations, a move that follows the launch of a quiz on Kik about users’ in-store interests (see story).

Opening doors for omnichannel
Sephora has been innovating heavily within the omnichannel retail space as of late, likely in a bid to connect with mobile-savvy millennial customers.

The brand recently doubled down on augmented reality and artificial intelligence sales tactics by enabling shoppers to virtually try on false lashes, watch tutorials using their own image and engage via a chatbot to trial and purchase lip color (see story).

Chicago’s Beauty Tip workshop is not Sephora’s first foray into connected stores.

Last fall, Sephora introduced a Parisian bricks-and-mortar connected boutique that creates a disruptive shopping experience via interactive in-store tablets, phone-charging stations and a selfie mirror (see story).

“With the Beauty Tip workshop, the digital advancements had to give our clients a better experience and benefit her beauty journey,” Ms. Laughton said. “Our in-store digital, like our iPads at the Beauty Workshop, are focused on enabling our clients to learn new techniques, receive beauty application tips, and engage with our larger beauty community, all of which help create an emotional experience for our clients that excites and goes beyond a purely transactional relationship.”