Building upon its existing customer loyalty programs, beauty juggernaut Sephora launched a new members-only digital platform called Beauty Insider Community, designed for its most engaged makeup enthusiasts.
The platform — a standalone vertical on Sephora’s website and mobile app — acts as a resource for users to ask beauty for tips and insight, share recommendations, and engage with other likeminded consumers. In order to participate, users must already be an existing Beauty Insider, Sephora’s complimentary program that allows shoppers to accrue points for rewards, as well as receive gifts on their birthday and participate in monthly classes. (The program also includes the pay-to-play Vib- and Rouge-level memberships, which boast a wider array of benefits, at $350 and $1,000 respectively.)
“We realized this experience would be exponentially more useful if it was integrated within the shopping experience, to avoid having to open and navigate through several tabs,” said Bindu Shah, svp of digital marketing and media.”We made sure it was a unified, mobile-first experience that was integrated through mobile, desktop and our app, and that our clients would not have to download a new app to participate.”
Jim Fosina, founder and CEO of Fosina Marketing Group, said from a business perspective, an exclusive social platform group helps Sephora gather valuable data and consumer insight to inform sales strategy. By facilitating conversation on trends in a private setting, Sephora can be privy to new opportunities to cash in, like a proverbial brand fly-on-the-wall.
The Sephora Beauty Insider Community on Apple iOS
However, he said Sephora will only benefit if it identifies ways to glean information from the community to personalize the shopping experience beyond just the new platform.
“The challenge for Sephora — like other brands that are collecting preference data and matching it with transactional data — is to truly build more contextually relevant communication between the brand and the end consumer,” he said. “If Sephora doesn’t change its ongoing customer communication to be more personal and hyper-relevant to the individual, then these programs will not achieve their true goals and objectives.”
On the Sephora Beauty Insider Community, upon completing a customized profile, users can join groups of interest, post questions on message boards, browse galleries and read and write user reviews. Among the groups are “Lip Lovers” and “Complexion Club,” plus a variety of more nuanced topics. Later this month, Sephora plans to launch a live community chat option on the platform that will help users make real-time decisions on products before making purchases; they’ll be able to pose questions to the fellow community members.
“We know shopping for beauty can be overwhelming. Our goal is to facilitate the client’s shopping experience with more personal recommendations and product discovery through the advice of their peers,” Shah said.
Sephora has continued to turn to loyalty programs in recent years in an effort to lure and retain consumers. In addition to its Beauty Insider program, it has an IQ offering that helps shoppers develop a better understanding of their personal makeup and fragrance preferences. IQ stores information on shades and scents based on quizzes and questionnaires, and uses it as a guide to suggest future products.
By and large, loyalty programs continue to be a major initiative among beauty brands, as they tend to entice return shoppers regularly replenish their favorite products. For example, L’Oréal Paris launched a reward program early this year with a cause marketing spin: It rewards shoppers by jointly donating a portion of sales to the charities of their choosing.
Sephora has also sought to build loyalty philanthropy with the Sephora Stands initiative, which provides resources to female entrepreneurs and supports nonprofits for women overcoming barriers like domestic abuse. “It inspires love and loyalty from consumers. You prefer to buy from companies that take social impact seriously,” Corrie Conrad, Sephora’s head of social impact, told Glossy in January.
Ultimately Fosina said, Sephora will need to be smart about how it engages with its users in an order to maintain brand affinity in the future.
“Any programs that allow the consumer to provide preference information and also provide the brand insight into the profile of the customer is great, in terms of building a stronger relationship with the customer,” he said. “Ongoing member nurturing, prodding and enticing needs to be the true [focus] in such programs.”