Newsflash: department stores are dying. The rise and rise of digital is metaphorically putting the nail in the coffin of a slew of our most beloved retailers. For many, the lure of online shopping in the comfort of their own home while watching a boxset of Downton Abbey (just me?) is too much of a good thing. Retailers just aren’t holding the sway they once did, with the sofa-surfing-Downton-Abbey-watching pull just too strong. But there is one company that’s must definitely bucking the trend, and not just bucking it, it’s riding the retail wave like a boss. Where others are shutting up shop, closing their doors and lowering the blinds for good, Sephora is doing quite the opposite. Catering to the ever-changing shift in consumer expectations, Sephora is getting it right and firing from all cylinders. With Instagram how-to’s, YouTube videos and beauty bloggers taking the place of in-store make-up artists, Sephora is attributing it’s spend to more on-trend products instore and a fun interactive experience for its cult following. In the words of Karen Grant, Global Beauty Industry analyst at the NPD Group, interactive is a hit. “For the older consumer it can be confusing. But for the younger consumer, it’s like, ‘Wheeeee! Look at that! Look at that!’ It’s all about play. And the more time you stay in the store or online, the more money you are likely to spend.” So here we have it, a Sephora masterclass on how to survive the retail recession. Pens at the ready.
Lesson #1: Get interactive
Barely a week goes by without another news story about the experiential success of Sephora. The company’s unrelenting onslaught on interactive experiences is continuing to draw in buyers in their droves; the company’s Virtual Artist App – a much loved tool for consumers – was given added functionality earlier in the year being one such example. Indeed, such is its belief in the power of interaction that the company even got experiential with its campaign in Singapore for the Mix & Play skincare range.
Interaction is is definitely the key selling point for the company’s two new concept stores Beauty TIP (Teach, Inspire, Play), with the Manhattan-based store being its largest experiential retail format in North America to date.
Lesson #2: Buddy up
As I’ve mentioned before, partnership power is key. And Sephora knows this only too well. From its collaboration with key influencer brands such as Kat Von D, and, if rumours are to be believed, a partnership with Rihanna on her Fenty Beauty line, Sephora is buddying up. And that’s not to mention the ever expanding store-within-a-store JC Penney merger. Two heads are better than one, as they say.
Lesson #3: Do the digital dance
It feels like we’re teaching you to suck eggs here, as who doesn’t know of Sephora’s digital prowess – it’s an area the company prides itself on. So let’s just highlight a few recent coups: the successful #neverstop social media campaign, appointment booking app, and the Facebook Messenger: Sephora Reservation Assistant and Color Match. Indeed, such is its digital draw, that the company was recently named as one the top two favoured brands by millennials and Gen Z consumers of the Conde Nast and Goldman Sachs 2017 Love List Brand Affinity Index, thanks to its digital and mobile-first strategies.
Lesson #4: Get your consumers mingling, and talking
There’s nothing like the sense of community. And the beauty retailer is all-too aware that workshops and CSR campaigns can be a key to success. For example, Sephora Stands, a social impact strategy that encourages employees to connect with local communities while offering mentorship, is in its second year, while the Brave Beauty in the Face of Cancer workshops bring together cancer sufferers to share beauty tips and experiences.
It’s clear to see, Sephora is going great guns to keep its place as retail king – and we see no signs of this crown being usurped any time soon.