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Sephora's use of cutting-edge strategy pays off in mobile growth

Feb 28, 2013 Dave King

Sephora, one of the world's largest fragrance and beauty products retailer, doesn't want its target shopper zipping past its windows at the local mall as they text and answer calls on their smartphones. Since 2010, the company has had a proactive mobile strategy that instead draws in those customers with their phones and tablets in hand. 

The result? A big pay off in 2012 when Sephora's orders from mobile devices, paid with credit, debit and prepaid ACH cards, grew by an astounding 167 percent in one year, according to

Johnna Marcus, the fragrance company's director of mobile and digital store marketing, said Sephora is simply giving their customers what they want.

"In our opinion, women have always been early adopters of technology, especially if it is socially relevant and will make their lives easier," Marcus said during her keynote address at the recent Mobile FirstLook Conference. "[Sephora shoppers] are attached to their mobile devices at all times of the day. We're mobile because that's where our customers shop and where they want to interact with us. We recognize and see this as an opportunity to innovate and try new things early on."

Sephora has a marketing strategy that does just that. Company research has found that shoppers open 50 percent of Sephora emails on their mobile devices and one-third of the retailer's ecommerce traffic is mobile. The company offers its customers two store apps that provide barcode scanning and product reviews, Passbook integration with gift cards, a loyalty discount program and a mobile-optimized website.

Goals for 2013
The goal now is to turn Sephora customers into their own digital personal shoppers. They can create shopping lists by scanning items and access product reviews while they're still perusing in a store. In addition, the retailer has begun its own editorial outlet called Sephora Tumblr, where consumers can read about the Sephora's inventory. Then the customers' buys are determined by their own research.

But the company's loyalty program is "the glue" between mobile shopping and online purchases at home, Marcus told An "endless aisle" program piloted during the 2012 holiday season was an example of how the glue works - consumers can make a purchase in a store, scan a code for free shipping and have the product sent directly to a gift recipient.

"Once consumers are signed in, we know who they are, what's in their baskets, and their past purchases - across every channel," she said.