Mark Cameron Columnist

Mark is CEO and head strategist at Working Three, a strategic digital consultancy that specialises in commercialising social media activity. He works with some of Australia's, and the world's, largest and most innovative companies to create a clear picture of the new market forces, and business model disruption, being driven by social media.

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Sephora taps into technology to get closer to its customers – and they love it

Published 26 September 2013 00:46, Updated 30 September 2013 07:39

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Sephora taps into technology to get closer to its customers – and they love it

Sephora has grown mobile orders by 167 per cent since releasing an app last year. Photo: AFP

As an increasing number of consumer-facing brands begin to think about how all of their digital touch-points work together to provide a consistent experience, best-practice examples are being focused on by marketers. Some of those examples are standouts. American beauty brand Sephora is a great example of a cosmetics retailer that doesn’t use technology to overtly focus on the transaction, but to develop how customers interact with their brand. By using technology to focus on customer needs and making their lives easier, they have gained a powerful following that has resulted in sales, fierce loyalty and passionate advocates.

Using data to improve customer relationships: Sephora took a leadership position early on and quickly moved beyond the hype of social media. It is now a brand that uses insights gained from customer engagement to invest in intelligent personalised interactions. For example, Sephora uses Facebook primarily for customer service, and invests in Pinterest more as a marketing platform focused on inspiration and communication. In other words, it has a specific strategy for each social media platform.

The marketing team at Sephora noticed Pinterest users were saving their favourite beauty products and inspiration onto boards, organically driving new referrals to the site. To improve discovery and reach, Sephora implemented initiatives such as direct pinning from product pages, direct pinning from targeted emails, and competition campaigns. The first direct-pin email campaign attracted more than 14,000 repins and a 60 per cent growth in Pinterest traffic referrals.

Analytics data from the company’s 200,000 followers is now used to determine the content customers want. This, coupled with its focus on sharing beauty expertise, has resulted in nurturing an audience that spends 15 times more money on sephora.com on average than its Facebook fans.

Mobile first: Since becoming mobile-optimised and releasing an app in 2012, mobile orders increased by 167 per cent. This now accounts for a third of all sephora.com traffic. The app has been downloaded more than 2 million times and focuses on simple, personalised online shopping, as well as on enhancing the in-store experience. It has features such as barcode scanning to unlock ratings and reviews, and customers can look up personal purchase history. It has taken the best of the website experience and embedded it into a mobile-augmented reality experience.

The whole customer journey:Though clearly excelling online, this doesn’t come at the expense of store traffic. Sephora uses the entire customer experience, online and offline, to drive loyalty. Its “Beauty Insider” loyalty program has attracted 10.6 million customers, offering useful digital services as well as experiences customers can enjoy in stores, such as beauty classes and shopping events.

The retail industry has been disrupted by digital technology, but Sephora proves a solid customer experience strategy can open new revenue opportunities without cannibalising the bricks and mortar business. It has focused on designing great experiences and providing value to its customers at every opportunity. But if there is one lesson to be learnt from this brand, it is to plan well, be patient and invest wisely. Spend the time building a relationship with your market and the rewards will be significant.

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