Highlighting Self-Care Gadgets and Digital Visits, Sephora Sees 75% Progress in Ecommerce This 12 months
When Sephora was founded in France in 1970, the store offered beauty products consumers a new and unique experience. The open-sell environment enabled shoppers to “stand behind the counter”, so to speak, and improve on the traditional department store model that relied on commission-based interaction with an advisor at the beauty counter.
The brand opened its first store in the United States in 1998 to give Americans the chance to try products before they invest in them and create an experience that many beauty consumers still associate primarily with Sephora stores. But just a year later, the company also launched its online shop, making its product range available to fans who did not have access to a retail location in their hometown.
This early launch of the e-commerce channel meant Sephora had two decades of experience and innovation in the March pandemic, as lockdown orders required the temporary closure of its retail locations, according to Sephora’s SVP and general manager of e-commerce. Carolyn Bojanowski. Since the pandemic, Sephora has seen 75% growth in its e-commerce business.
In the past few months, the company has also made changes to how its in-store try-on options and expedited cleaning procedures, Bojanowski said, to ensure safety and social distancing measures are in place to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19 at its locations.
“It was amazing to see how business reacted,” said Bojanowski. “We only wanted to open when it felt safe, not just for our employees but also for our customers.” This meant stopping most of the traditional tester process and closely monitoring local regulations regarding visitor capacity and mask mandates.
Sephora has also added new services to its online store that create a virtual shopping option for consumers, so people can get expert advice on products without leaving their homes and expanding payment options. There are even advanced payment options like Klarna’s “Buy Now, Pay Later” program, which was added in May and has proven to be the most popular with shoppers under the age of 20, Bojanowski said.
“The nice thing about Klarna is that we have seen adoption online pretty quickly. The next thing we need to do is use it in stores as well,” she said.
Many of Sephora’s sales trends followed or responded to the reality of the moment, Bojanowski added, with candles, face masks (the kind that pamper your skin rather than the kind that protect strangers from your germs) and other self-care products that prove to be am best proven popular during the pandemic.
Consumers have also focused more on over-the-mask products like eyebrow pencils and shapers, as well as treatment options for “mask-ne” – the pimples that form under these face masks. “We worked with our brand partners to develop a lot of content on how to deal with it,” said Bojanowski. “It’s a thing.”