While shopping at JC Penny early this year, my routine Women’s Apparel route to Home Furnishings was unexpectedly blocked by an enclosed shopping area distinguished by a darker-light ambiance and music. Realizing the department store, like many brinks-and-mortar retailers had experienced financial performance issues due to stagnant sales, my first reaction was a fear that perhaps JC Penny’s had sold floor space to one of my least-favorite retailers like Spencer Gifts. To assuage my concerns, I ventured around the corner and entered through the mini-store front. Not familiar with the name Sephora but finding large colorful cosmetic displays, a Beauty Studio and lots of glam images, the new space felt very “JC Penny’s-ish,” enough to dissuade my fears so I could continue on to my bedsheet purchase. Later, I discovered my local mall’s JC Penny’s store was one of 500 other Sephora store-within-a-store locations, a move that has proved profitable for the troubled retailer while extending France-founded Sephora bricks-and-mortar in the US to a 12% US beauty market share.
Sephora brings its low-pressure, consumer empowering, leisurely hands-on consumer premium product testing to 3,000 sq. ft. floor plans, it recently opened its initial smaller 1,000 sq. ft. Flash boutique concept store at 66 rue de Rivoli in Paris, set to become ultimate connected consumer experience allowing them to shop 150 beauty product brands. Sephora’s Flash Boutique is its first blended physical and digital marketing channel offering that gives them immediate physical access to best-selling products while offering them combined purchase, digital shopping cart access through various tablets, terminals and digital display shelves to the company’s full 14,000 product-line. The concept offers specialized technology experiences like a selfie-mirror that allows customers to view the results of their own product-testing or the use of the virtual make-up artist applications that gave personalized step-to-step guidance on make-up contouring, while providing store visitor phone-charging stations. “We’re completely focused on making shopping more efficient, intelligent and fun for our clients, according to Julie Bornstein, chief marketing and digital office for Sephora.
Sephora’s penetration of digital-to-physical retail sales is double that of the prestige beauty industry, driving sales for the retailer.
Technology innovations include the company’s existing Sephora-To-Go mobile app for iPhones and its augmented reality features that allows customers to interact with content based on nine popular beauty brand founds as well as opt-in loyalty and birthday club in-store personalized beacon alerts. Since beauty and cosmetic products are best-suited for in-store testing before purchase, Sephora’s boutique strategy is to make the in-store experience sufficiently eventful that customers shun online replenishment from other retailers through Sephora’s digital on in-store shopping channels.
I appreciate retailers who beyond the smart phone to innovate disruptive physical-digital shopping experiences that provide consumers with “purchase now” options as well as online purchase for home delivery or store pickup. New Sephora Flash Boutiques are expected to launch world-wide in the near future: Would you like one to open near you? Tell me more, in the comments below.
Or read more about Sephora and the shift to retail connected consumers
Sarah Halzach writes about “The Sephora effect: How the cosmetics retailer transformed the beauty industry”
Ernesto Sosa writes about “The Rise of the Connected Consumer for the Retail Industry”