Case Studies / Mobile Marketing

Sephora Mobile – a Retail Case Study

Sephora has built a reputation as a big player in mobile.  A quick web search leads to dozens of articles, case studies and interviews with and about Sephora and how they have boosted their beauty & fragrance empire with an integrated mobile strategy.  Although Sephora were late to mobile, they have been fast learners.  These days they are more likely first to market, such as with recent innovations incorporating Pinterest and Apple’s passbook solution to their strategy.

The Sephora mobile strategy is wide ranging and complex, but there are a few key themes that emerge time and again. First and foremost, Sephora is customer focussed, rather than technology focussed. They design the ultimate customer experience first, and then develop the technology to support it.  Secondly, with the customer in mind, Sephora develop integrated, cross-channel strategies that merge seamlessly for the customer.  Sephora customers move from catalogue, to website, to mobile app, to passbook, to in-store promotion, to product scanning and back to mobile app without skipping a beat.  It takes a solid understanding of all these channels to pull this off, and that’s the third and final element of the Sephora mobile strategy that jumps out .  Sephora know digital. They know how mobile fits into the bigger picture, on and offline, and they understand how to combine and move between channels in a way that makes sense to their customers.

Sephora have their hands in mobile web & apps, smartphones & tablets, social sharing, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, video, search, email, SMS, QR codes, mobile commerce, digital loyalty using Passbook and more.  To grasp the many layers of Sephora’s strategy I’ve pulled together a summary of the elements that make up the strategy, and some examples of how they implement campaigns to support these elements.

Sephora has chosen to pursue an Apple only strategy in mobile apps, based on a measurable link between Sephora and Apple customers.  Aside from the brand demographics, Sephora noted that more than 70% of their mobile web traffic came from Apple devices.  This led their strategy to develop iPhone and iPad apps ahead of any investment in apps for the Android Operating System.  The strategy reflected a good understanding of the Sephora customer but doesn’t necessarily suggest the same approach for any other brand, globally or locally.  Without solid supporting data, a focus on iOS alone may not be the best long term approach, given Android’s growing market share in Australia and globally.

About Sephora

  • Sephora is a fragrance and beauty retailer (in fact the world’s largest)
  • They have 300 stores in the US and an additional 1300 worldwide
  • Sephora began implementing a mobile strategy in 2010, focussing on the US only

Overview of Sephora’s Current Mobile Strategy

  • Mobile website
  • iPhone application
  • iPad application
  • Passbook Integration and mobile gift cards
  • Deep Integration with Pinterest
  • Mobile shopping
  • Mobile integration with in-store POS system
  • Product scanning in store (2D barcodes and QR codes)
  • Seamless experience across pricing, functionality & promotions
  • Active promotion of mobile features across all channels
  • Currently testing iPads in 20 stores to let customers navigate products and services while in store

Overview of Mobile Results and Performance

  • 1/3 of all traffic to the Sephora website is from mobile and tablet devices
  • Over 50% of Sephora’s emails are opened on mobile or tablet devices
  • Mobile website (full shopping and Beauty Insider)
  • Mobile orders were up 167% in the last year
  • Traffic to mobile up 75%
  • More than 2 million downloads of Sephora apps
  • 400,000 new Beauty Insider sign ups within 3 months
  • 600,000 Sephora customers have now registered the BI cards in
  • 140,000 Pinterest followers (recent Pinterest campaign generated 14,000 repins)
  • Pinterest followers spend 15 times more on Sephora products than Facebook Followers
  • Passbook users spend twice as much annually and purchase twice as frequently as average Sephora customers.

Sephora Beauty Insider Club

  • Existing loyalty program for loyal customers of Sephora
  • Customers were advised they can take their loyalty card online
  • Smartphone and iPad app can be linked to Beauty Insider program
  • Customers can sync their BI account to the apps
  • Customer can create wish lists to access when in store
  • Beauty Insider login enables moving between channels
  • Customers can use the BI card in Passbook to earn reward points for purchase

Sephora Mobile Website

  • Accessible from all devices
  • Mobile shopping
  • Beauty Insider Account


Sephora To Go iPhone App

  • Mobile Shopping
  • Beauty Insider Account
  • Product scan
  • Passbook integration
  • Focuses on the customer on the go and in the store
  • Scan codes in store to get ratings review and other product info
  • Launch promoted on catalogues

Sephora iPad App

  • Branded content
  • Equivalent of a glossy mag
  • Video and social media
  • Articles on beauty trends

Sephora Pinterest Strategy

  • Pin It buttons on every product page
  • Sephora Staff encouraged to curate ‘It Lists’ on Pinterest
  • Pinterest specific email campaigns
  • Products can be pinned from emails
  • Boards reflect email design

Sephora Passbook Strategy

  • Since launching on Passbook more than 2 million app downloads
  • Was supported by Apple with a featured placement in iTunes.
  • This led to a large increase in BI sign ups
  • Push messaging for sales and promotions
  • 600,000 Sephora customers have now registered the BI cards in Passbook.
  • Passbook users are Sephora’s most active customers

Sephora eGift Cards

  • In 2012 launched mobile and online gift cards
  • Online and Mobile Gift cards can be synced into Passbook
  • Customers can send gift cards to friends, they accept and add to Passbook
  • Physical gift cards can be added to Passbook as well using a code

Sephora Campaign examples

  • Mobile Media banners promoting seasonal colour themed products for purchase on
  • Mobile media campaigns supported by in-store, email, social media and web components
  • iPhone app launch supported by offline media including QR codes and catalogues as well as email and web
  • SMS push to advise customers they can port beauty insider card to passbook
  • Push messaging  via iPhone and iPad apps to alert users about holiday shopping events, product launches,
  • Push messaging in Passbook to advise about sales and promotions
  • Posters placed in stores with gift ideas that can be scanned to purchase and be delivered to gift recipient
  • Marketing emails promoting events and promotions, with offers that can be printed, a code used online or saved to Passbook.
  • Marketing emails promoting Pinterest activity such as seasonal colours, offers and new boards.

There is a lot to learn from the way Sephora has implemented their mobile strategy.  For local retailers,  integration with existing loyalty programs makes excellent sense as a first step into mobile. Rolling out mobile commerce is a natural progression, and the use of services like Passbook enable promotions, offers and coupon redemption without the need to build custom technology.  The use of Pinterest to extend a desirable product catalogue harnesses the power of the customer for sharing and promoting your offering. Finally, the biggest lesson here is the value of integrated channels.  Sephora has driven significant value from connecting in-store and offline media with mobile apps and utilising multiple channels to build awareness.  Email, SMS, Mobile Media, QR Codes and loyalty programmes have been put to good effect in supporting consistent brand messaging throughout.

For more information about Sephora’s mobile strategy, and details about some of the above campaigns and mobile elements, check out the following articles:

Inside Sephora’s Mobile Strategy (

How Sephora Views the Future of Mobile (

What Sephora Can Teach You About Mobile Retail (

Sephora flaunts limited edition collection via mobile advertising  (

Sephora syncs iPhone app release with multilevel-campaign (

Authintic Interview with Sephora VP of Digital Marketing (



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