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Sephora's digital makeover: 3 tips for finding similar success

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Sephora is loving all things Pinterest, is mad about mobile, and has targeted social media strategies for YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. This innovative beauty retailer has social, mobile, and even digital programs in-store firing on all cylinders. And as we heard last month at the Digital Retail Marketing Workshop in San Francisco, they're honing their skills all the time.

Attendees had the pleasure of listening to Johnna Marcus, Director, Mobile and Digital Store Marketing at Sephora describe how the retailer is incorporating SoLoMo into their entire marketing strategy. As the buzz around SoLoMo continues to rise, it's no wonder the 100 digital retail marketers in the room were furiously taking notes. But to capture the essence of how Marcus said her team revamped, I've compiled three takeaways that digital retailers should look for and consider in their own digital makeovers.

Remember, it always comes down to user experience. Sephora's newly launched and optimized social site is truly a dynamic user experience. Reviews, how-to videos, inspirational beauty boards, and a forum dedicated to BeautyTalk are just a few ways Sephora has united the voice of the socially-connected and digitally-sophisticated consumer on their website. And let's not forget their inspiring YouTube channel which has well-over 10 million views alone. Most recently, Sephora integrated “Pin It” buttons on all of their web and mobile product page to allow for quick and easy sharing on Pinterest to compliment the editorial-inspired content on their boards. It will be interesting to watch how this socially-driven site redesign will impact customer experience, loyalty, and conversion.

Marry customer service and social media (and make the staffing commitment) to find success. It was wonderful to hear Marcus share how important it is to dedicate staff to answer questions and address customer's concerns. Perhaps the key to such a complimentary yet differentiated social strategy across all of the key platforms is that their team has dedicated staff including marketing pros, beauty experts, and customer service staff on hand. On Instragram specifically, Sephora gives their customers and fans a glimpse Inside Sephora. Behind the scenes snapshots, how-to’s, and authentic customer experiences are all captured as visual stories. It's no wonder that there are more than 33,000 followers to date (and counting.)

Embrace mobile to bring the in-store experience right to your customers hands. Marcus shared some powerful numbers on the use of mobile devices and the engagement with their brand on those devices. Of note, she identified that 50% of their clients open their emails on mobile devices; there have been millions of downloads of Sephora's apps to date; and their mobile sales saw a 300% increase in 2011. To reach their mobile-savvy customer base, Sephora made stunning additions to their app and mobile website to include information of nearly two million product ratings and reviews, added a critical find in store button, and created wishlists for customers to mark things they want to see in-person at their stores. And their tips for making all of this possible? Design for mobile first and focus on utility and usability, and target your messaging for the optimal usage times on smartphone and tablets. My favorite part of the deep digital dive was when Marcus brought up the very sensitive topic of showrooming. She noted that it is difficult to get around in our hyper-connected world, so multichannel retailers must make their app the preferred option for customers. When customers have apps as part of their shopping tools, retailers can begin to start fully owning the in-store experience with self-created content and enhanced customer service to foster even more loyalty.

Sephora's site redesign, social strategies, and mobile programs didn't come to life overnight. It took years of planning - and through their hard work Sephora's team has brought a personalized, social shopping experience to customers in a way that has bridged the gap between all shopping channels. And while we have always known Sephora for giving us beautiful products and makeovers, we’re excited to showcase them as one of our leading examples of a retailer that has had their site (literally) undergo one of the most beautiful makeovers of all: The makeover of the future of shopping, as we know it.