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Sephora Buys Scentsa

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A while back STORES predicted that retailers would look to acquire technology companies. Some have -- witness Walmart’s investment in Walmart Labs and Nordstrom’s numerous investments in e-commerce businesses a la HauteLook, Bonobos and, more recently, Wantful.

Both are huge players in the retail arena, but the one most experts didn’t see coming was last month’s announcement that Sephora had acquired Scentsa, a software startup that developed the beauty retailer’s touchscreen Fragrance Finder back in 2008 and its Color IQ system last year.

Sephora, a $2.6 billion chain, did not reveal how much it paid for the startup, but chief digital officer Julie Bornstein told All Things D that the reasons for buying included achieving long-run cost effectiveness, developing new in-store products more rapidly and keeping the technology from winding up in the hands of competitors.

If someone had predicted even a short time ago that women would embrace the use of technology to pick a scent or to get a more precise color match for their foundation, plenty would have scoffed at the idea -- especially women, who typically view beauty and cosmetics as a high-touch category.

By blending beauty and technology, Sephora keeps raising the bar. In other words, this move is likely just the first.