Sarah Jindal
Sarah Jindal is Senior Innovation and Insights Analyst, Beauty & Personal Care at Mintel. She lends her expertise to beauty clients in developing ingredient technologies.

Beauty Spot is a regular feature on The Mintel Blog, giving readers a virtual tour of the hottest beauty retail concepts in trend-setting cities around the globe…

Consumers have a wide variety of options when it comes to purchasing beauty products. Whether online or in-store, several components come into play and have an impact on purchase decisions. Price, convenience, variety of brands/products, availability of samples and beauty experts on-site can all be determining factors. Specialty beauty retailer Sephora has reinvented the way consumers shop for makeup by creating a robust in-store experience for shoppers while integrating digital aspects in an organic way. The opportunity to try products and ‘‘play” when shopping in Sephora is a big draw, especially for younger consumers.

Starting with successful brick-and-mortar outlets, Sephora moved seamlessly into online and mobile shopping. Now, the brand has ventured into the box subscription service space. “Play! by Sephora” allows shoppers the opportunity to try and play with products before committing to purchase. While Mintel’s Beauty Retailing US 2015 report finds that beauty box subscriptions only account for about 5% of total beauty product purchases, they reach an additional segment of the population for Sephora, increasing an already broad and loyal consumer base.

Sephora differentiates itself in a saturated market

In a landscape that is quickly becoming saturated with monthly box services of one variety or another, Sephora has taken a distinct approach with “Play!” in order to guarantee something different from what’s already available. Each monthly box is created around a specific theme and not only includes products, but a book with tips and tricks on using the various products, a pass for free one-on-one tutorials in-store, a custom Spotify playlist, and bonus samples.

The inaugural box, launched in September, is called “Uncover the Essentials.” It includes five deluxe makeup, haircare and skincare samples from brands like Marc Jacobs, Glamglow and Bumble + Bumble. Subscribers are encouraged to “join in the conversation” by sharing tips, tricks, reviews, and photos on Sephora’s website.

With a focus on digital innovation, Sephora also has four new digital experiences:

  1. In-store beacons allow shoppers to opt-in to receive personalized alerts on their smartphones.
  2. The Pocket Contour app analyzes face shape to help consumers choose the correct products, as well as how to apply them for the perfect, personalized contour.
  3. Augmented reality through the Sephora smartphone app enables shoppers to scan images to show additional content within the app.
  4. Sephora Flash is a new shipping program that frequent shoppers can enroll in to receive complimentary two-day shipping on all online purchases.

The addition of these new digital offerings has proven successful for Sephora in creating a well-rounded consumer experience, both in-store and online. While it remains to be seen how successful the new subscription box service will perform, it is a risk worth taking.

Sarah Jindal is Senior Innovation and Insights Analyst, Beauty and Personal Care, at Mintel. In her role she regularly interfaces with key beauty clients and lends her expertise developing ingredient technologies for beauty and personal care.