Innovation in cosmetics retail
Sephora is a cosmetics retailer with 1780 stores in 29 countries, which implemented numerous innovations to improve its digitalised beauty advice service over the years and achieved a significant expansion in sales. It uses a number of digital technologies to provide beauty advice to customers concerning product selection based on skin colour and facial structure. Its on-line sales penetration into physical sales grew twice the industry average in 2015, its sales growth being associated largely with its innovative service complemented by its prestige product (Thau 2015). The photo below shows a COLOR IQ device used by Sephora to identify the customer’s skin colour and match it with 1500 formulas available at the store.
A Sephora store is also equipped with a 3D augmented reality mirror that simulates cosmetics on a user’s face via a photo at real-time speed (Chan 2014). This digitalised experience attracted many consumers as the technology provides a feeling of trendiness and a perception of a differentiated quality product and service. Sephora also invested in mobile apps that serve as a virtual beauty adviser. By analysing the consumer’s photo, the apps can identify facial contours and offer personalised step-by-step guidance on how to use Sephora’s product to transform the facial look. This virtual tool and other digital devices replace the need to have full-time beauty professionals at its 1780 stores around the world, thus resulting in a structural cost reduction. Furthermore, these technology tools provide more consistent service than humans, which differentiates them from other cosmetics retailers.
Chan, J. 2014, ‘Retail technology trends’, Cornell Institute of Fashion and Fiber Innovation, 9 October, viewed 18 September 2016 , <https://www.human.cornell.edu/fsad/ciffi/upload/Jose-Chan-Presentation-CIFFI-Final.pdf>.
Thau, B. 2015, ‘Sephora bets big on digital growth with disruptive experiences’, Fortune, 6 March, viewed 2 September 2016, <http://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=http://www.forbes.com/sites/barbarathau/2015/03/06/sephora-grooms-digital-leaders-with-innovation-lab-debuts-mobile-experiences/&refURL=https://www.google.com.au/&referrer=https://www.google.com.au/>.