Sephora: not such a beautiful experience
Our intrepid PR Stef was in Canada over the holidays, and with rumours that beauty retail giant Sephora is heading to the UK; she decided to check out the retailer’s ‘free 45-minute makeover if you spend $50 or more’. Was it the treat she hoped, or did Sephora’s much vaunted omnichannel experience fail to deliver in reality?
“Things were a bit shaky before we even got to the shop. There were four of us for our girlie pamper afternoon (two late 40-somethings and an 18 and 16-year old), so we hoped to book in pairs at least, as the prospect of hanging around for four hours while we all got seen was a bit much, even for us die-hard beauty shop browsers. No such luck. Bookings are online only and, even with multiple makeup artists in store, you can only book one person per slot online. We rang the store but no one ever answered (we later found out the phone is out back, so no one can hear it ring!). But on we went.
We all got basic confirmation and reminder emails, but they massively missed a trick by not including a quick online Q&A about what you want out of your makeover as well as your vital stats (age, skin type etc). Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted with the right names (unlike Sara at her luxury day spa!), but wasted the first 15 minutes of makeover time discussing our needs, followed by the MUA searching the store for the right products for each of us, which could have easily been avoided.
While the artists were friendly, the makeovers themselves were inconsistent. It seems Sephora MUAs can only apply makeup to young people. The teenagers looked fantastic, but us two ‘almost 50s’ were left disappointed. The MUAs simply didn’t seem to know how to deal with a few crow’s feet and dark under eye circles with product choices or application. We actually looked OLDER post-makeover, and I usually look late 30s when I put makeup on myself.
Obviously the quid pro quo is the post-makeover product sales pitch. As I was gifting the teenagers $100 each for products, I said that I wasn’t interested now, but might purchase a couple of products later on. But I wasn’t even given the cost-effective ‘old school’ makeup card to remind of what was used, let alone a digital version. The day after the makeover I received a ‘thank you for coming to Sephora’ email. No list of products used linking back to them online, let alone a ‘if you liked these products, maybe you’ll also like these’. Another missed opportunity to endear me to the brand or to sell more. And there was no customer experience survey to help the brand improve things either. Colour this beauty junkie very unimpressed indeed.”
What’s clear is that, no matter the brand’s price point, there’s still much work to be done in joining up the dots to make beauty into a truly integrated experience. Client Services Director Sara had the same issue at her luxury day spa experience. Sure, the physical environment looks fabulous. Sure there is digital technology everywhere. Sure, the products and packaging appealing. But if the basic dots aren’t joined up to result in a fabulous customer experience and increased sales for the brand, it all seems like a bit of sound and fury at the moment. And that’s not even labouring beauty’s ongoing problem with ageism we covered in Open Eye - Older. We’re watching with keen interest to see how Sephora fares when it hits this side of the Atlantic!