Sephora's Flash could make shipping twice as fast

Last week Sephora announced Flash, a subscription-based service that offers shoppers unlimited two-day free shipping for $10 a year. According to StellaService's e-commerce data, Flash will double the speed of the retailer's shipping. StellaService used the retailer's 2014 e-commerce performance to inform its calculations.

"At a high level, StellaService evaluates retailer performance based on how brands perform across various customer service touchpoints," said Emily Kolodner, senior research associate, StellaService." Fulfillment is a major focus when it comes to online shopping, and this new initiative shows that Sephora will be another retailer leading the charge in this movement."

All fulfillment deliveries to Sephora customers originated from two destinations last year, 27 percent of which came from a warehouse in Baltimore and 73 percent of which came from Salt Lake City.

Regardless of origin, 81 percent of packages shipped via UPS Ground took an average of 4.4 days to deliver. So while a majority delivered in the three- to six-day range, only 13 percent arrived in two days.

Two-thirds of the packages that arrived in two days, using Sephora's standard delivery option, were shipped from Baltimore to the Northeast.

Sephora charges $5.95 for shipping, with a $50 threshold for free shipping. Free shipping is a major driver of sales for shoppers in the United States. In fact, in a recent comScore and UPS study, 58 percent of online shoppers said they would add items to their cart to qualify for free shipping. In keeping with consumer demand, Target (NYSE:TGT) recently announced plans to lower its free shipping threshold to $25 per order.

"In the larger scope of e-commerce, we expect Sephora Flash to encourage consumer loyalty by adding an extra layer of convenience and premium service for online shoppers," Kolodner said. "Customers across every region will benefit from the investment. As shoppers become increasingly aware of the cost and speed of shipping, it's easy to see how retailers can use these fulfillment perks to their advantage. Offering their consumers premium service via existing fulfillment channels is just another way in which omnichannel retailers will stay competitive."

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