Take it from Sephora, social shopping should be a priority

          Nicole Melton

Sephora has officially launched its own social network, Beauty Board and after playing around on Beauty Board for much longer than I'd like to admit—it's somewhat addictive if you're a beauty girl like me—I've come to two conclusions: Sephora knows what beauty shoppers want and Sephora is not afraid to take risks when it comes to social shopping and digital innovation.

The platform allows users to upload photos of their own makeup or hairstyle, add a caption and tag the beauty products used so other viewers can shop the exact products used to create the look. Beauty Board lives on sephora.com for desktop and in the already-existing Sephora app for mobile.

Historically, Sephora has always been ahead of the pack when it comes to connecting with consumers online. In 2012, the company rolled out iPads in stores where customers could shop online while standing right in the retail store aisles. The same year, Sephora added "Pin It" buttons to all of its products online so users could easily share their fave beauty finds on Pinterest. The company was also behind efforts like ColorIQ, which tests users' skin tone to find the perfect foundation, and also offers one of the best e-commerce sites in the industry in which each item is tagged from among 102 different dimensions to make searching simple.

Sephora has a core understanding that beauty shoppers love (love!) reading makeup blogs, viewing YouTube tutorials and following multiple beauty accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. Sephora also knows that today's consumer is glued to her iPhone. In fact, consumers spend 3.3 hours each day using their smartphones according to data from ExactTarget.

Sephora shoppers also dominate social media. A Pew Research study found that women outnumber men in their usage of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. 

"The customer who shops across channels is a lot more valuable," said Johnna Marcus, Sephora's director of mobile and digital store marketing, at the National Retail Federation's Big Show. "Our app and website are really to help the consumer. We've figured out how to use the mobile experience to customize the shopping experience." Marcus also noted that Sephora saw a 150 percent boost in mobile traffic last year.

So Sephora knows exactly what it's doing here. The retailer knows that its mostly female customer base is full of social media power users who never leave home without their phones. Not only does Sephora understand this, but it has invested the resources into using these attributes to build community while generating sales.

Sephora's new social endeavor gives beauty enthusiasts the chance to interact with the retailer on its own real estate, while also giving Sephora even more intel on what its users are purchasing. I wouldn't be surprised if I get an email soon about the products I tagged to my photo on Beauty Board.

If Sephora can take social shopping to this level, why can't other retailers do it, too? User generated content should be high on the list of things retailers should be looking into, because platforms like Beauty Board are a win-win no matter how you look at it. --Nicole

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