Sephora details its smartphone innovations, such as location-specific messages, chatbot appointment booking and virtual try on during the IRCE keynote address.

Engaging mobile functionality is the glue that holds together Sephora USA Inc.’s customers across channels, Mary Beth Laughton, senior vice president, digital, told attendees in a keynote address today at the 2017 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, which runs through Friday at McCormick Place in Chicago.

“Mobile is such a key part of our client’s journey with us,” Laughton said.

In fact, 80% of store shoppers use a smartphone before or during a shopping trip, she said. The retailer designs its mobile features by keeping store shopping in mind and by thinking beyond commerce to inspire and educate consumers, she said. In the past few years Sephora has invested in several smartphone features that can help feed consumers’ “mobile addiction,” Laughton said.

For example, Sephora is dabbling with location-based mobile messages. The retailer recently began selling a high-end fragrance called Jo Malone that was initially only available online and in a few stores. Sephora sent a targeted message to shoppers that lived near the stores where the fragrance was available to letting them know. Store associates then noticed shoppers coming in and going straight to the Jo Malone area of the store, which was proof to Sephora that the messages work, Laughton said.

The retailer also recently launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger called the Sephora assistant, which lets a consumer book a class or service with Sephora, which also helps drive traffic to stores. To help store shoppers, Sephora puts useful features front and center on its mobile app home page, such as a customer’s loyalty points, previous purchases and a scanner that lets her scan a product and access its ratings and reviews.


“We really do believe that mobile can be her in-store companion,” Laughton said.

The retailer also knows that when shoppers are on a mobile device, they are often on the go or in a time-constrained moment. For this reason, Sephora ensures that when it sends messages to shoppers on smartphones that the content is highly relevant, such as a mobile-exclusive deal or early access to an event, which drives urgency and excitement; or that the content is “bite sized,” such as a brief article or tip, so she can digest it while on the go.

Roughly 53% of visitors to in May came from a mobile device, according to traffic measurement firm SimilarWeb. This figure does not include mobile app users.

Sephora’s virtual artist, which allows app users to try on lipsticks, eyelashes and eye shadows via augmented reality, has had millions of try-ons since its launch in 2016, Laughton said.

The goal for these innovations is to drive long-term loyalty, Laughton told Internet Retailer after the keynote. The investment is “a lot,” Laughton said without revealing specifics, but Sephora wouldn’t be investing if it wasn’t providing solid returns, she added.

Sephora is No. 136 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000.