In its continued efforts to bridge the online and in-store experience, Sephora added buy online pick up in store this past spring and is working on an online chat service so shoppers can connect with its beauty experts.

With a 20-year-old ecommerce site, Sephora considers itself to be a serious contender in the online shopping space, says Carolyn Bojanowski, senior vice president, general manager, ecommerce at Sephora. And with COVID-19 shutting down stores in spring 2020, having an online presence became more important than ever.

But stores are back open now. “We’re getting new clients from online and bringing them into the store,” she says. Omnichannel services was one spot where Sephora needed improvement to help bring those online shoppers into its stores, she says.

“It’s so old school now to order online and ship to your house,” she says. “Now, there are lots of ways to enable consumers to shop with omnichannel.”

Last fall, Sephora launched reserve online, pick up in store, wherein shoppers could reserve an item to pick up at the store and pay once they’d picked up their item. “That was sort of a sniff test to see if people will be interested in this—and they absolutely were,” Bojanowski says.

Shortly after launching reserve online, pick up in store, Sephora started building the elements in-house that would connect payment, pricing and promotions to allow for online payment for BOPIS, Bojanowski says. Sephora then worked on implementing buy online pick up in store, launching it in April 2021 after working on it for about five months. The retailer declined to reveal the costs of BOPIS investment.

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“That has been a huge upgrade for us in terms of omnichannel experience,” she says. Now, it’s working on curbside pickup to launch in the near future, she says without revealing more.

Having these omnichannel services is also a good way to boost how much a customer spends during an in-store visit, she says. “Associates can add onto an order. ‘Are you picking up foundation? How about a brush to go with it?’ Those sorts of things,” Bojanowski says.

So far, the response to BOPIS has been positive with significant growth as the cosmetics retailer builds awareness about the service via homepage callouts, she says. “There are certainly [shoppers] who might not have closed a purchase for us without this feature, and it’s a way to increase conversion,” she says without revealing specifics.

Sephora’s Home Chat goes live

A live chat feature built in-house called Home Chat is another way Sephora is tapping into its stores and its associates to help shoppers find the right products. The cosmetics retailer is allowing store associates to work fewer hours at its retail stores in lieu of setting up the live chat feature at home. This way, associates can help answer online shoppers’ questions about products, do one-on-one beauty consultations and recommend products to purchase, as well as help shoppers navigate Sephora.com by teaching them about its features such as virtual try-on.

“I tried out being a beauty advisor [on Home Chat], and it was so cool because you’re in real-time helping a client,” Bojanowski says. “It’s very fast-paced versus a store experience where you’re taking your time. You’re able to answers questions pretty quickly, give them advice in a fast manner and it’s a satisfying experience on both ends.”

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Sephora has seen “a lot” of engagement with Home Chat and conversion is “phenomenal,” she says without revealing specifics. The retailer also declined to reveal the costs of Home Chat’s investment.

Right now, Home Chat is in the pilot phase after about a month of building it out and is only available for desktop shoppers. Sephora plans to roll it out to iOS mobile app shoppers at the end of July, to Android app shoppers in a couple of months, and will officially launch it in the fall in time for the holidays. Sephora is taking its time with the rollout and hasn’t gone “too loud and proud with it yet because we want it to be the best,” Bojanowski says.

Sephora continues tapping into apps

Sephora has a large app download and user population. For iOS, the beauty retailer has about 101,000 average monthly downloads, according to data collected from January 2021 through June 2021 from web measurement firm SimilarWeb. For Android app downloads, Sephora had an average of 118,700 downloads from January 2021 through June 2021, according to SimilarWeb. And for the month of June, it had about 69,000 active users. (Active user data is not available for iOS users.) Its app is ranked No. 66 in Shopping apps on iOS out of 2,036 apps in the Shopping category.

Sephora offers app-exclusive promotions for that customer base, Bojanowski says. It is planning app-only deals and offers for the holidays.

“It’s definitely something where we want to give our app clients something a little special and extra and keep them engaged,” she says.

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Sephora is excited about the upcoming holiday shopping season now that it has new omnichannel services and live chat features to lean on. “All these news features and functionality will make the shopping experience for the holidays easy and fun,” Bojanowski says. “All this work we’ve done during and after the pandemic will make the client experience better.”

Sephora is owned by parent company LVMH, No. 3 in the Digital Commerce 360 Europe 500.

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