The French brand, Sephora, is a multinational retailer that offers personal care and beauty products that include cosmetics, skincare, body, fragrance, nail color, beauty tools, body lotions, and hair care. The unique brand name, Sephora, is adopted from the Greek word ‘sephos’, meaning beauty, and the Greek spelling of Zipporah, the wife of Moses.
Founded in the year 1969 in Limoges, France, as a perfume shop, Sephora first launched in Paris a year later, in 1970. Dominique Mandonnaud acquired Sephora in 1993 and proceeded to merge his own chain of fragrances with the Sephora brand. It was he, who designed and implemented the unique ‘assisted self-service’ sales gimmick, a new approach in the then cosmetics market service-based retail approach. This model encouraged customers to test the products at the retail stores before actually purchasing them. Under his leadership, the brand expanded and opened its flagship store in 1997 at Champs Elysees. In the same year in July, Mandonnaud parted ways and sold Sephora to the LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) Group.
The LVMH Group expanded Sephora globally while simultaneously also broadening the brand’s product repertoire to include beauty and cosmetic products. It extended its Middle Eastern market presence in the year 2007, opening 44 stores in UAE and KSA. The brand operates more than 430 stores across North America. In the year 2017, it opened its largest retail store in New York City. A year later, in 2018, Sephora signed a long-term lease at Thor Equities’ Town Square Metepec, which is a retail and entertainment center in Mexico. December 2020 saw Sephora announcing its plans to launch Sephora inside 850 Kohl locations by the year 2023. In the year 2021, it agreed to purchase Feelunique.com for a rumored amount of 132 million pounds. Feelunique.com is an online retailer of luxury beauty goods and boasts 1.3 million active customers spread across 120 countries. It features more than 800 brands selling more than 35,000 products.
The Brand that Revolutionized Make-up Consumption
With a presence in more than 35 countries, Sephora currently operates more than 2700 stores and is a 36,000-strong workforce brand, selling over 250 beauty brands. Its rise to a prominent industry leader is due to its smart and strategically profitable business practices. A study of the brand’s business practices reveals that it can be categorized into three main approaches.
Vast Choice of Beauty Products
Being a part of the LVMH Group means that several cosmetics brands sold within Sephora stores are owned by the LVMH Group. Sephora also has its exclusive product line. The retailer giant’s popularity has made it a prime choice for high-end cosmetic brands, resulting in Sephora’s market leadership. A customer walking into a Sephora store can find a vast range of beauty products to choose from, making it the store of choice. This has also resulted in Sephora having a loyal customer base as well as influencer marketing videos sharing the products bought by them from Sephora.
Customer Retail Approach
The traditional sales practice of the cosmetics industry was a brand sales representative behind the counter helping customers make purchases. Sephora disrupted this practice with its new and unique ‘assisted self-service’ encouraging customers to try the products which were openly displayed in the store. Beauty Advisors were present and ready to help if asked. Secondly, the product display within the store was category based rather than brand based, contrary to convention. This meant that all make-up items were grouped next to each other, whereas a skin-care product from the same brand would be stocked in the skin-care aisle. The cosmetics retailer giant-built trust amongst its customers with its brand-agnostic attitude.
In the year 2007, Sephora initiated a customer loyalty program named ‘The Beauty Insider’, to offer a sense of exclusivity to their customers. Two years later, in 2009, a second layer named ‘Very Important Beauty Insider’ (VIB) was added to the program and again in 2013 a third layer was added called ‘The Rouge Tier’. This free loyalty program is only for their customers in USA and Canada. This three-tier program has a distinct set of incentives attached to each tier. It allows customers to earn points on every dollar they spent at Sephora. Also based on the membership tier, customers have access to exclusive events. This loyalty program is updated from time to time for relevancy and to offer better benefits to its customers.
Of course, Sephora reaps benefits from the data it gathers from the loyalty program about its customers buying patterns and product preferences. This data is analyzed and used later for personal marketing.
Sephora, as a brand, takes inclusivity seriously when referring to its customer base. With newer cosmetics brands coming to the market every day, Sephora has been conscious about filling its product shelf space with black-owned brands. The retailer has also been proactively asking its member brands to expand their product line and include products that suit customers from different racial backgrounds and ethnicities. Sephora also launched ‘Color IQ’, a technology that helps their customers to select cosmetic products that suit their skin tone most naturally.
Being a part of the large conglomerate, LVMH, allows Sephora the advantage of quickly jumping on trends within the cosmetics industry. A Sephora spokesperson articulated Sephora’s ideology aptly and said – “We want to be an unequivocal global leader in the Prestige Beauty space and a purpose-driven brand that is a transformative opportunity for everyone we touch.”
What makes Sephora different from other brands?
Sephora concentrates on higher-end products instead of selling drugstore products. The company also offers promotional prices for their loyal customers in the form of discounts and incentives.
What are the levels of membership in Sephora?
There are three levels of membership: Insider, VIB and Rouge. Achieving VIB or Rouge membership requires a minimum spend per year. All membership levels enjoy a variety of benefits made available by Sephora.
Do they do your makeup for free at Sephora?
If you visit a Sephora store in-person, you can take advantage of a free 15- to 20-minute makeover done by a beauty expert with no purchase required and no appointment necessary.
Is it free to be a member of Sephora?
It's a free loyalty program for customers in the US and Canada that allows customers to earn points on every purchase.