make up shopper Sephora

Humans have always had similar motivations for shopping. These usually follow the lines of some well-trodden psychological frameworks involving security, sustenance, sex, and status.

As consumers, we are arguably still driven by these factors, but new drivers are also emerging. Those drivers are already being adopted by Sephora, one of the biggest players in beauty – and it holds lessons for grocery businesses.

One thing Sephora does particularly well is offering a speedy experience. This is important in any online model, but it should be built into bricks & mortar models too. It’s not just about the behind-the-scenes tech that leads to a more sophisticated end-to-end experience, it’s also ensuring product discoverability is simple for the consumer – whether they’re looking for a new brand of pesto or the latest Fenty lipstick shade.

This has led to the growing importance of curation in beauty retail, and it is something Sephora does well: offering handpicked products to guide customers on their purchasing journey. This is mirrored in-store with a roster of curated services and interactive merchandise stands that enhance this discovery process. They allow customers the freedom to explore, test, share and be entertained, as well as be with others and feel excited about a purchase.

One of the biggest challenges for many beauty brands – and for grocery retailers too – is grab the attention of shoppers. Consumers  must want to shop at your store, which means your proposition has to be attractive to them and suit their values. A genuine focus on sustainability and social responsibility is now a huge driver of shopping behaviour, and Sephora has been instrumental in championing this in its marketing and its choice of inclusive brands.

Crucially, Sephora has masterfully created a community for its customers. Its tiered ‘Beauty Insider’ programme provides customers with exclusive discounts and gifts. The higher you reach in the programme, the more exclusive the perks – from special invite-only VIP events through to custom makeovers. 

In North America alone, Beauty Insider boasts 17 million members, which are responsible for 80% of its overall sales. The real care at the heart of programme has helped build a new attitude to shopping  – creating a sense of trust and belonging for customers, and elevating them to another level of loyalty. This is something supermarkets have struggled to do through their loyalty schemes, which often seem like a penalty for non-inclusion rather than a perk for signing up.

Great retail experiences are fuelled by the drivers of loyalty, speed and values. It’s no surprise Sephora’s flagship London store has exceeded all expectations. By understanding the complex cultural landscape of the UK and the London community, Sephora has been able to create a heady mixture with community at its heart. Big-name grocery brands should take note.