Sephora Dishes On Its Loyalty Program


Many companies consider a loyalty program nothing more than a key-fob card that records purchases. But beauty retailer Sephora uses the data it gathers from its Beauty Insider program to customize and personalize communications based on such factors as skin type, eye and hair color, body size, and designer preference.

As a result, Beauty Insider's membership is growing "exponentially, with significant increases every month," says Shannon Smith, Sephora's director of CRM. Marketing director Tiffany Lei adds that members of the program now outnumber nonmembers in Sephora's email database, though she did not reveal specifics.

Sephora works with Acxiom on the personalized program, which launched in September 2007. Customers are asked to create an updatable online profile listing their pertinent physical attributes and preferences to receive relevant offers and discounts. "If we have a specific promotion, like a sample giveaway where we have a limited number of products, we can target our customers based on their profiles," Smith says.

Sephora can also market items like skin-care products on a skin-type basis (oily, dry, or normal), and even use past purchase data to make product recommendations. "We're always looking for relevance," Smith says.

Time to reorder?
The company is now starting to highlight its online product replenishment feature, where customers can sign up for product reminders at three- , six- , or 12-month intervals, which then automatically triggers reminder emails.

Lei notes that the company is also experimenting with sending out replenishment emails even to customers who haven't signed up for the reminders, based on past purchases and the expected lifespan of a particular product. For example, eyeliner has a different shelf-life than foundation, she says, and a "note that it may be time for a customer to reorder her favorite shade of lipstick is usually a welcome extension of our personalized relationship."

Initial results for the soft-launch of the replenishment reminder program have been positive. "As a result, we are working to roll out an even more robust replenishment program," Lei says.

As to its overall strategy, "Sephora believes that the client comes first and we want her experience to be tailored to her needs," Lei says. "In our stores, they can test, play [with], and sample any of our products as well as get tips, recommendations, and advice from our experts. We want to bring that personal service to our clients online as best we can. It's about making shopping easy, fun, and relevant."

"Most of our marketing is done in-house," Smith adds. "We have our own Web development team and writers, so we strive to make all our cross-channel and cross-marketing efforts have the same voice." The team collaborates on all of Sephora's retail, online, and marketing efforts, she says. "The story we tell in the stores, on the website, and through emails are consistent and support each other. As a result, we provide a seamless experience for the client."

In addition, Sephora creates dynamic, feature-rich HTML email communications for shipping confirmations. Previously, such communiqu?were sent as plain text messages, leaving little room for branding, upsell or cross- sell opportunities, or reporting capabilities to measure Sephora's return on investment.

"Part of our brand is that we're very fun, and that we have beautiful imagery," Lei says. "HTML allows us to convey our personality in ways that a text email doesn't."

As an example, Lei points to emails that feature inserts at the bottom with personalized products based on a customer's Beauty Profile. "For instance, the eye shadow color featured is based on eye color," she says. "Someone with blue eyes receives a brown shade, while someone with brown eyes receives a green shadow. Likewise, we feature a lip gloss color that best matches your skin tone.

"Those two rules," she adds, "result in 25 different versions of the email. 'Dynamic' insertion of the personal recommendations is based on business rules rather than my team needing to manually create 25 different iterations."

All of these tactics make for a holistic customer loyalty strategy, Lei says. It's about a lot more than rewards. It's about the experience.