Accelerating Agility: Ecommerce Marketing Lessons from Sephora

By Sharon Shapiro

Over the last several years, headlines about the doom and gloom facing retail were inescapable. But you’d never know it looking at Sephora.

So how does a retailer that’s already at the front of the pack continue to improve?

Making the Shift from a Product-Led to a Client-Focused Digital Marketing Strategy

Sephora attributes its sustained success to numerous factors, including their in-store experience that allows clients to experiment, play and learn about beauty trends and products.

From a digital marketing perspective, one of the most important pieces of the puzzle came when Sephora began testing email marketing communications to focus on a client-led digital strategy. The ideal with this new client-focused mindset was to look at customer data holistically to help create a much more targeted online experience for their shoppers.

“The way our campaigns were built led with product, but we also wanted to make sure there was a focus on the individual client and her experience with us. We developed clear objectives for what we wanted to accomplish around speed, workflows and sales impact,” shares Emmanuelle Paput, Director, CRM Strategy at Sephora.

For example, Paput shares that this shift led the Sephora team to develop their behavioral-based email program. Additionally, the team previously had rich data that allowed them to better understand their clients, but they began activating that data to optimize their targeted audience segments and engage with clients in ultra-relevant ways.

“Two years ago, we would send communications about a new product launch to our entire audience. Over the last couple of years we’ve moved toward a more targeted approach to be more relevant for our clients, and now we only send communications if it makes sense for each client. We feel that this has made a big impact on our clients’ experience with us,” Paput continues.

Staying Ahead of the Curve with Increased Testing Agility and Direct Access to Data

With an incredibly strong foundation in place, Sephora continues to make headlines. Still, the retailer remains restless.

The Sephora team wanted to push the envelope even further and continue to build on its momentum. By partnering with Bluecore, Sephora worked to enhance agility and access to data to achieve its goals, ultimately using Bluecore as a complementary solution to simplify the optimized targeting process.

“We were already in the mindset of getting more targeted with our marketing when Bluecore came in and provided real-time access to data to act on that mindset. We were leveraging internal predictive models to optimize targeting and get smarter about communicating to clients, and we leveraged Bluecore as a complementary solution to fill in data access gaps while building a long term data foundation,” Paput explains.

Marissa Contreras, Director, Retention Marketing at Sephora, details the value that comes with this accessibility. “With Bluecore we can simplify the lift from our cross-functional partners, instead enabling our marketing team to release, test and optimize emails on our own.”

Over the past several months, the Sephora team has run several tests to optimize their cart abandonment email, including testing different subject lines, promotional banner placement and featured content in cart abandonment emails. Most recently, they tested three different product recommendation strategies against their current recommendation strategy, and the results were telling, with one test approach outperforming the control by nearly 4x.

Contreras concludes: “Bluecore is a great marketing aid, putting the keys in our hands to optimize, iterate and execute new campaigns seamlessly, and that’s a huge differentiator from anything we’ve seen in the space.”

The Impact of Scaling Testing: It’s All About the Revenue

By using Bluecore, the Sephora team has found new areas of marketing agility to make a true business impact. As Paput puts it, the abilities to react to customer behaviors in real-time and test quickly allow Sephora to run more successful campaigns that drive revenue and foster long term loyalty.

“With Bluecore we are able to accelerate what we were already doing to fill certain gaps. We now run multiple tests per week across our different platforms, which allows us to see quickly what does and doesn’t work and then scale the successful pilots. That agility helps us drive client loyalty and build revenue opportunities,” Paput shares.

Your Inside Look at Sephora’s Digital Marketing Agility

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Sharon Shapiro

Sharon leads Bluecore's content marketing program, collaborating with top retailers and strategists to highlight the latest trends in retail marketing, spotlight industry leaders and share advice on how marketers can stay ahead of the curve. An experienced story teller, she has spent her career building content marketing programs for B2B SaaS companies. Sharon has had works featured in MarketingProfs and Content Science Review..