Sephora beautifies on-the-go direct marketing

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The global beauty industry brings in more than $230 billion annually in sales. One brand that has been on the cutting edge of e-commerce and e-mail marketing since 1993 is Sephora. Julie Bornstein, SVP of Sephora Direct, oversees Sephora.com, the “Beauty Insider” loyalty program, social media, online and mobile efforts.

Bornstein still sees the importance of traditional direct response, but she believes that online, e-mail and mobile are today's power channels for the on-the-go consumer.

Direct Connect: What are Sephora's vital direct marketing channels?
Julie Bornstein: Direct mail remains a good tool for our Beauty Insider program when we have an offer to put in our clients' hands, and e-mail continues to be an important piece of direct. While the space is noisy and there is skepticism about frequency and amount of e-mails, we continue to see it as a critical part of the program. But social media for us is the way to be out there for the future evolution of direct marketing. Certainly Facebook has played an amazing role in the evolution of the Web (Sephora has 850,000 fans), and other social networking, shopping and media sites are just as important.

DC: Can online social media create ROI?
Bornstein: Yes. It's a low investment and a great way to have a conversation with a consumer. It serves more purposes than just direct marketing; it's a way to engage with and get feedback on how consumers are responding to what you are doing. In fact, it's mostly a human resource investment, and while it costs some money, I think it has a positive effect on ROI.

DC: Are there pitfalls to playing in the social networking space?
Bornstein: You need to keep perspective on the size and the role it plays and not lose focus on the channels that are driving the volume. But I think carving out a focus that has the right perspective is important to becoming relevant in the social marketing space.

DC: Why did the Sephora recently launch Beauty Talk?
Bornstein: Customers have a huge interest in talking about make up, skincare and beauty and sharing results and experiences. So we wanted to create a modern day forum for beauty lovers everywhere. Beauty Talk is a deeper environment that offers a place for people to ask any questions they want. We are also building in a catalog of instructional and inspirational beauty videos and a place to ask our clients for feedback.

DC: How important is mobile marketing?
Bornstein: We launched our iPhone app last week and a month earlier a mobile Web site that works across platforms. We very much want to make our services available wherever the consumer is. You can go into a Sephora store on your phone and view new products, access your past purchases, and solve the age-old problem of not remembering what shade of lipstick you usually buy. You also have access to videos, can scan products to add to a shopping list, and read reviews. We really believe in leveraging these meaningful consumer technologies to improve the shopping experience.

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