After reading the good news on Sephora being named retail innovator of the year by Strategy Magazine, we had to dig deeper and see what this retail innovation thing was all about.

It turns out Sephora has taken great strides to digitize their stores and create new and innovative ways to connect with their customers including pop-ups at festivals, in-store appearances from beauty brand founders and influencers and Beauty Bikes offering custom consultations on-the-go.

Strategy reports that Toronto’s overhauled Yorkdale Shopping Centre store includes an area for up to 10 customers to have group beauty classes, gain access to self-guided tutorials on iPad stations or use “The Beauty Board,” the retailer’s shoppable gallery on a digital screen of user-generated content. Personal stations also have their own iPads, USB ports and Wi-Fi access, allowing customers to browse and share looks on the digital screen and online.

After reading about the Virtual Artist in the Sephora app, we had to try it out. Using a smartphone’s camera and tech developed by ModiFace, the tool maps a user’s face and allows them to virtually try on false eyelashes and every lip colour and gloss sold through Sephora using augmented reality.

Sephora’s initiatives paint a great digital story, but we can’t forget how offline initiatives play a part in innovation too. In this case, retail innovation has more to do with grasping, incorporating and customizing the user experience to reach beyond, not just their computers, tablets and cell phones but also outside of the brick-and-mortar box to sink into the real-time needs and preferences of the consumer.


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