Sephora’s Subscription Success: Examining What Works

Rob Holthause

December 5, 2018

Sephora is the largest beauty retailer in the world, and the company has embraced digital since the early days of the internet. Their forward-thinking eCommerce strategies have given them a big leg up among young consumers, and resulted in tremendous international growth.

Sephora gets a lot of things right- customers are made to feel like part of a community, products can be tested at lash bars, and store reps are equipped with technology that unifies online and in-store experiences. But the one thing that will power their growth well into the future is their Play! subscription program.

Sephora designed Play! to send customers small samples each month based on a customer’s tastes.

To sign up for Play! customers are guided through a survey where they enter skin tone, eye and hair color, beauty concerns, and product preferences. This information is used to tailor boxes to better suit customers. Boxes are then sent on a monthly basis, with new products in each one. Sure, receiving a package is fun – especially if you don’t know what will be inside – and any subscription program an investment in ongoing revenue and customer experience. But there are a few understated things that Sephora does with Play! that set this program apart as an exceptional sales tool.

Subscriptions draw customers into stores

Included in each box is a card with 50 Beauty Insider points. Customers are given points as a thank you for subscribing, but ultimately, this card drives customers to brick-and-mortar locations to redeem the points. While in-store, customers can interact with beauty advisors, discover new products, and continue to engage with Sephora’s brand. The customer’s loyalty is rewarded with a gift promoting more loyalty.

New brands and product lines are discovered

While subscribers get to set their preferences, they don’t get to pick individual items. This means that Sephora can include items that the customer may not be familiar with, or may even have been averse to. This can be especially effective at moving a product that hasn’t performed as well, or simply introducing and promoting a new brand. Being able to try a sample first leads to a more likely purchase in the future.

Small sizes=big opportunity

The samples included in Play! boxes are small; some can only be used two or three times. This means that if a customer finds a product they can’t live without, they’ve got to purchase more of it quickly. There’s also the “surprise” factor- since the items can be used quickly, the box may not last very long, and customers could be left longing for more excitement without waiting until next month. It’s another way to drive customers into stores or onto the website.

Seeing boxes as a marketing opportunity

Each box sent to a subscriber is a marketing opportunity, and Sephora understands this. The boxes include pamphlets and Beauty Insider points, and the very act of sampling beauty products is marketing them. They have a strong email marketing campaign based around their Play! boxes. And the information collected on subscribers at signup? That can be used to tailor deals and campaigns that are more likely to suit the customer’s tastes.

Subscription boxes provide a tremendous amount of value for any CPG business. Sephora’s savvy implementation, excellent features, and relentless focus on providing an exceptional customer experience means that the Play! box program will provide growth and stability for the brand well into the future. To read the full 46-page CB Insights report, click this content here.


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