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One of beauty’s largest retailers has a bold new goal: to increase customer interaction and sell more products by creating its own social media platform, which will launch to consumers in March.

This story first appeared in the January 31, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Called Beauty Board, the platform adds a photo-gallery-like experience and links it to Sephora’s other social media communities — Beauty Talk, The Glossy and Sephora TV. Users will be able to upload and share their own photos and click on others to see product details and shop any products that are tagged in the photo. There will be Web, iOS and mobile Web functionality so users can upload photos via mobile devices, and Sephora’s brick-and-mortar doors will have their own profiles on the platform, driving content and in-store engagement.

“The concept is that pictures are everywhere, and we know that beauty lovers love to see ideas for looks and products to buy,” said Julie Bornstein, chief marketing and digital officer of Sephora Americas. “Beauty Board is taking a lot of what consumers at large are doing and making it more practical — a place for consumers to browse for inspiration and discover products to buy at Social shopping has evolved over the last few years, and we think this is a definite next step toward linking social media and retailing.”

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Users will be able to upload and share their own photos, and click on others to see product details and shop any products that are tagged, as well as read reviews and look at instructions by other users. “We’re hoping to continue to focus on linking social media and shopping,” said Bornstein. “We absolutely get the power of existing social media platforms, and there will be a function so that Beauty Board users can also link to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other platforms. But this is an add-on capability, which offers a more direct shopping function than currently exists in social media. It’s a hub for the products and what we think is a very useful and relevant way to get beauty ideas.”

Bornstein added that the retailer has seen a huge connection between Instagram and younger Sephora consumers, which helped to focus the design. “But it’s not just younger consumers who will find this useful,” she said. “Our studies have shown that thirty- and fortysomethings are equally interested in using digital technology, so we expect Beauty Board to have wide appeal.”

The platform is designed to log the user into all of Sephora’s social media and purchasing options with one log-in. Users will be able to identify other users and search for other content by the people who write what they enjoy, as well as search by look, such as a nontraditional smoky eye.

While Beauty Board will initially be a U.S.-only initiative, Bornstein noted that it could roll out to other markets eventually. “We always begin in one market, and the U.S. is our largest market,” said Bornstein. “Then if we can, we do.” Given the language barriers, Canada would be the most likely next market, she said.

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