Beauty Store Business magazine - January, 2020

SEPHORA Innovation Lab to Impact the Future of Retail

SEPHORA has unveiled the SEPHORA Innovation Lab, which will encompass both a physical space in San Francisco, as well as programs that foster the culture of innovation development and deployment along with grooming SEPHORA's next generation of digital leaders.

"Innovation has always been in our DNA," said Calvin McDonald, president and CEO for SEPHORA Americas. "We disrupted beauty by being the first to offer clients access to premium beauty out from behind the department store makeup counters, and we want to keep that spirit and bold tenacity alive. The new Lab will tap the collective creativity of our 14,000 employees nationwide, grow the next generation of leaders and elevate SEPHORA's digital future."

The Innovation Lab is a space in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco where the team can "ideate," test, dream, experiment and learn. As new ideas surface, the Lab team will be responsible for sourcing, developing, evaluating, testing and eventually launching new offerings and technologies for shopping in the store and on-the-go. SEPHORA has teamed with Google, Apple and others in the past, and plans to evaluate additional strategic alliances in the future, through the Lab program.

Through its "Think Tank" program, SEPHORA Innovation Lab will groom the next generation of leaders, who will be developing the "next big idea" in retail. The Think Tank team meets monthly and works to solve the way we will shop five years from now. The Lab will also oversee "Idea Central," a program that seeks to source and deliver on ideas from employees nationwide—regardless of rank or function within the company.

Julie Bornstein, chief marketing and digital officer for SEPHORA, stated, "We're completely focused on making shopping more efficient, intelligent and fun for our clients. We spend a lot of time walking in the shoes of our clients as inspiration for dreaming up new technologies and partnering with technology companies in the [San Francisco] Bay Area to develop innovative solutions for new ways to shop."

SEPHORA is unveiling four new digital experiences that demonstrate SEPHORA's digital leadership:

Beacons—SEPHORA will be using Beacons in stores nationwide to deliver timely, personalized alerts to clients who opt-in. Shoppers can receive things such as birthday alerts, loyalty-program updates and be notified when new trainings are happening in-store.

Pocket Contour—SEPHORA will be releasing a new digital experience in partnership with Map My Beauty, the first-of-its-kind cross-platform personal virtual makeup artist application that takes the mystery out of contouring—a growing consumer trend in beauty. By analyzing a photo of the user on mobile, SEPHORA can help the user identify her face shape and give her personalized step-by-step guidance on how to apply makeup for the contoured look she wants to achieve.

Augmented Reality—SEPHORA has created its first augmented reality experience for clients via the Sephora-To-Go mobile app for the iPhone. Launching in April, clients can engage with custom content by hovering over nine brand founder faces, such as Josie Maran, Laura Mercier, Kat Von D and others, featured in the SEPHORA windows and display cases. Scanning each image with augmented reality will show content options, such as brand founder interviews, product videos, animated GIFs, YouTube playlists and product pages on, all without leaving the app.

SEPHORA Flash—Frequent shoppers who want SEPHORA products even faster can sign up for SEPHORA Flash, which allows customers free two-day shipping on all products. Flash is free for Rouge Beauty Insider members, and $10 per year for all non-Rouge members.

Bridget Dolan, vice president of SEPHORA Innovation Lab, added, "The Innovation Lab and dedicated management team gives us an incredible opportunity to drive the future of innovation. Given our location in the heart of the digital-and-tech scene, we have strong visibility into the players and trends, both on and off-line, that could be molded into SEPHORA-centric experiences. We have a relentless hunger for developing technologies and networking with emerging technology companies that might seem unexpected now, but could define the future of retail."

Dolan leads the Innovation Lab and supporting team. The team will balance its time between the SEPHORA Innovation Lab and SEPHORA Americas corporate headquarters. All of the new experiences announced with the SEPHORA Innovation Lab will roll out to SEPHORA nationwide starting this month.

[Image courtesy of SEPHORA]