Sephora makes beauty personal for its shoppers. Mary Beth Laughton, SVP of Digital, shares how the brand is creating a virtuous cycle of loyalty with Millennials across every touchpoint and micro-moment.

September 2016

Reaching the 'Thumb Generation'

We're witnessing the rise of the thumb generation of mobile-centric Millennials. They are truly addicted to mobile for everything, shopping included. They find new products and inspiration on their smartphones through things like vloggers and video influencers. In fact, 69% of smartphone shoppers in the health and beauty category turn to YouTube for ideas about what to buy.1

For Sephora, mobile has become a major opportunity to create loyalty by building a 'virtuous cycle' that both responds to our shopper's needs and brings her back for more. And that's what we set out to do.

Vloggers, Not Ads

We learned quickly that people don't engage with content that feels like a commercial. If we don't put human beings at the center, we will get ignored. So we shifted gears away from the TV-ad-type content we were uploading to less polished vlogger-style content that resonates with our core audience, so everyone can find someone on the channel they can relate to. We focus on being relatable, relevant, and recognizable to lock in our shoppers' love and loyalty.

We learned quickly that people don't engage with content that feels like a commercial. If we don't put human beings at the center, we will get ignored.


Content for everyone reaches no one, so we learned to create more videos targeted to specific segments such as blonde or curly hair. We've partnered with Google to identify trending topics and needs for our shopper as well as the optimal days and times to deliver new videos to her.

Since last year, we've nearly doubled our YouTube subscribers, increased our content by triple-digit rates, and cut our production time from 6 months to 3 weeks. Our more relatable, consumer-centric videos are getting nearly four times the shares we got before.

Building The Virtuous Cycle

At Sephora, we feed that digital addiction and increase loyalty through what we call the virtuous cycle of digital. That means being where our shopper is on mobile to drive her in the door, engage her while she's there, and inspire her to come back again.

For instance, our app has a Virtual Artist feature that helps shoppers try on lip shades and lashes, or learn how to apply a smoky eyeliner three ways. Our consumers love it—in fact, we've had over 75 million lip shades tried on. We've also updated the app so she can check and book available classes, scan a product for reviews, and refer to her past purchases—all building a better in-store journey.

To inspire our shopper to return for more, we are doing things like sending her personalized Color IQ emails after she's gotten her skin scanned in stores, showing her the products that are perfect for her and driving her love and loyalty.


As a result, we've grown our mobile business from 25% to over 35% of our digital business in the past year.

3 Takeaways for Reaching the 'Thumb Generation'

Stay centered on the consumer. It's never about technology for technology's sake. For us, it's about winning our shopper again and again with highly relevant and personalized experiences across every touchpoint and micro-moment of her beauty journey.

Don't be afraid to be first. When you discover new consumer behavior, be ready to take action on it quickly. If you see an opportunity to differentiate, as we did with video, then dedicate a team to it to truly make an impact.

Don't isolate mobile. Mobile shouldn't be someone's role; it should be everyone's role. Make your full team accountable for being mobile-friendly; it should be a fundamental part of how you operate.

1 Google / Euromonitor International, Micro-Moments Survey, USA, July 2016, (n = 500 U.S. smartphone shoppers in the health and beauty category).