A couple of weeks ago, Forbes contributor John Ellett interviewed Sephora’s VP of Interactive Media, Bridget Dolan. The article focused on the company’s use of highly relevant and personalized data to improve customer satisfaction and as such, stay ahead of their competitors. Sephora’s impressive personalization technology that powers its Color IQ product is referenced, as well as the company’s highly effective Beauty Insider loyalty program. Both personalization strategies are worth noting, however I found the following three, broader points Dolan discusses most insightful and worth observing:
1. Don’t incorporate technology just for technology’s sake.
Just because a technology seems cool doesn’t mean it will be effective (for you or for your customers). Instead, when strategizing your personalization efforts, focus on your customers and their needs. What tools will help them make purchases? How will those tools impact their experience? Are these tools best for your customers, even if they’re not ideal for you? As Dolan said to Forbes, Sephora evaluates all of their technology and social media strategies by putting customers front and center and continually asking, “What does she need? What would really be helpful to her?” Let your customers be your guide here. Introducing overly flashy or complex technologies that don’t put your customers’ needs front and center will only result in confusion and frustration.
2. Emulate in-store experiences when building digital strategies.
Sephora used this tactic as they built out their foundation matching product, Color IQ. They realized that if they were going to get the basics of this technology right, they should ask themselves the product questions they might ask if they were actually standing in one of their stores. So, in this scenario, a customer walking into a Sephora might be asked, “What skin type do you have?” Based on their answer, a store sales associate could then walk them over to the most appropriate products. As Dolan tells Forbes, “We use that same premise and build that into our email program as well as our site. That’s where we’re heading: “How do we help guide and navigate you to the right products that are the most relevant for you?” Again, it’s about prioritizing the helpfulness and efficiency of your personalization technology for your customers. Referencing in-store experiences and imitating the tactics of helpful sales associates can help make your digital strategies more effective.
3. Make data collection a win-win.
One of the reasons Sephora’s customer loyalty program, Beauty Insider, has been so successful is because the company has made it compelling for their customers to share their preferences and habits at every touchpoint. For example, say a Sephora customer shares that she has dry skin (by shopping online while logged in with her track-able Beauty Insider card). In the next email she receives from the company, products targeted toward people with dry skin will be featured. Retailers cannot just gather customer information and walk away. Instead, make it a win-win. At Sephora, Dolan says, “It’s not like we just want to know things about our customer and there’s nothing in it for her. There’s a lot in it for her and I think she recognizes that because when you walk into a Sephora or you go to our site, it could be a bit overwhelming.” By rewarding your customers with relevancy and highly personalized experiences, data collection can be a productive and worthwhile process not just for you, but also for your customers.
I hope you’ll keep these three key tactics from Sephora in mind when crafting your own personalization strategies. Know of any other retailers pushing the innovation envelope? Let me know in the comments below – they too could make a great ‘Profiles in Innovation’ post.