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Omni-Channel is Here, and Proper Data Integration is Making Customer Experiences Bliss [Sephora Case Study]


 Going to the mall is a chore. Getting there, parking, hunting for that store that you swear was over there last week but is now at the other end of the promenade… none of it screams enjoyment. (Did it ever?)

But regardless of what misery and headaches malls usually bring, I ended up at my local mall (which also happens to be under major construction, adding to the probable misery) with my sister for a bit of therapeutic shopping. Ya since when was shopping therapeutic. It was also an opportunity for me, an avid online shopper and web-roomer, to actually buy some things in person and save on the dreaded Canadian shipping costs.

And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised by my visit. It’s often that I go to the mall and get frustrated with the lack of service and neglect of omni-channel outlets and leave empty handed like in this adventure a while back, but a recent experience has brought to light a few new pleasantly unexpected turn of events for my ongoing mall shopping saga:

  1. Actually buying something in the stores I visit sometimes is just enough to change the whole game, and
  2. Omni-channel can turn a lack-luster in-store customer experience into a memorable and awesome customer experience.

So go figure, omni-channel is coming to a mall near me and I love it. Read on for my full account and analysis on my recent mall trip, and how Sephora is breaking the retail mold!



I needed some retail therapy, and my sister was desperate to get out of the house. In the ‘burbs, there’s not much else to do that’s social outside of going to the mall in the few hours in the evening. So, to the mall it was. At least my saving grace would be the awesome company I’d be in, even if I (once again) found nothing to buy at the mall.

While we planned to walk much of the mall on this particular adventure, we had a goal. Our target: the much-revered Sephora. I had some products that I had web-roomed, Googled, and researched via reviews that I was hoping to get my hands on. And aside from this, Sephora is a great place to hang out and experiment with their products thanks to their copious trial products integrated into virtually all of their on-floor displays. Even if I didn’t find what I was looking for in my trip, it was almost guaranteed to be a fun place to hang out at the very least.

Doubts came crashing in as we approached the store: to say it was crowded is an understatement. It was a zoo!

We literally had to elbow our way through the crowds, but once we got into the store the Sephora experience still managed to hold us there for almost 45 minutes. We sampled, we tried on, we tested, and I ended up picking up what I had intended to, plus a few extras, as a result.

This would have been an excellent opportunity for Sephora to employ some nifty technology from SENSINDATA and Integrated Display Group, which allows the retail location to track which items customers pick up, how often, and for how long. Think of the opportunities for using this data! Especially if it’s properly integrated into your back-end.

After our browsing and shopping desires had been satiated, we joined the 20-person deep lineup to check out. Again, the experience didn’t look promising, but Sephora has designed their check out exceptionally well: lined with travel-sized versions of products found elsewhere on the floor, there’s very little chance of being bored in the Sephora line. And an added bonus: the lineup moved quickly too!

At the cash, the cashier asked if I was a Sephora member. I said I used to be, but I thought it expired after a year. She went above and beyond her call of duty that day to blow the dust off my account, apply my membership to my purchases, and give me a whole bunch of freebie perks as a result! Things just kept getting better!

But what really blew me away that day was as I was walking out of the store after making my purchase, I received an email from Sephora. It included my full name, thanking me for my purchases. It gave me a full copy of my receipt, and the location I had shopped at. It included an extra incentive to review my experience for a chance to win a gift card, links to their Beauty Insider blog, and their exchange and return policy.


It was a receipt, augmented.

And it was all thanks to Sephora very obviously integrating their systems on their back-end. My customer data flowed seamlessly and quickly between the store’s POS and my smartphone, and whatever intermediate applications I was not privy to. An added bonus for me as a customer of Sephora was that all of my purchases made that day were automatically added to my “Beauty Bag”. Convenient for me as a shopper for the next time I need to restock on my purchases; convenient for Sephora as they get to build out my customer profile and shopping habits at a much deeper level of insight than just my transactional data. Brilliant.

And being an integration geek, this simple recepit in my inbox is what honestly put the icing on the cake for my customer experience that day at Sephora. The actual shopping experience was great, as it focused on being able to interact with the products, and in theory with the Sephora brand, had any sales associates been available to help me that day, which truthfully didn’t matter too much thanks to Sephora’s omni-channel presence. But the fact that their systems were so efficiently and effectively tied together via integration carried my positive customer experience out the door, and kept the Sephora brand top-of-mind with me through this excellent experience.


This is how you do omni-channel right!

Sephora completely understood that the in-store experience for Sephora customers is just one touchpoint for their brand. While I was in store, I was also on their website reading blogs and reviews on the products I intended to by (web-rooming while show-rooming, I’m a multi-tasker). Their store layouts are geared to experiencing their brand and products. But the data integration they are employing is something that more retailers need to be adopting. Sephora excels at making their customers feel like gold both in and outside the store, and they understand how their target clientele shops.

The future of omni-channel retail is here: the seemingly simple act of tying together all of the properties online and in real life can make or break the customer experience for your clientele.

My experience with Sephora illustrates just how big of an impact properly integrated systems and applications on your business’ back-end can have. Even though the store was crowded, and even though there were no available sales associates to help me search the store for what I wanted, I still walked out with a great experience. And reinstating my Sephora loyalty card was a brilliant move for both Sephora and me: I got additional perks I wasn’t expecting, and Sephora gets the chance to build my customer profile with great data that’s likely already made its way into any number of back-end systems and initiatives, all courtesy of proper integration.

So, for you plug-and-play integration-ers out there: do you think Sephora’s using plug-and-play? Or maybe something a little more customized and robust?

Want to see what customized data integration can do for you?

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