We’ve all been there when it comes to Sephora. No matter how many times we vow to stop handing them our paycheck in full, it’s inevitable.
It’s not just us, either. A large number of brands prefer a partnership with Sephora to standalone boutiques or counters. The Binge talks to some of the biggest names in the industry to uncover why.
The Sephora Effect
Brands prefer Sephora for the very same reasons today, as those that prompted its existence in 1969.
It all began as a way for Dominique Mandonnaud to change industry practices that didn’t benefit the consumer. Samples were practically unheard of. Disdain met any attempt to try a product prior to purchase.
Unsurprisingly, the model of having products out in the open (as opposed to sequestered away) was one that customers welcomed. Mandonnaud’s goal was for the open store layout to allow customers to experience the products firsthand before purchasing them.
In 1997, LVMH acquired Sephora. Under their umbrella, we see cosmetic brands such as Benefit, fresh, Guerlain, and Make Up For Ever, as well. This should leave no doubt that Sephora’s in-house label is one that is underestimated.
The Sephora Label
Sephora’s private label houses products that are often overlooked, but shouldn’t be. The tenets are the same – accessibility and superiority.
As with any brand, there are hits and misses. But for the most part, it’s probably where you should look first.
The Sephora brand has everything you could possibly want, and more, at an affordable price point. At The Binge, we swear by a whole bunch of their products.
You’d be surprised how many of the brands you love also come under the Sephora product development arm.
While KENDO is mostly independent of Sephora and LVMH, it is still a major player in just how pervasive Sephora’s influence in the industry is. It’s beginnings were in the realm of pure product development, but this gradually took on a life on its own.
Today, KENDO is behind the launch of major brands such as Kat Von D Beauty, Bite Beauty, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Fenty Beauty, Ole Henriksen, and Formula X.
The Changing Customer Base
The customer of 2017 differs greatly from that of Sephora’s beginnings. Consumers base purchases on information that’s readily at hand. Everything we need to know is a 30 second Google search away.
Scott Markin, Director of Education for Ouai tells us that this is more pronounced in Asia.
“The Asian client is a little savvier about ingredients, so they pay attention to what’s in the products that they’re using. They’re looking for the best.”
Brian Granoff, Global Trainer for Tarte agrees, “The way consumers shop nowadays is a little less loyal. They like to shop with multiple brands, and they also like to shop with someone who is less biased.”
“At Sephora they’re unbiased; they can sell any brand that you want.”
“People want honesty, they want less pressure, it’s a more open environment; so they can get all that at Sephora,” Granoff says.
Colleen Lota, National Educator for Pixi elaborates, “They carry such a wide variety, and it’s such a universal space that when consumers come in, they want to try different things. It really gives that opportunity to be available for those consumers to purchase products from all over the world.”
Sephora’s website lends itself to this model. With customer reviews in-built into each and every product; alongside a very vocal customer base, there is no better resource for making an informed decision.
The Way Forward
Between the rewards system Sephora offers up, and the ability to test, compare, and contrast multiple different brands before committing; there’s no doubt this is a winning model.
Granoff tells us that Tarte has no interest in a free-standing store, “We feel strongly about Sephora. We believe it’s ‘Where Beauty Beats’ and it’s where the future of cosmetics is, rather than a counter. We feel that more of an open selling environment is really the future of the industry.”
Richard Sawyer, Sales and Education Director for KENDO Brands SEA & Australia agrees, “What happens in the future, who knows? But for the moment, Sephora is such a good partner. Their philosophy, and the way they see makeup, we see them as being the people we want to play with.”
But it isn’t just beauty brands that feel this way. It pervades the industry quite thoroughly.
Paul Percival of Percy & Reed feels that the brand is at home with Sephora, “We may open a salon, and there’s all sorts of things that we could do; but at the moment, it works well for us to be exclusive with Sephora.”
“Sephora is very energetic and fun, and I think the customer enjoys this kind of atmosphere. Even if we are a dermatological brand, we have pop artistic content. So we think that it is really matched to Sephora,” Soo Song of Dr. Jart tells us.
How Does the Asian Market Differ?
Even with an information free-for-all, and the cosmetic industry’s relative universality these days, the Asian market still stands apart to some extent.
Granoff hits the nail on the head, “The Asian market seems different because the needs of skin are different. Needs of skin, needs of facial features are different, undertone is different. I think it’s important for a brand in Southeast Asia to have undertones that match the demographic, which tend to be a little bit more neutral to golden.”
Lota tells us that skin care reigns supreme. “With the Asian market, they really love skin care. I know in the 90’s people were really into ingredients and skin care, then it kind of tapered off.”
“Then a lot of bloggers, writers and editors started writing more about skincare, and people saw how important it is to take care and nurture your skin before you put on makeup. When you take care of your skin, your skin will even look better when you are wearing anything, or not wearing anything,” she continues.
Tan Mee Wan, Director of Clini7, tells us that Peter Thomas Roth does so well in Asia because American skin care needs mirror ours.
“European products are very oily, so a lot of Asian people find it sticky, whereas a US product is more suitable. And you see most of our products are oil-free and the active ingredients are higher,” Tan explains.
Yet, with social media reigning supreme, the demands worldwide are mostly similar.
“It’s been the same across. Everyone is looking for a healthy glow and we have that.” Lota tells us as she talks about Pixi’s launch on Sephora SEA’s site.
Skin care itself aside, the trend in Asia has always been about the ‘v-face’ look, and it’s no surprise then that contouring has taken the market by storm.
Sawyer tells us, “Contouring’s doing amazingly well in Asia. As people explore more on YouTube and see influencers and vloggers playing with makeup, people are experimenting more, which is what makeup should be.”
“Although Kat Von D stems from being the world’s most famous tattoo artist, makeup isn’t a tattoo. You can take it off, put it back on again, then see what suits you. And if it doesn’t suit you? It’s fine! Take it off and try again,” Sawyer encourages.
This is a key facet of why Kat Von D chooses to carry their entire range in any country that they’re stocked. They feel that the consumer should be able to get the products they’re interested in even though they may not be bestsellers in the region.
It’s no wonder Sephora has a hold on the market; they have brand loyalty from the biggest brands themselves. – The Binge