Hello, beautiful

Helping Sephora become the world’s most trusted beauty platform.


  • Client
  • Industry
  • Services
    Customer Research, Customer Experience Design
  • Client

  • Services
    Customer Research, Customer Experience Design

Prestige retailer Sephora has always thrived on innovation

With more than 2,300 locations in 33 countries, the brand is highly regarded as a beauty trailblazer for its expertise, scale and service.

In 2016, Sephora set out to significantly strengthen its digital presence in an increasingly mobile-first world. Faced with increasing competition from e-commerce channels like Amazon, as well as the growing influence of beauty bloggers and YouTube stars, the company wanted to make its digital experience as compelling a destination as that of its bricks and mortar stores. Among its key business goals: leverage and aggregate all of the best features of Sephora.com, boost engagement and become the go-to spot for beauty advice. As experts in design and gender, Smart welcomed the chance to lead another category-defining project focused on connecting female consumers to what they want and need.

Smart helped Sephora pivot to an Omni-channel world by creating an integrated Beauty Insider Community that celebrates diverse beauty needs and behaviors. The pioneering experience includes novel features that drive customer loyalty, as well as shape a clear roadmap for growth.

More than just a pretty face

A member-only mobile and digital platform—a first for the prestige beauty industry—the Beauty Insider Community is an intelligent ecosystem that inspires and engages beauty enthusiasts everywhere, anytime. Clients can explore products interactively, share insider tips and advice, live chat with one another and enjoy endless inspiration from user-generated custom looks.

Sephora clients are exponentially more digital savvy. We must constantly optimize all of our digital content and experiences to be mobile-friendly so that it seamlessly fits into the client's life. The Beauty Insider Community is a direct effort on that front to give Sephora's customers access to all of our features at their fingertips.”
Deborah Yeh
Senior Vice President of Marketing at Sephora

Wake up and make-up

The Smart team spent time collaborating with Sephora makeup artists and staff (called “cast members”) to ultimately create a more emotionally engaging experience for consumers. Informal in-store intercepts with actual customers helped jumpstart more focused one-on-one ideation sessions, where we presented low-fi stimuli to learn more about the unmet needs, desires and behaviors of Sephora’s clientele.

Beyond skin deep

During the research phase, Smart developed six key actionable insights that informed our platform strategy and activation. This helped us ideate the features and functionality that would be most meaningful to the Beauty Insider community. For example, we learned users have different levels of engagement, with a range of motivations, learning styles, barriers and goals. To be successful, we would need to easily connect them to voices they trust, and inspire them to participate in light and fun ways.

Explore. Engage. Connect.

Simple to navigate and explore, the Insider community delivers a more holistic and dynamic approach to beauty. It is both flexible and feature-rich enough to solve clients’ unmet beauty needs no matter where they are on their journey—in ways they feel most comfortable interacting. Engagement is encouraged through multiple channels. Groups, a Reddit-like forum, help members focus on specific interests (e.g. acne-prone skin or curly haircare) by surfacing the commonalities that connect us; Conversations are where insiders share tips and advice; and Gallery is an Instagram-like space to get inspired by user-generated custom makeup looks. Each has a carousel of the products used—all available to purchase on Sephora.com. In addition, Live Community Chat enables real-time access to expert and peer advice.

The Insider Community is an evolved ecosystem that helps shoppers easily connect with people who share [their] beauty interests so they feel supported throughout their beauty journey. The sky's the limit in terms of finding inspiration, asking questions, and connecting with other people.”
Bindu Shah
VP of Digital Marketing at Sephora

Curated for her

The Beauty Insider Community experience is designed to be highly personalized for each user. Users can design their own personal makeup profile, join groups pertaining to their interests, participate in Q+A sessions with other members and get expert-level makeup tips. A dashboard profile provides a home base that makes it easy for users to save everything that matters most, as well as help Sephora more deeply understand each user’s beauty needs and desires. Relevant content, such as member profiles with similar interests, get surfaced so users can effortlessly connect with like-minded people. A feature called “Beauty Matches” helps users filter community content specific to their tastes and needs.

Here’s looking at you

Transforming a previously fragmented digital channel, Sephora’s cult following can now enjoy the benefits they’ve always enjoyed in-store, with the added reward of an even richer and more social experience online. Debuting to overwhelmingly positive press in August 2017, the solution delivers on the Sephora brand promise to “Beauty together” by inspiring community members to learn, share, connect and play.

Let‘s design a smarter world together