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How Sephora used augmented reality to make a quick buck

Alice Kounougakis Director 28/10/2019

Brands are increasingly using tech to upsell to their customers, but Sephora were being particularly clever.

The crucial part is this: Sephora made it so easy."

Sephora is my guilty pleasure whenever I’m in the States. There is something about the row upon row of colourful, shiny products and the little stripy bags that is just a delight, and my ability to resist going into a store when I pass by is limited. So when visiting New York a couple of weeks ago I decided to pop in to look for a present for a friend.

And under no circumstances was I allowed to buy anything for myself.

The shop was naturally pretty busy, so I remained focused on my gift-buying mission until I was suddenly confronted with myself. However, not my normal self, but an image of myself looking even better than I looked on my wedding day. Better than I had ever looked. It didn’t seem to make sense, but what I had come face to face with was Sephora’s augmented reality mirror, where I was digitally made up using Sephora cosmetics in real time. Suddenly, through no apparent fault of my own, I needed to buy everything.

An example of the virtual artist in app © Sephora

The crucial part is this: Sephora made it so easy. The screen displayed the detail of each item’s brand, type and shade. I could browse the touchscreen and try a different colour. And the products were right there on the stand, organised by product and shade. It was GENIUS.

I don’t really understand Instagram or Snapchat; the filters that are widely used are a bit of a mystery to me, but this is essentially what it was. And despite considering myself to be a pretty rational person, and someone who can see straight through sneaky marketing tactics, I seriously believed that buying THIS eyeliner and THIS lipstick would change my life (and I don’t even wear lipstick). So I bought them. The products are pretty good. And the entire transaction, from not-even-in-market-to-browse through to purchase, took a total of about three minutes, because Sephora enabled an entirely seamless process.

Brands are increasingly using tech to upsell to their customers, but this was particularly clever. There was no way I would have approached the screen and opted in to try it out myself, and I definitely wouldn’t have uploaded a photo or downloaded an app to try a filter. The tech was so smoothly integrated into my shopping journey that I was approaching the checkout, products and credit card in hand, having barely realised what I was doing.

So I say bravo Sephora.

At Savanta we help retailers drive conversion by understanding the consumer mindset at key moments in the shopping journey, and helping them to identify how to optimise their experience with solutions in-store technology now offers.

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