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Sephora gets personal


Global beauty giant Sephora continues to disrupt the beauty category, rolling out new technologies — online as well as in store — and new formats. Its latest retail concept is positioned in the category’s fast-growing sweet spot: personalized customer services.

Sephora Studio, which debuted in July on Boston’s Newbury Street, is the brand’s smallest U.S. store to date. (More are already in the works.) The 2,000-sq.-ft. space is designed to provide an intimate and customized shopping experience, one that emphasizes individual consultations and personalized product recommendations and select spa-like experiences. And at less than half the size of a typical Sephora, the format will allow the brand to go beyond malls and target smaller, neighborhood locations.

The new store format features a variety of digital tools that not only enable the store’s associates — “beauty advisors” — to customize recommendations on an individual basis, but also help customers optimize their experience, before, during and even after their visit. At makeup stations, for instance, the advisors can take photos of the customer and record all of the tested products, emailing the information to the customer.

Sephora Studio has a sleek look, with digital welcome and service menu screens for easy navigation and self-help. The associates are mobile-equipped and can help customers check in for appointments, look up their rewards status and retrieve ratings and reviews on any product in the store. The associates can also process customer purchases on their phones.

One-on-one services are offered in a central area outfitted with eight chairs and four sinks. The available services include private 45-minute custom makeovers and 15-minute mini-makeovers and mini-facials. All start with a consultation that uses Sephora’s assorted digital tools to aid with product selection and beauty regimen.

The new store is the first Sephora to offer a 75-minute custom makeover, complete with a skin consultation or mini-facial. It’s also the first to feature a “concierge,” a dedicated associate trained to assist with a wide range of customer needs and inquiries.

Additionally, the location is one of the first in the company’s portfolio to offer same-day pickup. Boston-area shoppers can make a purchase on their device via the Sephora app and pick it up at the Sephora store in the nearby Prudential Center the same day.

Going forward, the brand will be launching other small-format stores on similar shopping streets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Hoboken, N.J. and Washington, D.C. These stores will not replace Sephora’s bigger store format, but will supplement them and provide more options to consumers, according to a company spokesperson.

Indeed, Sephora Studio opened shortly after Sephora opened its largest outpost in North America, an 11,380-sq.-ft. store on Manhattan’s 34th Street. It is the latest iteration of the retailer’s Beauty TIP (Teach, Inspire, Play) concept, which, among other things, emphasizes in-store learning. It has some 13,000 products, nearly 3,000 more than a typical Sephora store.

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