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Scale success story: Sephora’s Beauty Insider

Beauty Insider – cosmetic brand Sephora’s loyalty program – is among the most talked-about loyalty programs in ecommerce. Offering members access to exclusive promotions, gifts, discounts, and other perks, it’s been giving back to its community in a big way since 2007.   

Allegra Stanley, Sephora’s vice president and general manager of loyalty says: 

“The way we think about loyalty is that our clients are the core of everything we do. We are driven by what our customers love and want more of. So it’s not about what their loyalty demonstrates to us, but what we can deliver to our clients that creates the most meaningful and connected experience with our brands.” 

The evolution of the Sephora loyalty program

Back when it was first launched, Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program was an innovative example of a loyalty program. And, as the program has evolved, it’s set a sterling example for other businesses to aspire toward.

Part of this is because it gave customers access to luxury products they might not otherwise have known about, but mostly it’s because Sephora managed to tick all the right boxes on rewards, community-building, personal touches, and — crucially — adapting to the times.

In 2009, the program was extended to include a higher tier called “Very Important Beauty Insider”, geared toward the most highly engaged members who spent more than $350 a year. Then, in 2013, a third-tier called “Rouge” was added for customers who spent $1,000 or more annually.

Not content to sit on their laurels, Sephora added an exclusive Rewards Bazaar in 2016. This became an exchange platform where members could redeem their points in exchange for curated products or charity donations. 2017 also saw a more emotional shift away from purely transactional behavior with the introduction of the Beauty Insider Community. 

“As we learned more about our clients, we saw the opportunity for beauty lovers to come together, ask questions, post inspirational beauty looks and get product recommendations, not just from us but for them to share with each other,”

– Allegra Stanley, Sephora’s Vice President and General Manager of Loyalty

In 2020, Sephora continued to evolve its Beauty Insider program with the introduction of special events such as a Brow House Call with Jared Bailey – the brand’s resident brow expert – and a Francis Ford Coppola Winery tour for two with a special bundle of Sephora products.

In 2023, they’ve taken it further with an experiment into gamification — exploring ways they can create ‘challenges’ or fun quests members can take part in to earn more points. The new feature, called “Beauty Insider Challenges”, involves tasks both online and offline and also comprises non-purchase tasks.

In short: Sephora’s been on a long journey to cater to its most loyal customers in different ways, and they haven’t shied away from trying new things to keep the community alive and keep intrigue and excitement high. Bringing personal and emotional experiences to life is the Sephora way.

How does the Sephora loyalty program work and why is it a success?

Sephora’s loyalty program has been a big success, with 17 million members in North America alone — who are responsible for 80% of the company’s sales. Through their loyalty program, Sephora has been able to consistently bring customers to their website, even when they aren’t shopping. That improved engagement leads to a 22% increase in cross-sell and a 13-51% increase in upsell revenue.

Across the ecommerce loyalty landscape, many programs focus solely on transactional loyalty programs — where points equal prizes and members get access to discounts. For Sephora, their loyalty program’s success involves these features, but also leans on community and emotional drivers.

There’s a reason this works for them. Part of it is because makeup and beauty products are such personal products; items which link to feelings of pleasure or happiness. Self-care saw a big boom early in 2020, and that trend has held on strong — to the benefit of retailers that provide beauty services, skincare items, or other related products.

Research found that emotional perks drive almost 75% of customer engagement — and brands that manage to capture this loyalty by making customers feel that spark of inclusion are the ones that succeed at keeping customers engaged and buying.

The other underlying reason for Sephora’s success with its loyalty program also relates to the nature of the products they sell — specifically, their exhaustibility. Beauty products have a relatively short lifecycle, unlike other premium goods like tech, and running out and buying refills is an accepted ritual.

This means Sephora’s customers are already primed to make repeat purchases — and the existence of the loyalty program only incentivizes them further.

Features and perks of Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program

Sephora’s Beauty Insider program is a free to join, points-based system with VIP tiers. Members ‘earn and burn’ points by shopping and redeeming rewards — and, by doing so, can work towards achieving a higher rank.

The 3 Sephora loyalty program tiers

Sephora’s Beauty Insider program has three distinct member levels. Each level, or tier, provides different member benefits.

The basic Sephora member tier, Beauty Insider, is free to join, but the other two, VIB and Rouge, require a minimum spend per year (of $350 and $1000, respectively).

All members earn the same number of points per transaction — 1 point for every $1 spent — however different tiers can utilize these points in different ways. Higher-tiered members also get a better rate during point multiplier events.

Exclusive Beauty Insider discounts and early access sales

Beauty Insiders get access to exclusive deals during Sephora’s Savings Event sale, which happens three times a year.

Over the course of the event, Insiders of all tiers get tier-specific discounts on their beauty products of choice, with Rouge members getting both the most significant discount and early access to the sale.

Beauty Insiders of all levels also get 20% off on their birthday every year.

Free gifts for members

All Sephora Beauty Insiders get free birthday gifts annually, but VIB and Rouge members have additional options and also gain access to other exclusive gifts and samples throughout the year.

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Redeemable rewards and money-off perks

All Sephora Beauty Insiders are able to access the Sephora Rewards Bazaar, an online marketplace where they can use their points to redeem brand samples and other rewards.

VIBs and Rouge members also get invites for exclusive members-only events, such as early access product releases, workshops, and more.

Rouge members can also claim the tantalizing Rouge Reward: which allows members to exchange 2,500 points for $100 off a purchase.

Tailored product recommendations

All members receive personalized product recommendations straight into their email and account. This is useful for members, who may discover their new favorites, but also for the business, as it can increase the likelihood of purchases or browsing.

Access to a members-only online community

Sephora created its own online community by making a forum just for Beauty Insiders. There, Insider beauty enthusiasts can connect with and learn from one another, sharing tips, tricks, and product recommendations.

How Sephora uses VIP tiers to motivate customers

Having VIP tiers is an effective way to:

  • Gamify the shopping experience, by challenging members to reach the next milestone
  • Motivate regular, repeat shopping
  • Generate a feeling of exclusivity and intrigue

By using VIP tiers, Sephora has succeeded in giving its members a goal to aspire toward — or to be excited about having reached. With its minimum spend of $1,000 a year, Rouge status is hard to obtain; which makes it effective as a reward for the business’s most loyal customers.

This works well for Sephora as it also matches the brand’s vibe: of quality, luxury, and class.

How Sephora makes personalization a brand strength

When members join Sephora’s Beauty Insider program, they’re invited to fill out their beauty preferences and basic appearance information. With this, Sephora is able to tailor recommendations effectively for both its new and long-time members.

Done right, this level of personalization makes members feel closer to the brand — while the tailored content makes it more likely that members will take an interest in products and buy them. That, in turn, is then fed back into the personalization and targeting data, helping to further refine recommendations in the future.

This element of personalization also extends to Sephora’s loyalty program rewards. By allowing members to choose their perks, the program becomes adaptable to each member’s needs and allows them to make their preferences known. This level of personalization empowers customers to take control of the loyalty program to make it something that gives them personal benefits.

How Sephora built a home for the beauty community

Sephora has done an excellent job at building its own community, through the effective use of a dedicated space for its members, active and responsive social media, and regular events to keep close to its members.

By doing this, they’re able to weave themselves intrinsically into the fabric of the beauty community, so their members associate ‘beauty’ with ‘Sephora’. With the community forum, members can interact with each other and make friends and share their favorite tips or get their questions answered. Similarly, Sephora’s active social media allows members — and other customers — to interact more naturally with the brand, which helps to foster a sense of kinship and loyalty.

How Sephora got the omnichannel experience right

Sephora realized early on that they needed to bring their physical and digital spaces together if they wanted to stay relevant in changing times. 

Instead of treating their brick-and-mortar and ecommerce stores as separate, siloed entities, Sephora chose to combine that data and use it to gain a more complete picture of customers’ buying strategies. By doing so, they could find out:

  • How customers engaged with their stores, website and app
  • What customers were buying online and what they were buying in-person
  • Buying trends that could be replicated or recommended to other customers

Sephora also makes the purchasing journey as smooth as possible by making it easy for customers to shop their way. Beauty Insiders can shop via the app, online or in-store, and have the option to collect purchases in person (with click-and-collect) or by arranging for standard shipping (free to all members).

This simplicity — when paired with the motivator of VIP member tiers and points — come together to encourage customers to shop more.

Ready to start your own loyalty program?

Sephora is one of the best examples of customer loyalty, with a customer-centric approach at the heart of its strategy. By providing rewards and incentives that their community wants, they’ve been able to tap into fueling their customers’ desire for connection, luxury, and exclusivity  — which is probably why they have 25 million loyal members across the globe.

Ready to make your own loyalty program a success? Book a demo here

About the author

Mollie Woolnough-Rai

Mollie is a Senior Content Marketing Executive at LoyaltyLion. After graduating from UCL in 2016, she has worked both in-house and at marketing agencies providing expertise in content for both B2B and B2C clients. At LoyaltyLion, Mollie manages our content, making sure our readers get the best quality resources about customer loyalty and retention.

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