ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Marketing Dive acquired Mobile Marketer in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out the new Marketing Dive site for the latest marketing news.

Sephora borrows from Starbucks with app recommendation program

Sephora is ramping up its mobile content strategy with a program that recommends third-party applications and doles out free digital content to keep consumers coming back to the beauty retailer?s shopping app.

With the role of the branded app growing for marketers, driving repeat app use through digital rewards and downloads is a strategy that both Starbucks and Sephora are using. The ongoing Sephora Shares program is a partnership between the retailer and Apple that ties in mobile, in-store, catalog and Web initiatives. 

?Sephora?s clients are digitally savvy, and we have found that the majority are also iPhone users and shop Sephora on their iPhones,? said Bridget Dolan, vice president of interactive media at Sephora, San Francisco.

?Providing them with additional benefits to visit Sephora?s app more frequently helps reinforce the behavior that using your iPhone while shopping is encouraged at Sephora,? she said.

Mobile sharing
The Web and mobile site is the main part of the campaign. The site recommends applications, songs and books to shoppers.

This content changes monthly and also ties into Sephora?s in-store and mobile initiatives.

For example, the brand recently created a holiday-themed playlist of eight songs that consumers can redeem through iTunes for free. The playlist expires on Jan. 15.

The playlist is promoted to consumers in-store, in catalogs and through Sephora?s iPhone app.

Sephora is currently offering a free pair of earbuds with an order of $25 or more as an app-exclusive offer.

The idea behind offering the earbuds is that consumers will then use them to listen to Sephora Shares music playlists in-store.

Earlier this year, Sephora offered a free version of the paid photo-sharing app A Beautiful Mess. The app lets consumers customize photos and typically costs 99 cents.

Additionally, Sephora Shares promotes some of the retailer?s favorite photo and food apps.

Currently-featured apps include the popular game Dots and the photo-editing app Diptic.

Most recently, Sephora expanded the program to include books. Donne Geer?s ?Nail Candy: 50+ Ideas for Totally Cool Nails? is one of two featured books currently on the site.

Two big calls-to-action at the bottom of the page encourage consumers to download Sephora?s iPhone and iPad shopping apps.

Starbucks? influence
Starbucks has had a similar program to Sephora?s in place with an initiative called Pick of the Week.

Starbucks? program also entices consumers to use the coffee giant?s app in exchange for receiving free music and app downloads.

Sephora?s move into this territory points to the increasing role that mobile-developed content plays in driving a bigger commerce strategy.

Sephora Shares is also an example of how big brands are pouring significant investments into branded apps to increase retention.

Sephora has been one step ahead of the curve with mobile for several years.

The brand was one of the first to leverage Apple?s Passbook as a virtual hub for loyalty cards, which resulted in 87,000 downloads in the first week (see story). 

Most recently, Sephora cited a 300 percent year-over-year growth in mobile sales during Black Friday. Mobile and tablet sales generated one-third of overall digital sales during Thanksgiving weekend (see story). 

Educating consumers about mobile shopping has been a big priority for Sephora in the past, which will continue this year.

?Sephora shoppers are loving our fast, native iPhone app and we will continue to make sure that everyone who shops with Sephora is aware of the great benefits of downloading and using our Sephora To Go app,? Ms. Dolan said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York