Who’s Doing Omni-Channel Right: Sephora

August 4, 2015 Jessica Thiele

Customer experience and omni-channel are inexorably tied together in our age of blurred lines between retail, ecommerce, and the third shelf. To have an awesome, outstanding, and memorable customer experience, you need to be where and how your customers shop – which just so happens to be anywhere these days, thanks to the internet.

So how do you nail customer experience via omni-channel?

Some stores like Le Chateau and Danier Leather, two recent additions to the ever-growing list of struggling Canadian retailers, seem to think customer experience starts with store renovations. Blatantly ignoring the fact that both stores’ business models lack a true omni-channel presence, both Danier and Le Chateau have decided to tell their customers that what they want is renovated stores, instead of listening to how and where their customers like to shop. Both retailers do have ecommerce websites, but they aren’t, for example, fostering a sense of community through encouraging reviews or comments on their products. There’s no style guide-type blog. There’s simply no exceptional customer experience to be found at either of their stores.

So who’s doing omni-channel and, as a result, customer experience right?

Sephora is an outstanding example.


This was clearly not the store I shopped in – far too empty. Source

Recently I treated myself to another trip to the mall, this time with the presence of a social outing rather than a trip primarily geared towards finding (and then not finding) a specific item. Sephora was top of my list to visit, because it’s usually an engaging time at the very least. Sephora – if you’ve never been into one – has a great concept from the outset: plenty of sample products you can try on for almost every single product in the store.

You could sense the crowds approaching this particular Sephora store. There had to be 200 people in the store, easy. Normally crowds like this in a single retail outlet would have me scrambling in the other direction, but I was determined to go in.

While it would’ve been nice to have a store associate take me directly to the product I wanted, turns out I didn’t need them.

Literally elbowing my way through the crowds and losing my shopping partner more than once, I foolishly looked around for a sales associate to help me find something I had webroomed earier. Yeah right – every single store associate was so busy they all looked like deer in headlights.

But Sephora knows their customers. I even bet they strategized for the extreme popularity of the brand and the crowds that might swamp their store.

I pulled out my smartphone, and webroomed while showrooming. And you know what? I found what I was looking for, as well as community reviews and feedback on the products, as well as the general area of the store I could find each product in. Whoopee! While it would’ve been nice to have a store associate take me directly to the product I wanted, turns out I didn’t need them. Turns out Sephora Corporate had my back the whole time.

It’s this kind of customer experience via omni-channel integration that other retailers should be taking note of. Retailers need to learn about how their customers like to shop. (If you want to know about how you do this, stay tuned to my blog next week on the importance of data to customer experience.)

So while retail is fundamentally changing the average middle retailer is slowly becoming extinct, I think that consumers will be treated to an enticing retail future. But the flip side of this coin is also true: If you a retailer that continually ignores your customers and their preferences, you’re doomed to sink.

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