With a decline in beauty influencer trust (Kowalewicz 2020) and consumers increasingly aware of the lack of credibility of many influencers, authenticity and emotional engagement (Lebeau 2021) are now a primary focus of beauty brands which has given rise to the Sephora Beauty Insider Community.
In August 2017 beauty giant Sephora launched the Beauty Insider Community (BIC) to connect the brand, beauty experts and consumers. BIC now has 5,497,485 members and over 2 million posts to date (BIC 2022). Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora’s senior vice president of digital, said to WWD (Strugatz, 2017), BIC was designed to encourage engagement across 5 features:
- live community chat
- user profile
BIC was an evolution beyond the original Sephora Facebook group, enabling Sephora to better organise the network’s information and messages, fine-tune the onboarding process, and capture consumer data and user-generated content (UGC). Social Media Week claims UGC is 10 times more influential (Griffin 2020) than branded or influencer-driven content in purchasing decisions.
On-Boarding and Data Collection
Onboarding includes adding information on hair, skin and eye colour, skin type and beauty concerns, providing the precious data and capacity to offer highly relevant communications.
How Beauty Insider Creates Strength With “Weak Ties”
BIC offers Beauty Match, a bit like a dating app, connecting members with similar traits. The result is a massive network of weak ties, as discussed by Granovetter (1973), providing highly relevant, “novel and non-redundant” beauty tips, reviews and product suggestions.
Loyalty and Community Status
Within BIC, Sephora purchases elevate a member’s status, with badging, and the brand offers savings, samples and sales events which increase as members ascend tiers.
An Omnichannel Experience Through Beauty Insider
Laughton says that the Sephora customer is “constantly bouncing back and forth between physical and digital”(Arneson, 2017), stating that the customer might start with BIC, wanting to learn a particular make-up technique and then test products in-store.
BIC offers a browser and app-based version. Members can have real-time interactions on their mobile devices with members, for example, while visiting a store, asking for opinions. When the customer goes to the register, the sales assistant can see the member’s profile and offer further assistance.
Beauty Insider Community ROI and Preaching to the Converted
One of the downsides to investing in branded communities is that members are already customers, so why invest in these relationships. Attracting new customers would offer a better ROI. In the case of BIC, this is not necessarily the case.
What is unique about BIC is that many members may not yet be Sephora customers. With Sephora seen as beauty brand agnostic (Wall Street Journal, 2022), offering a wide range of brands, the BIC is perceived to be more of a neutral source of information on beauty products.
The BIC platform has become an international beauty hub, attracting millions of global beauty lovers. People join up for “insider” beauty-related content and meaningful connections with beauty addicts, providing authentic engagement, and creating valuable insights and data.