Selling beauty products is no longer about what people buy but how people feel.

BEAUTY has become our lifestyle. It’s more than just make-up and skincare products. The beauty industry is a highly competitive market and brands have realised the importance of maintaining an emotional connection with consumers to stay relevant.

Sephora Malaysia general manager Valerie Foong says current consumers are sophisticated.

“They want to learn the stories behind beauty brands, the founders and what they advocate, like sustainability, for example,” she says.

Part of the reason Fenty Beauty by Rihanna found success is because it has dramatically built a strong connection with consumers.

The story of this brand should sound familiar to beauty enthusiasts. Its megastar founder Rihanna was not only involved with the entire process from A to Z but she brought to life her vision of beauty for all and catering to a diverse pool of consumers. Remember its groundbreaking introduction of foundation in 40 shades?

The Umbrella singer told Time in 2017: “Some are finding their shade of foundation for the first time, getting emotional at the counter. That’s something I will never get over,”

Foong says cosmetics retail is all about emotional connection.

BEAUTY PLATFORM

Platforms like Sephora give space to an assortment of brands (like Fenty Beauty) to grow and reach out to consumers.

Sephora has a strong emotional connection with beauty lovers. The company, under French luxury conglomerate LVMH, takes pride in proving that its brick-and-mortar stores are here to stay, despite the “retail apocalypse” which peaked in recent years.

One of its winning strategies is engaging with clients in new and innovative ways both in stores and through its website.

The newly-opened Sephora store at Farenheit88, Bukit Bintang, for example, offers a personalised shopping experience.

The company calls it the largest beauty playground simply because the concept is akin to a playground for beauty lovers.

Step into the store that spans 1,580 sq metres and you’ll be greeted with show-stopping LED screens, trendy pop music and gorgeous aisles displaying more than 10,000 products for customers to test.

The Sephora store comes with a Lounge for shoppers.

RETAIL EXPERIENCE

Sephora dials up its experiential retail experience for customers by leveraging on technology too.

Inside the huge store, customers can try out the complimentary skin analysis via an app called Skincredible, which will calculate skin score and offers personalised skincare recommendations.

There are also services such as the Perk Treatment by Hydrafacial & Perk Lips, a facial and lip treatment.

Sephora gold members are in for a treat. On the first floor is the Beauty Loft, a private area where members enjoy personal shopper services as well as an engraving service.

“When a gold member wants to claim their rewards, they will be directed to the Beauty Loft. There, they can enjoy a nice cup of coffee and book facial appointments. Purchase something and they can have it engraved,” said Foong.

BEING RELEVANT

“We constantly want to evolve and stay relevant. Building a beauty community is about having that emotional connection. When a customer walks in to an environment that they are comfortable in, you create a community. When they are part of a community, they tend to stay longer,” added Foong.

Beyond its personalised services, the first floor of the Sephora store also comprises the Sephora Lounge, an event space. There is also The Studio, which is a photography studio. Essentially, these facilities are meant to engage with customers and influencers in Malaysia.

Foong says Sephora will be involved with many more collaborations with local influencers.

Comparing consumer behaviour, both online and offline, in Malaysia, she says Sephora’s customers generally still prefer brick-and-mortar shopping.

“In the last three years, we have seen the growth of online shoppers. What’s interesting is that customers who buy online tend to shop a lot more in retail too.

“In cosmetics and beauty industries, a lot of things are tactile. You need to try and test the products. For online, we have our virtual artist app where customers can virtually test products. However, the next day, they will still come to the store. So online and offline works hand in hand.”

When it comes to further developing new and innovative ways to engage with customers, Foong says the company won’t stop experimenting. For now, however, its focus is to optimise what the stores offer.