We’re in Paris and we’ve just spent the morning people watching and window-shopping at the grand magasins. Now we’re on our way to meet Elizabeth Anglès d’Auriac, the European marketing director at Sephora, the global beauty and cosmetics brand.
“Did you know,” I tell Maarten, “that Sephora actually revolutionized the concept of the classic parfumerie?”
“In what way?”
“Well,” I explain, “back in 1969, they created the first ‘self-service’ beauty stores, where you didn’t have to wait to be served by a shop assistant anymore, allowing customers to touch products, test them out, compare them and take all their time to make their choice.”
“Interesting, I never realized that,” says Maarten. “So do you think the immersiveness of the Sephora shopping experience is in fact part of its brand identity?”
“Good question,” I say. “And I think I may know the answer: Elizabeth has asked us to meet her at the Sephora flagship store on the Champs Elysées, so I’m guessing that she also wants us to get a feel for the brand through the in-store experience.”
“Let’s go and find out then!” says Maarten as we step into the store.
“See?” I tell Maarten as we walk past the perfume display, where customers are sampling the different fragrances, past the Brow Bar, where two women are getting their eyebrows shaped, to the cosmetics section, where two teenagers are testing out new tinted mascaras. “This is what I mean – it’s a really unique retail environment!”
“I get it,” says Maarten with a sigh, “It’s brilliant – I bet women can spend hours in here.”
“Actually,” I say with a smile, “the men’s section over there seems quite crowded too…”
Elizabeth meets us at the Gift Factory and takes us on a tour.
“The idea of giving customers the freedom to browse, touch, smell and immerse themselves in the space is integral to the Sephora brand,” she explains.
She adds that customers also have the freedom to choose which retail experience they want – whether they want to visit a Sephora flagship store, drop by a corner store or shop online… “But anywhere you visit Sephora, the experience is designed to be dazzling and exciting,” she says.
As we stroll through the cosmetics section, Elizabeth points out the range of products and prices on offer: from the in-house ‘Made In Sephora’ brand, which combines high quality with affordability to top-of-the-range, selective beauty brands.
“Something for everyone in other words!” says Maarten.
We come to an area in the middle of the store where a new mascara line is being presented. “One of our key strengths is that we are always one step ahead,” says Elizabeth, “launching new styles, introducing new technologies… We are on the cutting edge of cosmetic innovation.” She adds that the element of surprise and energy is what sets Sephora apart.
“We involve our customers and make them part of the brand,” she says. “That’s also something we’re exploring in our new digital communication platforms and through social media.”
“Wow, virtual beauty?” asks Maarten. “I’d like to hear more about that!
“Sure,” says Elizabeth. “I’ll be more than happy to tell you all about Sephora 3.0.”
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