April 9, 2012, 5:25 PM

Sephora gets a mobile and social makeover

The cosmetics retailer launches a mobile site and apps and tests iPads in stores.

Lead Photo

Sephora is testing iPads in the beauty consultations sections of 20 stores.

Beauty products retailer Sephora USA Inc. showed several new looks today, as it rolled out a new mobile site, revamped iPhone and iPad apps, and an updated e-commerce site with advanced social features.

Sephora, No. 116 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, says it aims to make shopping easier and more personalized for its customers.

Part of that makeover includes the testing of iPads in 20 stores nationwide, says Julie Bornstein, senior vice president of Sephora Direct. The iPads will be placed at the beauty studio portion of Sephora stores where customers get make-up consultations. Shoppers can use the devices to see which type of beauty services are available in the store, as well as scan product bar codes for customer reviews and other information. Loyalty program members will also be able to sign into their accounts to view prior purchases.

Sephora also started testing the iTouch device from Apple Inc. (No. 3) six months ago as a way to check customers out away from registers, and is now expanding this program to all stores. “Each store will have a couple of these iTouches, and customers can swipe their credit cards directly on them,” Bornstein says. “These will be used primarily at the beauty studios while customers are getting consultations or if there are long lines.” Sephora may add more iTouches as demand requires, she adds.

Another upgrade enables shoppers to check local inventory availability from mobile devices and on Sephora.com.

The fast-growing social network Pinterest is also integrated into Sephora.com now. Shoppers will see a Pin It button on each product page, enabling them to post product images to their personal boards on Pinterest and recommend products to friends.

The move is in response to increasing traffic coming from the social network, Bornstein says. “With Pinterest, we get about half of the traffic we get from Facebook, but that is growing each month and the gap is narrowing,” she says. Shoppers can also view Sephora’s own pinboards on Pinterest and enter a contest that rewards shoppers with gift certificates for Pinning Sephora products.

Sephora.com also upgraded site navigation today, after the retailer invested 5,000 employee-hours to index and tag each product on the site. As a result, shoppers can now search by age group, specific make-up ingredients, price and other characteristics.

The site makeover includes 80,000 new images, product quick-views, more color views and a checkout process that takes half the number of clicks and half the amount of time, the retailer says.

The site experienced a brief outage that started at around 12 p.m. Central time today and lasted less than 30 minutes. The retailer says the outage was caused by high inbound traffic and some expected kinks from the launch.

Sephora’s new e-commerce and mobile sites are built on technology from ATG, now part of Oracle Corp. Most of the upgrades were done in-house, with support from outside firms including mobile commerce developer Branding Brand, Bornstein says.

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