To win at beauty today, you need hype — and that’s not just a requirement for brands in the category. Retailers, too, are starting to rely on buzzy exclusives to maintain relevance and continue driving sales.
Ulta has championed this concept, teaming up with brands like Urban Decay and Nars to create exclusive products. And although Sephora also sells some exclusive items from brands like Kat Von D and Bite Beauty (both owned by Sephora-parent LVMH’s subsidiary, Kendo), it’s launching a new initiative to better compete on exclusives.
“First at Sephora” debuted this month in stores and online with its first run of exclusive products, which Sephora commissioned from a group of brands specifically for the program. The retailer teamed up with six of its best-selling brands — Benefit, Pat McGrath, Urban Decay, Tarte, Violet Voss and Natasha Denona — to launch each of their newest items exclusively. For 30 days, these products won’t sell anywhere else — not even on the brands’ owned channels.
Inspired by Sephora customers’ own “beauty FOMO,” the idea was designed to build anticipation and provide its shoppers with bragging rights on their latest beauty haul, said Deborah Yeh, Sephora’s senior vice president of marketing and brand.
For the inaugural edition, the brands created a variety of eye shadow and face palettes, retailing between $25 and $129. The series will recur throughout the year, though it’s unclear how often, and will include different brands and product types.
Select “First at Sephora” products
Sephora’s merchandising team, who is tasked with courting brands for the series, found it to be an easy sell, said Yeh: “We offered [brands] the opportunity to create buzz and excitement for products we knew would be highly in-demand, given their limited distribution.”
That demand is being driven online, of course, where Sephora and its brand partners are leveraging video and social media posts to promote the launches. Educational, custom content, like a 10-minute tutorial video featuring two Sephora Pro artists, is being shared across YouTube, Instagram and Facebook to further drive the products’ desirability.
Taken together, the videos surrounding these exclusives had a seven-day organic performance that was 224 percent above Sephora’s average views, reported Yeh.
Targeted media campaigns were also relied on to highlight the product launches, including animated display ads, Facebook and Instagram carousel ads featuring video content, and promotions on the retailer’s own newsletter and website. Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community — a conversational forum on its website open only to members of its loyalty program — were told first.
Although Sephora couldn’t comment on its influencer strategy for the launch, it can be assumed that a targeted gifting plan was used: Popular beauty vloggers like JuicyJas and Nicole Guerriero both featured some of the new products in their latest videos. The retailer has spoken previously about its robust influencer strategy, which it recently revamped to focus on longer-term partnerships.
“We are beyond excited by the early results,” said Yeh, referring to key campaign metrics like sales, customer engagement on social media, newsletter open rates and the reviews entered on its website. Alongside the company’s loyal shoppers, she said, it’s seeing new customer traction from the launch, as well.
“Now more than ever, consumers have constant options, and we have the responsibility to give them access to undiscovered, exclusive and/or new beauty products,” she said.