NEW YORK: Sephora, the beauty mass merchandiser, has decided to run against popular retail practices by encouraging its customers to engage in showrooming - looking at products in-store but comparing them online - as a way of boosting sales and loyalty.

Many retailers have been panicked by the sight of customers using physical stores to examine possible purchases and then researching their options on the web, often doing so via smartphones when standing at the shelf-edge.

But while speaking at the National Retail Federation's Big Show, Johnna Marcus - Sephora's director/mobile and digital store marketing - reported that it had consistently advocated just this habit.

"We have, for a couple of years, tried to encourage the idea you should use your phone in stores," she told delegates at the event.

"I'm really glad we've moved past the conversation two years ago around showrooming and how bad it is." (For more, including Sephora's approach to building loyalty using mobile, read Warc's exclusive report: Sephora stands up to showrooming.)

Rather than viewing this activity as detrimental to its business, Sephora believes it helps shoppers become more informed, and gives the brand a chance to reach consumers at various points in the purchase funnel.

"Our point of view has always been [that] we want you to think about Sephora when you're thinking about beauty. And we want you to use your phone; we want you to use our information or use anybody else's," said Marcus.

"It's a better experience. We know people research, so we want you to do that both before you come in and when you're in-store."

Mobile has been at the heart of the organisation's strategy, both on the web and via an app for its most dedicated customers.

And in case there were any lingering doubts about the value of reaching digitally-savvy shoppers, Marcus reported they are an extremely profitable group to target.

"A customer who shops cross-channel is a lot more valuable," she said.

Data sourced from Warc