Sephora, the beauty retailer, is putting experiences at the heart of its customer loyalty program, in recognition of the fact this approach can foster deep bonds with consumers.

Allegra Stanley, Sephora’s VP/Loyalty, discussed this subject at CommerceNext 2019, a retail-focused conference held in New York City.

“It’s experiential loyalty that we really believe drives the greatest lifetime loyalty and love,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Sephora’s emotion-led formula to build its customer loyalty program.)

Sephora’s loyalty program, which is known as “Beauty Insider”, boasts some 25 million members, who can exchange points they have earned while making purchases for beauty products and experiences.

Most shoppers, of course, would never turn down a 20% discount coupon as they visit any one of the 400 stores run by Sephora across the Americas, its 600 locations within branches of retailer JCPenney, or its e-commerce platform.

But, Stanley suggested, deeper attachment can result from providing special experiences to Beauty Insider members – whether a customer meets the founder of a cosmetics brand, enjoys a luxurious spa day, or crafts a personalised fragrance.

Financial perks inevitably remain an element of the rewards mix, she conceded. “In retail,” Stanley said, “we see quite a bit of that ‘transactional’ or ‘bought’ loyalty. The reality is: that is a part of our program, and will always need to be.

“But we actually think that where the real richness comes from is more from an emotional, or ‘earned’, loyalty. And a lot of the way that we actually bring that together is through our rewards.”

From in-store beauty classes to personal makeovers and product launch parties, participants in Sephora’s loyalty program – which splits members into groups depending on their spending levels with the company – offers a range of experiences.

“It’s much easier to create a 20%-off coupon than it is to truly engage a client and think creatively about, ‘How are we going to really engage with them in a way that’s going to be meaningful for them?’” Stanley said.

“That’s much harder work – much harder when we think about rewards that are done in partnership with our brand partners and all of those different components.

“But, at the end of the day, it’s definitely worth it – and it has driven a more meaningful connection with our clients, and the Sephora brand.”

Sourced from WARC