August 25,2019

"Our goal in China is to build the most popular Beauty Community! This Beauty Community will include consumers, brands, KOL, business partners, etc. Sephora hopes to be the most trustworthy partner of its community members." Benjamin Vuchot, the President of Sephora APAC, told

Sephora has been in China for 14 years. Now, Sephora is strengthening its influence in the China market by deepening the all-channel social retail experience, investing in its own brand line, and striving for more exclusive cooperation rights of beauty brands.

Connecting online and offline
Creating an all-channel social retail experience


1. Channel layout: "where consumers are, we are."

Sephora entered the China market in 2005, and opened its first store in Shanghai. So far, Sephora has 235 stores in 74 cities, all of which are located in medium and high-end department stores and shopping centers.

There is no doubt that China market plays an important role in Sephora's international landscape. As Benjamin Vuchot stressed in the interview: Sephora currently is the only high-end vertical beauty retailer in China.  But Sephora is also facing new challenges: Chinese consumers are keen on multi-channel shopping; social media has changed the source and speed of consumer accessing information; and the younger generation of consumers are now more individualistic.

Today, Sephora's "diversified online community" has been formed, in addition to Sephora's official e-commerce channels (including official website and app), it also entered the T-mall and JD --- two major e-commerce platforms in China. Last year Sephora also launched its WeChat Mini Program. This cooperation with third-party e-commerce and social platforms is not only intended to reach a wider range of high-end beauty consumers, but also as part of Sephora's active attempt to embrace Chinese social culture.


2. Retail experience: integrating beauty shopping, education and entertainment 

According to "China New Generation Fashion Consumption Report 2018” release by, "Shopping experience and service" have become the most important factor for the new generation of consumers to create a good impression of the brand. Offline experience is crucial for cultivating brand awareness for the post-1995 generation.

Last September, Sephora opened its first concept store in Asia on Nanjing East Road in Shanghai, representing a comprehensive upgrade of Sephora's retail stores. Its biggest feature is to combine physical retail and digital retail, creating a retail closed-loop system with seamless online and offline all-channel links. It is equipped with high-tech devices such as cloud shelves, where users can "place orders in store and receive products at home", a Beauty Studio area that provides exclusive makeup trial services, as well as AR virtual makeup trial and virtual interaction between fans and idols.

The concept store is a trial of the Sephora retail store concept in China. Benjamin Vuchot says, "We will open more of these concept stores in the future, and we will use this concept to upgrade our existing stores, but this will take a little while."

The logic behind the concept store reflects Sephora's response to current Chinese consumers’ demand and changes in shopping habits. In Benjamin Vuchot's observation, Sephora's Chinese customers expect to experience beauty shopping, beauty education and entertainment, all within a community. In fact, Sephora has been working on beauty education for years. Through teaching and sharing, Sephora hopes to share its expert knowledge on trends and skin care knowledge with consumers

According to "China New Generation Fashion Consumption Report 2018”, released by, personalized customization and styling services have become the strongest demand of young consumers. In Sephora, daily makeup trials and makeup classes have become an important way to carry out beauty makeup education, and the Beauty Advisor program has become a key force behind it.

According to Benjamin Vuchot, Sephora's Beauty Advisor is the core of stores and experience retailing. "A lot of young consumers spend for the first time on beauty products at Sephora. Sephora is a great educational space. For example, many Sephora clients come in and consult a beauty advisor for the latest product or a makeup look for a particular occasion before buying it. It's all a part of experience retailing, not just a business transaction.”


Strengthen its own product line

Introduce more high-value exclusive brands

1.Exclusive brand -- the backbone of creating differentiation

In the face of increasingly fierce competition in the beauty makeup market, Sephora continues to strengthen its own brand product line and attract more and more beauty brands to enter an exclusive partnership. Currently, Sephora's exclusive brand and products basically cover the whole category of skin care, makeup and other products, for botgh male and female consumers.

"The new generation of Chinese consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and sensitive to beauty trends, " Benjamin Vuchot said in the interview, and there, beauty makeup retailers must invest into differentiation to catch the more sophisticated new generation of consumers. Exclusive brands are becoming the backbone of Sephora to create this differentiation, and with it, deepen its emotional connection with consumers.

Skin Inc, a Singapore-based customized skin care brand officially entered the China market through Sephora in 2018. The Head of Skin Inc told that as the exclusive brand, the products sold in Sephora are not available on other channels.

It is worth noting that the proportion of Chinese local beauty brands in Sephora is increasing. In addition to the high-end lines of WEI (蔚蓝之美), Marie Dalgar (玛丽黛佳) and Color Studio, there are a number of new Chinese local brands such as LEANON (两两) that have also settled in recently.


2. Own brand Sephora Collection -- A source to attract new customers + innovation testing ground

Sephora Collection, Sephora's own brand, has formed a full range of diversified products, covering skin care, makeup, body care and various tools. In terms of pricing, Sephora Collection is more user-friendly than other brands.

Analysts say the entry-level price of the Sephora Collection is designed to attract more new customers. As new customers become loyal customers, they will gradually shift their focus to other Sephora brands, looking for alternatives with a higher positioning than Sephora Collection.

Another big role for Sephora Collection can be seen as Sephora's testing ground for innovation -- "product development tends to incorporate the latest innovative technologies."


In terms of category layout, skin care, makeup and perfume are still the core categories of Sephora. Benjamin Vuchot says: "China has become the most important skincare market. Our Chinese consumers are skincare experts. They think skincare is the most fundamental and basic requirement, and our make-up helps them to be more confident and bright."

When asked about other potential growth categories, Benjamin Vuchot mentioned hair care and perfume. For the latter, Benjamin Vuchot sees perfume as an important trend in China's beauty market and says Sephora wants to be a pioneer in this field.



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