Sephora is a brand that has come, been and gone in the UK and is, to a large extent, probably forgotten on these shores.
But it has not ceased to be. Like other retail formulas that have failed to catch fire in this country, the French cosmetics and beauty retailer is alive and kicking in multiple territories and cities and one of these is New York.
There are in fact 17 Sephora outposts in the New York and most are crowded on any given day. And the retailer has just unveiled a device dubbed ‘Color IQ’ designed to make choosing a suitable make-up product a bit more straightforward.
Situated, depending on which branch is visited, in the mid-shop or on the perimeter, it combines design with technology. The technology bit is a device much like an electronic gun that is pressed against various parts of the face to take a reading of the colours of the skin - they are different on different parts of the face. The results are averaged out to offer a colour that will fit all areas.
It’s probably rather more about marketing than any kind of science as people’s faces change colour depending on how warm or cold the weather is. But that did not seem to prevent a steady stream of customers from queuing up to be analysed in this way. The real point about what has been done is the way in which the technology has been melded with the store design. This is ‘assisted technology’, something that has considerably more appeal than standalone touchscreens, which often will remain untouched.
The best retailers have understood that customer-facing technology has to be used in this way and that it needs to be part of a design, rather than layered on top of an existing blueprint.