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Pick of the Quarter: Sephora redefining commerce for beauty

First shoppable live event on Instagram in the Middle East lets customers interact with the brand and buy products easily and quickly


Cosmetics retailer Sephora wanted to launch its new beauty products in a way that has never been done before, creating awareness in an innovative and dynamic fashion and collapsing the marketing funnel from awareness to purchase.

Sephora’s target audience was women who are interested in beauty and cosmetics, aged 16-40 and living in the Middle East, and the brand wanted to connect with the younger generation and their new ways of commerce. Millennials and Gen Z like to enjoy a completely digital retail experience, from discovery to shopping, supported by virtual assistants.

To answer these challenges, Sephora teamed up with Meta’s Instagram platform to launch the first social beauty event in the region to run on Instagram Live. It featured one of Sephora’s own beauty experts showcasing Sephora’s latest and best skincare, haircare and beauty products. People watching were able to comment on the products during the Live broadcast. Comments would cause Instagram’s direct message (DM) function to open, and users could browse products and buy them from within the app.

“Messaging is transforming the way brands connect with their customers, as it offers a more seamless, efficient, and personalised way across the consumer journey,” said Leen Fakhreddin.

To ensure the Live broadcast flowed smoothly, remained interactive and demonstrated Sephora’s expertise, the brand had to pick the right person to host the event, and to decide whether to use an influencer or someone else to carry its messaging. Interacting with a virtual audience while demonstrating products and explaining a new form of shopping required a talented presenter, and Sephora was lucky enough to find that person within their own team.

Sephora selected their brand ambassador and make-up artist to be the figurehead of the Instagram Live Campaign.

Not only was it important to get as many users as possible to connect, but Sephora wanted to minimise drop-off rates so its visitors stayed with the experience for as long as possible.

It was also important to select the right products to create excitement, and to ensure enough stock was maintained. This would keep the bot that talked to customers active for a long time. Otherwise, visitors could find the product they wanted to purchase was out of stock. The brand’s teams selected products that would appeal to different tastes among its clientele.

“Messaging is transforming the way brands connect with their customers, as it offers a more seamless, efficient, and personalised way across the consumer journey,” said Leen Fakhreddin, Creative Agency Partnerships Lead MEA at Meta. We are just scratching the surface in MENA. 50 per cent of online adults in the US make purchases via chat. Sephora’s innovative and disruptive experience shows just how conversation plays a central role in driving product discovery, engagement,  commerce and customer care, all in one place.”

Thousands of new conversations were generated within Sephora’s DMs because of the Instagram Live shopping bot. Many people interacted with the bot seamlessly, and conversation rates were high.

Within 45 minutes of launch, more than 1,000 customers had reacted to the campaign’s hashtags, and 71 per cent of those opted in to the Instagram Direct messaging bot. Among those who engaged with the bot, 43 per cent clicked through to Sephora’s sites.

In the UAE there was a lift in ad recall of 4.1 points, and an 8.8 point lift in top-of-mind awareness and a 3.4 lift in intent. In Saudi Arabia, there was a 10.7 point lift in ad recall, 5.7 point lift in top-of-mind awareness and 4.6 point lift in intent.

The customised Instagram shopping experience, through messaging and a Click-To-Instagram Direct activation planned and flawlessly executed by their media agency partner Publicis Groupe (Spark Foundry), was the first of its kind both for Sephora in the region, and for any other beauty player in the Middle East, and came at a time when both innovation and competition are increasing in the beauty category worldwide.

Mia Lahoud, Beauty, Luxury and Retail Solutions Manager, MENA, Meta

“Live Shopping on Meta helps bring the magic of in-person shopping to Live by connecting brands with new and existing shoppers. This unique and instant shopping trend is increasingly gaining popularity across the globe and in the Middle East where 43 per cent of shoppers browse Live shopping moments to discover new products and engage with brands in new ways. Sephora, with its pioneering mind-set and extensive knowledge of beauty consumers and trends, hopped on this opportunity with Meta to deliver a one of a kind digital shopping experience on Instagram Live, complemented with a customised messaging experience on Instagram Direct, which helped drive outstanding brand and sales outcomes for the beauty brand.”

Margrette Costandy, Communications Director at Sephora Middle East

“Every day, we see the shopping journey for customers becoming more dynamic and instant. That is why we were determined to be the first beauty brand to trial this new, Instagram Live shopping solution. Our aim was to deliver an exciting journey for users to shop via social media, while engaging live with our beauty experts for advice and recommendations. Thanks to this innovative experience from Meta, and Sephora’s expertise and unique assortments, we were able to deliver powerful results and unlock new insights about our customers social behaviour. ”

Austyn Allison, Senior Editor, Campaign Middle East

Austyn Allison

“This campaign had a lot of moving parts behind the scenes – from the AI tech needed for conversations to the interaction with other parts of the company to ensure a smooth supply of stock. But for the consumer it was simple, and that’s the key to its success. A customer sees a product, chats with the brand, and within a few clicks has made an order. More and more ecommerce experiences will become like this in the future, and Sephora has helped show how to do it right.”