Immersive, inclusive and interactive: Sephora goes virtual

, in 2018 and 2019. But during the pandemic, Sephora adapted it, moving the event online in 2021 as a free digital experience. The brand is upping the ante this year, by weaving in an immersive, 3D, gaming beauty environment that can be accessed via a laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone with a browser and internet connection.

“Following a successful virtual event last year, we are thrilled to bring Sephoria back again this year to even more visitors from around the globe,” says Jessica Stacey, SVP external communications and experiential marketing at Sephora. 

The Sephoria event program has been created to highlight diversity, foster inclusivity, and display Sephora’s differentiated product assortment. The beauty retailer is dedicated to providing a unique, free experience online using innovative technologies that people from all over the world will be able to access and enjoy. 

“Not only will this year’s event reach the US, Canada, France, Spain, and Italy, but we also have enhanced experiences to ensure Sephoria is the most interactive, and inclusive virtual event for the Sephora community, with unparalleled access to exclusive content, founders, product sneak-peeks, an, engaging gamification,” Stacey said.

Sephora’s virtual event will house seven different rooms: The Foyer, Home Theatre, La Sala, Kitchen, The Spa, Sunroom, and Backyard. Each space will be dedicated to a variety of beauty experiences, from product updates, to learning about BIPOC [Black and Indigenous people of colour] and Latin-owned beauty brands, to wellness activities such as meditation, facial exercises, and aura readings. 

Those attending can drop into the Backyard for games, surprises, mixed-reality photo experiences, and special guest features. When the event goes live on 18 September, attendees will have the chance to accrue Beauty Insider points as prizes for playing games.

Upon registration, beauty lovers may choose to opt in and pay a fee to receive a specially curated Experience Kit. For US$50 ($73) attendees receive a pack by mail with samples, travel-size, and full-size products from participating brands. We still love physical products after all, especially makeup and skincare products. 

Virtual branded experiences have become popular marketing strategies, as they offer customers the ability to find out more about products in digital spaces, and brands are going all in, particularly in the beauty industry, with the likes of Glossier, Estée Lauder, Fenty Beauty and Gucci embracing this trend by rolling out mixed-reality campaigns turning physical products and services into an immersive shopping adventure. 

From newspapers to AR filters

Advertising and marketing in beauty have completely changed over the last century. We’ve come from newspapers, radio, television, door-to-door sales, and magazines to websites, internet ads, blogs, email marketing, social media, influencer marketing, user-generated content, augmented reality filters and now virtual experiences in 3D. What began as static media has turned into something social, immersive, and interactive. 

Throughout the evolution of beauty advertising, there has been a cultural shift in being inclusive and portraying diverse people in marketing and ad campaigns. This has also forced the industry and brands to cater to a wide audience who are from different backgrounds, have a variety of preferences and find belonging and identity in makeup and its communities.

Access to social media introduced the ability to have a two-way conversation between consumers and brands. As such, shoppers have used this medium to their advantage to voice their opinions, share authentic reviews, and create their own content. They can now show brands they are active participants in their community and want to be heard. 

Modern brands such as Sephora are creating dedicated experiences and spaces to bring people together around a shared love of beauty, skincare, health, and wellbeing. Sephoria incorporates innovation that fully supports social exchanges and immersive experiences – all within an interactive environment. These pillars are foundational to modern marketing.

Our world in Web3

The term metaverse is thrown around a lot, and technically it doesn’t exist yet. However, there are several underlying technologies underpinning what the metaverse will be in the near future. One of these is blockchain, a decentralised digital ledger to record transactions such as cryptocurrencies. 

Honestly, if you think the metaverse sounds overly complicated and unnecessary to consider right now, I won’t hold it against you. In fact, it’s a sentiment most people share. In saying that, we’ve all seen just how quickly Web3 technology has permeated our lives in the past few years. Perhaps we’ve tried a few AR filters, played Fortnite or Roblox, bought a VR headset to see what all the fuss is about. Or even dabbled in cryptocurrency and purchased non-fungible tokens. These are all early entry points into what will make up the metaverse. 

Industries such as beauty and fashion are at the forefront of Web3 tech. And as part of Sephoria this year, attendees will be able to redeem a POAP (proof of attendance protocol). A blockchain-based digital record that gets added to your crypto wallet from experiences you’ve attended both physical and digital. POAPs are being used frequently for events as a way of authenticating genuine participation. For brands, this is a superb way of fostering an engaged community and creating deeper connections with their most loyal followers by offering exclusive content for POAP holders. 

No matter the technology, the aim in marketing is to build community through creative initiatives that remove barriers for shoppers to connect with brands. It’s about getting back to what people enjoy, and giving them the space to play, learn, and socialise. The Sephoria event is a new standard in beauty, one that is embracing modern marketing for digital native consumers. 

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