When you express a love for all things makeup, people will always come to you expecting you to have the answers. If the questions are about products, I usually can give my opinion without feeling like I’m talking in circles. However, recently I’ve been getting asked about one thing that I really have no idea about, and that is the new Sephora Studio.
Now, as a VIB Rouge member and one hailing from Boston, I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of this store. However, I’m living in New York now, and my schedule did not allow me to go. Apparently, that doesn’t exclude me from being bombarded by questions about the new store and what I think about it.
To be quite honest, I haven’t heard much about this store. I didn’t see any big hype about it before I received my invitation to the opening, and I haven’t really heard much about it since it’s been opened. However, I do know that the concept behind this store is an integration of a typical brick-and-mortar shopping experience that you would get in any Sephora store but with the added enhancements provided by technology. The brick-and-mortar experience within the retail world has been drastically declining, with many retailers opting to sell only online now. However, with cosmetics, that isn’t necessarily the case, as Ulta has seen increased sales, especially in their retail locations.
For cosmetics, it is relatively hard to simulate the experience of retail shopping in an online platform, unless you already know the exact products and shades you need because you’ve used them in the past. If you’re not in this position, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Cosmetic products create a very tactile shopping experience because there are so many factors unique to each individual shopper like skin tone, texture, and even how the product will react to a certain skin type. While I’m not saying trying on clothes is something that everyone can do online, it is certainly a lot easier to shop across different retailers if you know your size and measurements. Makeup, on the other hand, is hard to integrate with a complete online forum.
Because of the difficulty that exists with online shopping and cosmetics, I really have an issue with this Sephora Studio. Now, these are just my opinions, and I do hate to kick Sephora while they’re already down in the consumers’ eye thanks to their sloppy marketing tactics with their changes in their rewards program, I feel that I need to address my opinions on their store since I am asked about it so much.
When it comes to technology, Sephora already doesn’t have a great track record. I don’t know how many have gone in to be color-matched at one of their stores, but they use this machine to test different areas of your face to determine the best foundation match for your skin, based on its “analysis.” Anyone who has stepped into a Sephora store knows how TERRIBLE their lighting is. Some stores are dimly light, while others are pumped full of fluorescent lighting.
At Ulta when we would have customers as to be color matched, we would sit them down and swatch the side of their jaw, and then bring them outside so we could see the shades in natural light and match that way. Ulta does have the advantage of often times being stand-alone stores or anchoring a mall, whereas Sephora’s are usually located inside the mall itself, so access to natural light is not always easy to find. But, if you’re going to integrate a machine to color-match customers who don’t have any knowledge of foundations or other face products, then you really have to take into consideration the environment the machine is being used in with regards to how it reacts to the skin. Never in my life, since Sephora has launched this machine years ago, have I seen an accurate color match. When it was used on me it matched me 5 shades darker than my actual skin tone, because the lighting was so bad.
Already Sephora’s track record with integrating technology into the shopping experience is not good. Now, launching a whole store based around it seems to be ambitious. The store is on Newbury Street, so access to natural lighting is improved, but the store still seems to rely heavily on technology as the experience. Yes, advances in technology are incredible and continue to amaze me everyday, I still don’t think we have advanced to the point where a retail store is able to present technology for the everyday idiot to use and give accurate results. I don’t think a “skin IQ quiz” is going to be able to tell me my skin texture and skin type better than an aesthetician would be able to. Or that a “moisture meter” is going to be able to tell me which areas of my skin are dehydrated better than an aesthetician especially when literally every person that walks into that store is going to be different. What I know about technology is that a lot of the time it works very well when it can classify things into groups to simply things, and you simply cannot do that with humans because we’re special snowflakes *eye roll*.
Of course, I want to see this store for myself because I’ve literally only seen two articles so far about this store, and neither one seems to give any concrete description of the actual store. Given what I know about the cosmetics shopping experience and the shortcomings that technology has when trying to streamline this experience, I don’t forsee this store doing exceptionally well, or really doing anything to boost Sephora’s growth compared to Ulta or even the luxury retailers now as well.