What the New Sephora.com is Telling us

The New Look of Sephora.com

On March 1, 2017, Sephora US launched their new website, which led to many complaints about broken links and slow speed that greatly dampen the shopping experience. I was furious when the product pages I wanted to visit led to 400 errors in Safari. Give me back my old Sephora!

However, after staring at the new top navigation for longer, I start to find the new website and the vision behind it interesting. For those who are not familiar with Sephora.com, this is how it looked in 2016:

Makeup, skin care, fragrance… The navigation provides a nearly perfect taxonomy of cosmetics that is incredibly efficient for product enthusiasts. For those who do not know what they want, the site also provides suggestions such as “Advice”, “How-tos”, “Bestsellers”, and “Just Arrived”.

The old Sephora.com was quite similar to other e-commerce websites, but more sophisticated and user-friendly than most of them mainly because of the efficient information architecture. Now if we take a look at the new site…

The nice product categories are squeezed into one tab of the top navigation, except for the “Gifts” category which still has its own stance. The navigation has been radically changed to make space for two things that are crucial in the beauty business:

1. Recommendation Systems

What used to be in the “Quick Links” on the side, such as newly arrived products, are now on the top. Moreover, “New” and “Brands” are not only lists of new products and brands A–Z, they are strategic recommendations on what you should buy. What you see first when you hover over “New” is new trends that you should follow (highlighting is IN now, for example).

The “How-tos”, which used to be at the very end of the top navigation, are now much more visible. It showcases Sephora’s tech innovations including a virtual try-on tool and intelligent recommendation tools called “iQ”.

2. Community

“Community”, which used to be hidden deeper in the site, is now at the center of attention:

Robust, credible user comments and ratings have always been an advantage of Sephora.com. The “Beauty Board”, where real people post their pictures using their purchases, is one step further from text-based user reviews. “Beauty Talk” is a space for people to ask and answer questions related to beauty and where people help each other solve problems that cannot be solved by the system. Beauty enthusiasts love to share their experiences and purchases, and Sephora is meeting their needs.

By laying emphasis on intelligent recommendations and community building, Sephora is ambitiously trying to meet every needs in the beauty business. Don’t know what to buy? Check out our recommendations! Already bought something? Share it with others! Don’t even want to buy anything? Are you kidding? Don’t be left behind by the hottest trends! Sephora has decided to move beyond a beauty store and become a trendsetter. The beauty industry is never just about giving you what you want. It is about telling you what you want, and Sephora knows that well.

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