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Sephora and Instagram go after younger shoppers

GLOSSY / Article by Priya Rao / June 25, 2020

Sephora continues to court Gen-Z and millennial shoppers.

On Tuesday, Sephora announced that it is partnering with Instagram on a digital storefront that allows customers to purchase directly from the beauty retailer’s feed and Stories. More than 80 Sephora brands will be available via Instagram Checkout, including exclusives like Drunk Elephant, Tatcha, Lawless and Summer Fridays. Sephora sells 290-plus brands in stores and on, and has 20 million followers on Instagram.

“Beauty lovers come to @sephora every day to discover products and connect with brands. Together with Sephora, we want to make shopping inspiring and seamless for this community,”said Eva Chen, vp of fashion partnerships for Instagram.

Prior to this wide-ranging beauty push, just 10 brands out of 26 total companies that were initially available on Instagram Checkout when it launched in March 2019 were in the beauty category. At the time, much bigger beauty names were included in the Instagram Shop experiment like MAC Cosmetics, Nars, Kylie Cosmetics and KKW. Slowly, influencer-led beauty lines were brought on like Nikita Dragun’s Dragun Beauty, Tina Craig’s U Beauty and Deepica Mutyala’s Live Tinted — upon partnering with Instagram many of these brands didn’t have distribution beyond their own DTC sites. According to an Instagram company spokesperson, the company has “hundreds of brands testing Checkout today,” as the program remains in beta.

But Sephora’s partnership with Instagram allows indie beauty’s buzziest names to grow, while the retailer continues to own all channels.

“Sephora is notorious for throwing its weight around. They’re saying, ‘You want to be in our stores? Well you have to be on our e-commerce site, and now you have to be in our Instagram Shop.’ Smaller brands are confined to their rules, because they know the pros of growing their business with Sephora probably outweigh the cons of doing it on their own,” said Claude Zdanow, founder and CEO of marketing agency Stadiumred Group. Sephora was unavailable for interviews.

To further emphasize this power dynamic, the brands Sephora is featuring likely won’t have access to their own sales and traffic data via Instagram (as is the case with online Sephora sales). “This is their way to continue to own the beauty customer, so they can better understand how social campaigns and influencers are driving to their site,” said Zdanow. “Buying digital ads don’t do anything unless you can understand the sales funnel and effectiveness of each channel. Sephora will continue to get more data.”

Though some Sephora stores remain closed because of coronavirus, the company reported e-commerce sales had grown more than 30% during shutdowns, explaining the push to capture more digital sales.

But this partnership, of course, also benefits Instagram. “Facebook and Instagram want to become players in e-commerce, and for beauty, especially, that content is already on Instagram,” said Andre Artacho, managing director of Two Nil, an agency that specializes in DTC businesses. According to Deutsche Bank, Instagram Checkout could add $10 billion of revenue for Facebook in 2021.

Layer in the ease as well as the aesthetic synergy of shopping within Instagram for the beauty customer, where product announcements, how-to tutorials and IG Lives already live, Instagram is setting itself up to directly compete with Amazon. According to Deutsche Bank research, where 500 Instagram users were surveyed, 43% of respondents said they were either “very likely” or “somewhat likely”  to purchase products on Instagram using Checkout, and 83% said they would become repeat shoppers, purchasing something in the app within the subsequent six months.

“It will be a fight for convenience,” said Artacho. “But not just with Amazon, all retailers in beauty — a customer can decide if they want go to a store and find a product they saw on Instagram, or they can just let content direct them to buying in the app.”

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