How Sephora Has Used Chatbots as a Great Compliment to In-store Service

Makeup Brushes

By Tricia McKinnon

Have you ever wondered what a chatbot is?  Chatbots use artificial intelligence to simulate conversations with users.  In April 2016 Facebook launched its Messenger Platform, which enables businesses to communicate with customers using bots. There are now more than 300,000 monthly active bots communicating with customers on Facebook Messenger.  Bots can be used to offer a consistent level of customer service, provide customers answers to questions immediately and serve customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sephora was one of the early adopters of messaging bots and has built a messaging bot on Kik and a bot on Facebook Messenger called Sephora Assistant.

Sephora’s first use of chatbots took place in 2016 when it launched a messaging bot on Kik, the Canadian messaging app targeted at teens. Sephora choose Kik because it was an opportunity to acquire young customers as well as have a presence where they already spend their time.  Once launched, Sephora found that customers were highly engaged in their chats with Sephora on the Kik platform.  On average once a customer begins messaging with Sephora’s bot on the platform they send 10 messages on average per day.  While brands use social media apps like Instagram to connect with customers, it is often a more passive way to communicate as content is pushed into a customer’s feed. Messaging bots allow brands to more actively engage with customers in a more personalized way but on a mass scale.

Sephora Assistant allows customers to book makeup appointments using Facebook Messenger. The goal is to make the process of booking makeup appointments quick and easy for this valuable customer segment.  An appointment can be booked in as few as three steps. The bot has been successful, increasing bookings by 11% in the United States.  Clients who booked a service using the Facebook Messenger bot, end up spending on average, over $50 in-store.  

When I messaged Sephora Assistant on Messenger, this is the message I received back:

“Hi Tricia, welcome to the Sephora Assistant!  You can try on looks, book a makeover or share store feedback”.  I was also given an option to click on the screen and chat with an Agent.  If you choose this option Sephora Assistant asks: “what is your question or request? Please include your email address, order number, and any other details, and our customer service team will get back to you”.  I also decided to click on the option to “try on looks”.   Options for different lip colours popped up on my screen. I decided “to try” on red lipstick and winged liner. The camera on my phone automatically popped up. Once in selfie mode, the makeup I selected was superimposed on my face.  Earlier this year Facebook announced that Messenger bots could use augmented reality within their automatic responses.  Augmented reality was used to apply the makeup virtually to my face. The final step is an option to purchase the product that I am interested in on Sephora’s website.

Whether you are a make-up lover or just a casual user this a fun and easy way to shop.  It looks like Sephora has figured out how to use chatbots to provide not only great customer service but a fun shopping experience.  This is the type of service that will resonate well with customers especially millennials that place a high value on experiences.


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Tricia McKinnon