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Groundswell Entry: Sephora - BeautyTalk and the Traveling Sephora Box

Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

This is a submission by Sephora, for the Forrester Research Groundswell Awards. Category of submission is : North America, Business to Consumer, Energizing.  Written by Candace Sims, Sephora




Sephora partnered with Lithium Technologies in September 2010 to launch our online beauty community BeautyTalk with a few high level goals in mind:

  • To build the Sephora brand and community, 
  • to establish Sephora’s expertise in the beauty world,
  •  and to drive sales and loyalty.  

But our main objective was simple: to create a space where our clients could get their most pressing beauty questions answered by our experts and each other

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BeautyTalk was created to build on the success we had with the launch of our Ratings & Reviews feature, where our clients had already posted over a million reviews on the thousands of products that we carry. Consistent with our commitment to helping our clients make informed beauty decisions, BeautyTalk was meant to take the exchange of information to the next level. 


We planned to use what we learned about our clients’ passions from the ongoing dialogue on the site to continue to develop new ways to meet their needs. We also wanted to create a fully searchable beauty knowledgebase where consumer and Sephora expert generated answers to any beauty question could be accessed with just a few clicks.


When we launched, we knew that we would attract beauty enthusiasts worldwide who were eager to ask questions and share their beauty knowledge.  What we didn’t anticipate was that our users would turn those online connections into offline action by creating the Traveling Sephora Box

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The idea behind the Traveling Sephora Box is pretty straightforward:

  • A client fills a box with unused Sephora beauty products and samples that didn’t work them, accumulated by many shopping trips to Sephora.  
  • They mail the box to another client who they’ve connected with on BeautyTalk. 
  • The next client takes a few of the items out of the box that she would like to try and replaces them with more items, products or samples. 
  • The box travels all around the country (and to Canada) this way, going from user to user, all who have signed up to be on “the list” via a thread in BeautyTalk


The Traveling Sephora Box is a completely user generated and moderated program, all with the help of the community forums on BeautyTalk, which allow our clients to communicate with each other in a safe and welcoming community space.  They contact each other via private messages to keep tabs about the location of the box and make sure it is getting from one user to the next, post their “hauls” (items they have taken out of the box) as well as the items they added, in the “Traveling Sephora Box” threads (they are currently on number 3!) and discuss how their new products are working for them.


BeautyTalk and the Traveling Sephora Box have created excitement around the brand by energizing clients to actively engage with each other offline in the name of the Sephora.  A sense of goodwill relating to the brand is also achieved, as the products left (usually well upwards of 100) in the Box are always donated to a woman’s shelter or charity at the end of the box’s run. And lest anyone think that the sharing of unused beauty products impedes spending habits, our BeautyTalk super users spend 10x more cross-channel than a typical Sephora client.


Not only are our most engaged clients (who spend more than 133 hours in BeautyTalk a month!) becoming Sephora evangelists by sharing products and activities outside of BeautyTalk, but they are using our community to connect with each other in ways that we didn't anticipate.  As one Hall of Famer member, mermadelove, posted, “…I think that part of the reason the box is going so well IS because we have a great community here at beautytalk. A major reason I wanted to do this swap and trade board here is because I feel like I’m getting to know people here in a way that’s much harder [on Facebook].”


BeautyTalk has allowed our clients to be a part of a community, where they can talk to other beauty lovers like themselves, get advice and support and share stories. And with the Traveling Sephora Box our users have taken BeautyTalk to the next level, bringing their online community offline, and energizing around Sephora and their love of beauty.


About the Author
Paul is the Director of Community and Digital Strategy at Lithium Technologies, responsible for Lithium's own community, the Lithosphere and plus associated properties.