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Yesterday US retailer Sephora completed a ‘digital makeover’, which has over the past few months included the launch of a new website, mobile site, an iPhone app, plus the introduction of iPads (to look up products) and the iPod Touch (to help customers check out) to many of its stores.

So far, the iPhone app has been downloaded 2m times, and the retailer says that shopping from mobile devices grew by 300% last year.

The make-up and pharmaceutical company has also fully integrated with Pinterest, so that users can “pin” any of the 14,000 products on Sephora.com to their own boards.

Julie Bornstein, SVP of Sephora Direct told AllThingsD that in terms of social media traffic drivers, Pinterest is already second only to Facebook.

Just last week we highlighted that half of online customer feedback comes from those that bought products instore, according to Bazaarvoice’s Conversation Index.

Within the report, Bazaarvoice speculated that online customer satisfaction could be higher as shoppers have more access to research, feedback from other consumers and more product options.

Research shows that as many as 50% of smartphone owners use their device to research product information instore, suggesting that shops aren’t giving people valuable enough product details.

Bazaarvoice's report recommends using consumer-focused mobile apps, product labels infused with user generated content and instore kiosks to bridge the information gap to potentially offer greater customer satisfaction. 

This is something Sephora is taking to heart, saying that since there’s not a lot of price differentiation in its industry, its mobile integration makes the experience better.

Targeting its loyalty-card users (something Boots could learn from in the UK) the Sephora app allows consumers to track what products they’ve purchased in the past, find out how many reward points they have, and look up the ingredients of various products. 

Bornstein also said that employees were kitted out with “iPods that have a credit card scanner, so they can ring up a customer after helping him or her find a particular product” – as well as tiny printers to provide a paper receipt. However, these aren’t intended to entirely replace cash registers, but simply provide an alternative payment method during busy periods.

Here we see the brand drawing on lessons from other innovative retailers, notably Apple’s use of Square and Burberry’s use of the iPad.

Though integration with social sharing and user generated reviews is still missing – this is most definitely a step in the right direction.

Vikki Chowney

Published 10 April, 2012 by Vikki Chowney

Vikki is head of community at TMW. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+

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