Before a visit to its Web site, what I knew about the Sephora chain of upscale cosmetic stores could have filled a lipstick palette. I'm still no expert, but at least I now know the difference between blush and concealer.
According to its site, "…Sephora is not only the leading chain of perfume and cosmetics stores in France, it's also a powerful beauty presence in 13 other countries. In the United States alone, there are over 250 Sephora stores and over 200 Sephora inside JCPenney stores."
What this listing doesn't tout is its virtual presence, which just last week was made more relevant to customers and cosmetics aficionados through the launch of the company's BeautyTalk community. This community, running on the Lithium Awareness solution, is designed to engage the women and men interested in cosmetics, perfume, and body care, and to complement the conversations they are having across the social Web, including those by Sephora's 900,000+ Facebook fans.
Sephora isn't Lithium Technologies' traditional client. In recent years, Lithium has found traction largely (though not exclusively) with high tech, media, and telecommunications companies. That Sephora chose Lithium speaks not only to the benefits of partnering with experienced providers of social technology and services, but also to Lithium's new marketing focus and solutions-oriented approach. The California-based vendor has rebranded its offerings as the Lithium Social Customer Suite, of which Lithium Commerce, Lithium Service, and Lithium Awareness (which Sephora is leveraging) are key components of its solution set.
What's most compelling about BeautyTalk is its seamless integration into the Sephora Web site. This isn't a new thing for Lithium, which has done similar integrations for Barnes & Noble and others. But integration of social content is important and effective in all industries and verticals, not only retail. Customers put a great deal of trust in the perspectives of, and the support from, other customers – others who have the same interests, questions, and needs as themselves. And they shouldn't have to delve into the far reaches of a site to find or provide something useful. A "socially integrated" site is a customer-centric one, bringing customer voices to the fore.
Katy Keim, Lithium's Chief Marketing Officer sums this up nicely by saying, "We think the phrase 'social customer' over time will become redundant."
We think so, too. But I'll leave that for another day; it's time for my beauty rest.