If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re a beauty enthusiast like me and you spend a good chunk of change at Sephora (also known as a makeup paradise).
But with the Sephora Epic Rewards fiasco yesterday, many have been referring to it as a Sephora Epic Fail!
Is Sephora now a paradise lost?
Today, I share with you my honest, raw opinion about how everything unfolded.
Although it’s a departure from my usual nail-polish and beauty-product reviews, I feel that the topic is worth discussing because: 1) This is a beauty blog, 2) Some of my readers were probably affected, and 3) I was one of the people who tried to score the Sephora Epic Rewards and didn’t.
This post isn’t a rant. It contains constructive criticism and my viewpoint as a customer, the marketing missteps I think Sephora made, and how the company should see it as a lesson to be learned, so they can avoid making the same mistakes again and avoid a similar hailstorm of complaints.
Although I feel like I’m in the minority here, despite them being under attack from all angles, I still support Sephora and hope that they’ll find their footing again.
For the record, I’m very disappointed in what went down yesterday. They dropped the ball.
Readers, get comfy, and start painting your nails because this post is very text-heavy!
Also, if you were affected by the Sephora Epic Rewards event yesterday, how did you feel about it? Even if you didn’t participate, but heard about it, I’m curious to see which way the pendulum swings for you.
P.S. I added the caption to the image of Chris Bosh, which is from my video clip I posted over a year ago on Instagram. I think it expresses how a lot of Sephora customers feel.
You know how it is. You say to yourself, “I ran out of lip balm, so I’m going to get a new one.” Somehow, milliseconds after passing through those heavenly doors and seeing the comforting black-and-white stripes, you’re lured by a beckoning come-hither finger called Temptation.
Even as a responsible shopper who spends within your means, now and then, you splurge and treat yo’self like Tom Haverford to more than just that lip balm.
Some Background Information
In Sephora’s loyalty program, for every dollar you purchase, you’re rewarded with points. Collect enough points, and you can redeem them for exclusive products and value packs.
Up until now, I’ve only redeemed my points once, despite collecting for years and spending enough in a year to hit Sephora VIB Rouge status, the top level of membership that comes with some perks.
But the one time I redeemed my points, it was only for a 100- or 200-point reward, if I recall correctly.
I kept saving my points like a squirrel stashing nuts to prepare for the winter.
I was holding out for something huge to come along that would tempt me enough to redeem my 5,000+ Sephora points.
Then, I got an e-mail announcing what Sephora called their Epic Rewards – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to snatch up crazy, unbelievable deals, if you redeemed 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, or even 10,000 points!
The Epic Rewards were hyped up by the company especially via e-newsletters, and I was really excited to finally take the plunge and redeem thousands of points on something truly special.
Among the numerous amazing Epic Rewards were a Givenchy lipstick set with pouch (1,000-point redemption), a Kat von D Liner Vault with 22 liners, a print signed by Kat von D, and an engraved box (2,000-point redemption), the ultimate Too Faced stash containing pretty much every Too Faced item you could ever want (10,000-point redemption), etc.
Truly, these were jaw-dropping offers!
It’s not like I was the only person privy to this special event. Fellow makeup lovers in Canada and the United States were right there with me, drooling all over our keyboards and foaming at the mouth! (Okay, maybe not foaming. We don’t have rabies.)
The anticipation was real, and if you’ve ever drank the MAC Cosmetics limited-edition Kool-Aid before, you know exactly what it means to stalk a website because you want to get your hands on that puppy.
Sephora’s Epic Rewards would be online only and for one day – yesterday. Perhaps taking a cue from MAC Cosmetics, Sephora didn’t specify an exact time the deals would launch on their website, merely that it would be during “business hours” and in Pacific time.
Those who were seasoned and hardcore kept refreshing the website every minute, according to some tweets I read. (I didn’t have the luxury of doing so, as I was at work. Before bathroom breaks, I quickly checked to see if the Sephora Epic Rewards were up, but they weren’t. Then, all through lunch, I kept checking my phone.)
Later, I discovered the sad news, along with other devoted Sephora customers – the Epic Rewards had come and gone so quickly like the Good Witch of the North in her pink bubble. And many customers felt like the company had dropped the house on us without any ruby slippers.
Some people said that the Sephora Epic Rewards were only up for a few minutes before they were all out of stock. I can’t be sure since by the time the rewards were supposed to be up and I logged in, all of them were already gone.
It’s okay if you disagree with me. I won’t be offended. We’re all individuals with our own feelings and perspectives. You don’t have to share my opinion in order for me to respect you. (And, no, I don’t work for Sephora or even know any friends or family members who work at Sephora. I also am not in cahoots with the company via PR or in any way whatsoever, so I have nothing to gain or lose.)
To say that I was disappointed is a huge understatement. But I’m also not angry.
I feel like Sephora played up this promotion so hard (this isn’t a bad thing – it’s strong marketing), and we all felt like the Epic Rewards were attainable. This false hope was very misleading to a lot of customers. To be shut down in mere minutes felt like a slap in the face, as though they didn’t properly anticipate the demand.
It was a classic case of dangling catnip in front of our noses, only to pull it away as we inched forward to take the bait.
However, as much as I’m sad to have missed out, I’m not boycotting Sephora.
There are always two sides of the contour-and-highlight palette.
Sephora isn’t a small fish. Their marketing team doesn’t just announce new promotions running out the gate like a blind horse. Big companies have strategists and analysts. They’re in business to make money, so obviously their marketing efforts need to have a profitable return on investment. They have to calculate every step to ensure that the staff know how to communicate and execute the promotion.
Sephora Epic Fail: Marketing Missteps
I feel that Sephora crashed and burned ultimately due to a lack of clear communication about their:
- Promotion Launch
- Limited Quantities
There was a lot of confusion from customers regarding when exactly the Sephora Epic Rewards would be available online.
I saw many people frantically tweeting Sephora, trying to nail down an exact time of day, but the only answer the person or people managing the social-media account could relay was that they’d be live during “business hours.” (That’s nothing to fault them for, as most likely the person or people managing the social-media accounts are carrying out instructions by the marketing big wigs who orchestrated the whole symphony months ago.)
I feel sorry for those who ‘chained themselves’ to their computers or phones during the promotion because, for the vast majority, their efforts and time were wasted. (That’s probably why I’m not as angry as other customers. I didn’t spend hours of my precious time refreshing the Sephora website.)
A lot of people are outraged and believe that Sephora should have indicated a specific time that the promotion would be live. But that wouldn’t work for such a high-profile company.
Think about it. If they said, “It will go live at 9:00 am PDT,” you would probably prepare to be signed into your account even half an hour early. And although everybody is unique and special, we are also unique and special together. 😉 Thousands of other Sephora customers would be doing the same thing. The website might crash, and the Epic Rewards would go out of stock probably even faster than they did on Monday afternoon.
I think that Sephora should have taken a more transparent strategy and literally said that they’d be spontaneously launching the campaign without any notice. That way, everyone would know that it’s the “luck of the draw” and we’d mentally prepare ourselves that most of us wouldn’t get the deals.
It’s the psychology of human nature. When we have extraordinarily high expectations that don’t come to fruition, we feel even more disappointed than if we had moderate expectations.
In this case, the majority of customers thought that they would score the deals. That high expectation is what resulted in the strong feeling of disappointment and the public backlash.
It’s not necessarily the feeling of them being dishonest that bothers me, but that they failed to communicate the salient details that could have prepared us better for this promotion.
Another complaint that I read over and over again via Twitter is that people were furious that Sephora was out of stock in mere minutes. Did they have so few to begin with? We’ll never know unless they issue a public statement releasing that information.
It’s much more plausible that they had many of the smaller 1,000- and 2,000-point rewards in stock and few of the larger 5,000- and 10,000-point rewards.
Regardless of what the quantities were, because the situation turned into a fish-feeding frenzy, everything got snatched up because of the hype and demand.
“Why didn’t Sephora anticipate the demand and prepare more stock?” You may ask. I’m sure that they did prepare a good amount, but because they have never executed a marketing campaign quite of this magnitude (at least none that I’m aware of), they were, quite plain and simple, experimenting. All companies have to do that to discover what works and what doesn’t.
Sephora thought they were treading water when really they were diving off the high board.
If they ever do a humungous promotion like this again, I think it would be helpful if they list exactly the quantities of each reward they have in stock. This way, once again, it allows for mental preparation on the part of customers.
If you’re told that there are only 300 of something in stock, you won’t feel cheated if you aren’t one of the lucky ones to snatch it. And, hey, it may also even help you decide whether or not you want to participate at all! Maybe you won’t bother trying, if there aren’t plenty in stock to begin with.
It’s like when you buy a lottery ticket. The jackpot is unbelievable, and you may participate, but you know that there are only going to be a few winners or just one. So, if you don’t win, you don’t feel awful. Mental preparation and clear communication.
But because all we were told was that there were “limited quantities,” that could mean anything. Five is a limited quantity. So is 3,000. The communication was too vague.
Listen, I was never expecting Sephora to have unlimited quantities of everything in stock. That’s just not real life. I wanted them to be more upfront with the details.
My impression was that the Sephora Epic Rewards felt more like a contest than a reward.
Bonus Points Event Prior to the Epic Rewards
Something that bothered me is that Sephora held a related promotion right before Epic Rewards. If you bought anything, you’d receive bonus points. This was an effort to motivate customers to buy more and collect the points, so they could redeem them towards the upcoming rewards.
I definitely took advantage of this unique opportunity, but I didn’t go berserk. I just bought a few things that I was already planning to buy because I ran out. However, if I was like the many other customers who purposely stocked up on items because of the points, I would be pissed off because it feels like you are being baited.
Of course, how you spend your money is ultimately your own responsibility. You can’t blame a company for how you used your own credit card. That being said, Sephora made it seem like the majority of people who collected points would be able to redeem them for the Epic Rewards. Only a slim few were lucky. Meanwhile, we padded Sephora’s wallet.
Where Can Sephora Go From Here?
Clearly, even by looking at the name they chose for it “Epic Rewards,” they wanted to make a splash with this campaign and get people talking. Unfortunately for them, yes, it’s getting attention, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s pretty much a marketing nightmare, and I’m certain that it will be used as a prime case study.
All is not lost, even if they will wind up losing numerous loyal customers who are fed up with them.
As I mentioned before, I’m not abandoning Sephora. That’s because I want to stick around to see how their public-relations team works to do damage control.
Will they issue an apology or explanation? Will they make me feel like they genuinely appreciate my business? Will they set up a new campaign as a peace offering? Only time will tell, but they need to work fast before they lose the bulk of their loyal customers that will put a severe dent in their quarterly revenue.
Yes, companies sometimes make mistakes. It happens. People aren’t perfect, and when people work in teams, the room for error is always there.
Accountability is paramount to Sephora turning this fiasco around.
Admitting a mistake is the first step, and then seeing how you can right the wrong is the next challenge.
They won’t be able to promise everyone a crazy freebie at the same level of the Epic Rewards, but the marketing gurus will have to churn their creativity for what kind of promotion will save face and appease the masses. Can’t say that I envy their jobs right now, but I’m more curious than Alice to see what they’re going to do.
Instead of hurling insults, I prefer to take a step back, in the same vein when you try to calm yourself down after a heated argument with someone close to you.
Sometimes you have to force yourself to look at the other point of view, even if you’re hurt or angry.
If you give the other side a chance to explain or apologize and you’re still not satisfied or you feel disrespected, only then should you make your final decision to say, “Hasta la vista!” But to make a decision without gathering more information from the other side seems unfair.
I will be paying close attention to exactly what Sephora communicates after their “Epic Fail,” and I’m crossing my fingers, toes, and eyes that they’ll turn it into an Epic Lesson that will be insightful for their future, successful campaigns.
Remember, everyone can fall, but not everyone can stand up afterwards.
Sephora, please stand up – I’m rooting for you!
Readers, what is your stance on the Sephora Epic Rewards (Epic Fail)? Were you expecting to score a reward, or did you see it much like a lottery ticket?