The Unique Culture of Sephora

On the final day of the trip, we were able to visit Sephora in downtown San Francisco. Our host was Allison Berding, who is a senior product manager at Sephora. Allison got her BS in Finance at Villanova, and it was great to see an alum working in such a cool area. She was so enthusiastic about Villanova and her work at Sephora, it was really uplifting to see her speak about her experiences.

One of the things she really focused on when speaking to us was the emphasis of female empowerment on the Sephora team. Although the CEO of Sephora is male, a large portion of the workforce is female. One of her coworkers, Eric, talked to us about how the culture is different in a company dominated by women instead of men, and how he needed to adjust to the culture from being a dominant member at North Face, where he last worked, to a minority member of Sephora. For me, this was the most interesting aspect of the visit. He mentioned that although the dynamics are different at Sephora, and he needs to spend more time listening, the company runs as smoothly as any other company. I think that especially in this political climate with the movement to end the wage gap growing stronger, his insights were very valuable and needed to be said.

Another topic we discussed heavily was the consumer experience at the Sephora stores. One thing that the company really focuses on is their “cast”, which is their name for retail workers at their stores. Each cast member goes through vigorous training to have the largest extent of beauty product knowledge possible. One of their main points is that although online shopping is continuing to grow, the human experience and interaction cannot be replaced, and a hands-on approach is necessary for beauty product retail. Sephora is currently working on a project to give cast members more details about their clients, to give the cast hospitality cues and create a better interaction between client and cast member. Sephora additionally released a virtual try-on system in their stores, that allows customers to try on many different makeup looks on a computer. This is intended to help customers make choices faster and easier than in the past when they had to try on makeup and wipe it off multiple times before choosing. This new program has expanded the horizons of Sephora, as well as the possibilities for customers.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Sephora, the content of our discussion was truly riveting and we even got some free makeup samples on the way out. Thank you to Allison and Sephora for such a memorable experience.