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At the start of the pandemic, when events pivoted to virtual, beauty brands fully adopted the new normal, hosting a slew of online experiences. But even as IRL experiences return, they're continuing to embrace their digital sides.
Previously held in 2018 and 2019 as a live, ticketed event, SEPHORiA was transformed into a virtual version last year—and again this year. The digital iteration, called "SEPHORiA: Virtual House of Beauty," featured an immersive, 3D game-like environment with an interactive beauty “house.”
Similar to 2021, this year’s event—which took place on Sept. 18 and was produced by Eventique—allowed attendees to explore the online space and interact with content, such as masterclasses from the retailer’s most-loved brands, beauty icons, and special guests, including Winnie Harlow, Danessa Myricks, Mona Kattan, Dr. Dennis Gross, Patrick Starrr, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
New this year, U.S. attendees were able to accrue Beauty Insider points as prizes for playing games throughout the space, as well as engage with brand founders, Sephora experts, and other content creators via new live chat capabilities.
“Our Beauty Insiders are so important to us, so we wanted to provide opportunities for them to earn points during their individual SEPHORiA experience,” said Kate Biancamano, the director of event and experiential marketing at Sephora. The Beauty Insider Rewards Program is the retailer’s loyalty program, which is free to join and comes with perks offered at three different tiers: Beauty Insider, VIB, and VIB Rouge. Rouge clients were also able to register for the event a day early.
The beauty retailer also released its first NFT, a unique P.O.A.P (Proof of Attendance Protocol). The digital collectible was free to all attendees and minted by carbon-neutral blockchain partner Polygon. “As part of Sephora’s commitment to innovation, we think incorporating an NFT into our virtual world is a fun and immersive digital takeaway for clients,” Biancamano said. The entire virtual space and NFT featured artwork designed by Jade Purple Brown.
In addition to the gamification and the NFT offering, the “house” also expanded with the inclusion of two new rooms—the Spa and Kitchen—where guests could view content, play games, and more. Inside the Kitchen, attendees were able to get product sneak-peeks for the holidays, complete with gifting tips from Sephora beauty directors. And the Spa served as a self-care space with wellness-focused activities like meditation, facial exercises, aura readings, and more; it featured brands like Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, Shani Darden Skin Care, Crown Affair, PHLUR, and FORVR Mood.
Sephora also expanded the reach of the virtual event by allowing attendees from Canada, France, Spain, and Italy to take part in the experience this year. “We worked diligently to create a cohesive and unified experience no matter where clients are joining us from,” Biancamano said. “As you can imagine, it’s no small feat when working with multiple time zones, languages, and the like, but we believe in creating a SEPHORiA experience to be enjoyed by all who attend.”
Also newly added for 2022, the La Sala space (aka the family room) spotlighted BIPOC and Latin-owned beauty brands as well as brand talent and their heritage, with content conducted in both Spanish and English with subtitles.
To incorporate the physical with the virtual, guests in the U.S. were able to opt-in to purchase an Experience Kit for $50; it contained SEPHORiA swag plus full- and travel-size products from a selection of participating brands. Sephora Rouge clients were also able to purchase an Experience Kit with 2,000 Beauty Insider points.
Although Biancamano would not confirm the return of the in-person or virtual SEPHORiA experience come 2023, she did say that the retailer is looking “forward to client reaction and feedback on this year's experience and will continue to provide experiential opportunities to suit all our client’s needs.”