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?
Good article, I agree with everything you said. I hope they fix what they did. I didn’t participate in this promotion but I’ve never been impressed with their points/rewards system.
I, like you, have always held onto my points. I never saw the point to spend 100 points ($100) on a travel/sample size. I’m secretly hoping that someday they would do points exchange for a gift card or a points system more like shoppers drug mart. Then I could get exactly what I want.
But that’s why I spend my money at shoppers now instead, and I just got an email that they’ve launched an online beauty boutique. That’s where I’ll be doing my ordering for my staples from now on.
I appreciate that you posted your stance on the matter and hopefully sephora sees this and takes note.
If there is any apology or formal statement from them, keep us in the know please 🙂
Perfectly said and I totally agree!
Yes, I love your idea of a gift card or even if we could redeem a certain number of points towards a discount off a purchase of a minimum order. Or if they could turn it into “Sephora cash” somehow. That would give us incentive to keep buying from there, but also be rewarded for being beauty addicts. 😉
I saw Shoppers’ online boutique. It looks pretty cool, but since it’s still new, they don’t have all the brands up there yet. One day, I may try ordering something, but they need to have a free-shipping deal because buying from a physical Shoppers store is already very easy and convenient. I need more incentive to shop online. Free shipping would do it!
Looks like they posted a public apology on their forum. I need to take a screenshot and update this post to include it, in case anyone’s curious.
I wasn’t part of this, as I don’t even have a Sephora membership (I do shop there though), but I have to say that I love how you worded this. I hope that someone there sees this, as you have a lot of good feedback for them (maybe send them a copy?). I do have to wonder if they should’ve put a cap on how many points could be redeemed, or maybe had a set number of items that you could get.
I’ve heard rumors of bots and resellers, and did see two of the items up on eBay this morning (I just checked and they aren’t there now at all, like they’ve been removed). I know that’s been a growing problem lately, for all involved.
I really hope to see a well-worded statement by this weekend from Sephora about all this.
Thank you so much for reading my long-winded blog post about this! It means a lot that you care about what I think. And the fact that you left a comment to tell me what you think makes me feel great because I really enjoy having a dialogue with my readers. The interaction is what makes blogging worthwhile. Even though it can take me some time to reply, I do my best to get back to everyone. 🙂 Thanks for your patience!
When Sephora announced the Epic Rewards, they had fine print that said you can’t sell the items. So anyone who was trying to make a profit off of it would get into legal trouble. I’m guessing that’s why those eBay listings went down so quickly.
I don’t shop at Sephora, but I feel for everyone who was hit by this fiasco. Hopefully Sephora will make good on their rewards program promise and give their loyal shoppers a chance to redeem their points for all those great products.
So far, they’ve publicly apologized, and they’ve offered 1000 points to those who weren’t able to get any Epic Rewards. However, there was a deadline to contact them about it. Now, it’s a matter of watching what they’re going to do from here. I hope that they truly learned their lesson. Unfortunately, they had to fall on their face in front of their customers and also their competitors.
I was one of those who got up at 4am (my time) thinking they’d put up the rewards at midnight (like they did in May, I heard) but the rewards went up at 4pm (my time) when I left work so I missed the rush too. Good for my insanity I tell you.
Thinking Sephora is a business and they know what they are doing, I don’t think they underestimated the demand for those rewards. They just chose to have limited amount, just like MAC. And no matter how many rewards they put out, announced it or not, they would be gone quickly and people would still be disappointed, including me 🙂
Lots of people suggest a more frequent smaller but good rewards, not a big launch that spikes up demand, would solve the problem. Don’t know if that would make sense in their marketing scheme. I don’t see the majority of people boycotting MAC, and not with Sephora either though because of exclusive brand availability. At the same time, I don’t think they think they need to stand up after this fiasco, sadly.
Hey Sparkled Beauty!
Oh no! Had I got up super early to participate in this event, I’d definitely feel cheated! I’m so sorry you wasted your time.
The marketing team at Sephora needs to maybe consider re-evaluating their rewards program to offer gift cards, discounts on minimum purchases, or “Sephora cash”. If they keep having ho-hum regular “rewards” and then “Epic Rewards” that the majority of their members can’t enjoy, they’re fighting a losing battle.
I wasn’t affected by this and don’t really even shop at Sephora all that often, but I did want to tell you how wonderful this post is! You’re one of the most well-spoken and eloquent bloggers around and I really appreciate your unique voice.
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2nd this! 🙂
Aww, you’re so sweet! When I read your comment, it really brightened my entire day! Writing is my passion, but when others take the time out of their busy schedules to read what I have to say, that makes me truly feel on top of the world!
So thank you for reading, and thank you for bringing positivity and happiness to this little blogger. 😀
Great post, and I agree mostly with everything you said, I particularly like your analogy that this fiasco felt more like a lottery or contest than a rewards program. Where I disagree, however is in Sephora’s intent; I think they knew exactly what they were doing by not announcing how limited the quantities actually were, and when the rewards were being released. They made sure to send plenty of emails prior to the event reminding customers to spend to accrue points, and then on the day of the rewards?…crickets. Fearing a site crash isn’t a good enough reason, they could have at least given a ballpark time range.
However, having said that, like you I won’t be boycotting Sephora anytime soon. They’re just too convenient, and this is what companies do to create buzz and make money – it is what it is, I guess. I agree with what you said that a bit more up-front transparency would have allowed people to manage their expectations and participate or not. I do think that they should do a little bit of damage control, though. And I’m embarrassed to say that I hope that they have to deal with an inundation of returns so that they don’t pull a stunt like this again.
We’ll see what they do for their upcoming big campaigns. If they make the same mistake, then I’ll agree that they’re doing it on purpose. But until then, I don’t want to think they’re intending to piss customers off and offer what they can’t deliver. That would make me lose faith in them completely. So I’ll give them another chance. Hindsight is 20/20, and hopefully next time, they’ll be more prepared!
I have to say I’ve never been impressed with Sephora’s rewards program, especially compared to Ulta’s. Like you, I’ve been hoarding my points waiting for a really good reward to pop up before I spend it. I tend to only buy things at Sephora that I can’t get at Ulta, like the Sephora favorites sets or Beauty Blenders. I didn’t participate in the epic rewards because I’m still only at the beauty insider status and not even close to 1000 points yet, but seeing the things people were saying reminded me of when Target does designer collabs (most recently the Lilly Pulitzer fiasco which I experienced firsthand).
Ever since Sephora has had their “Epic Fail,” I hear so many people talking about ULTA! I wish there was one here because then at least there’d be something to compare Sephora to. Right now, though, in Canada, Sephora is the most convenient one-stop makeup shop for me.
I wish that we could redeem Sephora points towards a discount or have it converted to “Sephora cash”.
I’m not that crazy about Sephora rewards and prefer Ulta’s also. I find it sort of like a caste system where you are considered: first class second class and third class. Everyone wants to be considered to be first tier customers! Secondly, I think I’ve plunked down boatloads of moolah at their stores and I don’t think my “reward” should be a fragrance sample. Samples ought to be free. They are intended to help incentivize you to try the product and then buy the full size. Therefore, their so-called “rewards” suck. Last but not least I never even heard about this “Epic Rewards” thing and I’m online with them pretty much daily (fantasy shopping mostly).
Same here. Sephora lost me a long time ago. No major boycott or reason, more like lots of little ones…, I simply feel that my money, effort, time, loyalty and help when needed go further, faster and much easier at Ulta – sans the ‘oops, sorry’ glitches that seem to plague Sephora every time a Big Deal happens. I can only imagine how loud the message boards everywhere were buzzing over this one, whoooboyohboy! Thanks for the informative, intelligent and impartial post about this as well 🙂 Rock on!
Oh, I so wish there was an ULTA here in Canada. I wonder if they’re going to open one up in the near future. I keep hearing amazing things about it, and it does sound like it’s similar to Sephora. If ULTA was an option here, I can see more Canadians jumping ship after the fiasco. Unfortunately, we don’t have as many options that match the same cosmetic convenience as Sephora.
Hehe, I also “fantasy shop”! I look around and even put stuff in my cart. Then reality kicks in, and I come to the sad realization that I put way too much in my cart. At that point, I just buy what I need, or I close the window to avoid further temptation. 😉
I’m not abandoning sephora. Honestly, I had a feeling the epic rewards would sell out quickly. I’m sure they’ll learn from this. And Like you said, it’s all about transparency , and this was new to them to do something so huge. I’m sure they’ll learn.
Obviously with something called Epic Rewards though , not everyone is going to get one. Though, I do feel they should better reward their customers who spend lots and lots of money in their stores. Like one of the other commenters said, maybe a gift card? I would totally use that.
Right – they’d have to be extremely stubborn and not the brightest if they don’t learn from this huge, public lesson!
A gift card would be great, or even if we could redeem a certain number of points to get a discount off a minimum purchase. I think customers would like that. It would encourage us to redeem our points instead of just getting a deluxe sample-sized product.
When I first heard about the Epic Rewards, I thought this was permanent. I thought, “wow Sephora is finally making their rewards system worth it”. It is only after reading your post that I found out it was for one day only. That is disappointing. The only reason I buy from Sephora is because of their generous return policy (which Shoppers doesn’t seem to have). It sucks that you went through that and during work. I wish they would make their point redemption rewards better though. Most of the stuff feels like a sample and not even a reward.
Totally agree, and that’s because most of them ARE samples, er sorry, ‘deluxe samples’ I mean! I mean come on but 100pts for (insert tiny item of choice here)? Ones that sell out and end up substituted for something you didn’t want to begin with. Its just not enough to get and keep my interest or loyalty, especially with so many other (often better) competitors around these days. I broke up with Sephora awhile ago and can’t say I miss the ole’ gal one bit. My bank account certainly doesn’t LOL!
Oh my gosh – IMAGINE? If it was permanent, hehe, I think everybody and their mother’s mother would want to become a member ASAP! 😉
I haven’t returned many things at Shoppers. I could probably count the number of times I returned something on one hand, and they were all for product defects where Shoppers had to refund me. All the makeup I’ve bought from there, I kept.
Seems like you’re not the only one who feels ho-hum about Sephora’s reward program. They need to beef it up and get us excited about the rewards. Even if they have “EPIC” ones, they need to plan it better.
I’d love to see a cash-back option or even if we could redeem a certain number of points for a discount on a minimum purchase.
I wasn’t one of the Sephora shoppers affected by this flop–I’ve been trying to save money since entering grad school and so have been cutting back drastically on my ‘fun’ purchases. I can definitely understand how this upset a lot of people, though. I read your whole post and I really like how you approached it fairly. Hopefully Sephora will come up with a solution that will please most customers, and also fix the weak spots before launching another large-scale campaign like this.
First of all, I commend you on being very responsible with your finances and saving up for grad school! (Congrats, also, on pursuing that. I wish you much success and growth!) 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to carefully read my whole post. It’s also comforting to know that I’m not the only person who feels this way about the whole situation. (I was a little nervous about posting my thoughts on this, especially since many people who were vocal about the Epic Fail were very negative. I wasn’t sure if I’d get blasted or not, but I feel really strongly about this, so even if I do get blasted, I will still strongly stand behind everything I’ve written.)
I generally only shop Sephora for my birthday and had no idea about any of this, but the one perfect point about how to deal with a big promotion like this you totally nailed:
“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.”
BornPrettyStore did that when they had 1-5cent deals on some items. They had a timer counting down when each item would be available AND the number in stock. I got a couple that I wanted, missed out on a couple more, but I couldn’t be mad because everybody else had the same timer and the quantity was clearly marked for each item. Stamping plate for 2cents, but only 100 available? Yeah, I’ll try, but I won’t get my hopes up.
As far as this promotion? “spend lots of money to rack up your points for Epic Rewards coming soon”? Yeah, I’d feel totally hosed. So glad I wasn’t caught up in it.
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I’m very curious to see what kind of huge promotion they’ll come up with next. They’ll certainly sit down with their advisors and double-triple-quardriple-check their campaign for potential flaws.
I was not of the epic rewards fiasco. I am not happy with the whole rewards system. I rarely redeem my points because I find that what is offered is seldom something I want or use. I am shopping more and more at Ulta…..better rewards program. I love quite a few Mac products and find the bonuses offered by some of the cosmetic lines in the department stores are actually more to my liking.
I am in the same camp. The regular rewards usually don’t motivate me enough to redeem my points, so I think Sephora needs to re-evaluate their strategy to make it more appealing. After all, there’s no use in hoarding points if you don’t end up redeeming them.
Since I’m in Canada, and I don’t think we even have an ULTA store, Sephora is the most convenient one-stop beauty shop. Perhaps if I lived in the United States and had more options, it would be easier to jump ship to a different store.