Everything We Experienced at the Second Annual SEPHORiA Virtual House of Beauty

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A branded entry moment led to the “foyer” of the house where all rooms could be accessed.

Even as the live events industry roars back to life, Sephora says its customers continue to show an inclination for virtual experiences. So to meet clients where they are, the brand for a second year took its flagship beauty convention into the digital realm with the SEPHORiA: Virtual House of Beauty. The free event for cosmetics lovers was hosted in a 3D “home” featuring seven rooms to explore and access to nearly 40 brands. And for the first time, the event expanded into global territory, allowing beauty fans in Canada, France, Spain and Italy to participate.

After attending the event in 2021, we signed up for another round of virtual beauty hijinks this year to see how Sephora implemented lessons learned from year one, dipped its toes into the metaverse and bolstered its continued efforts to create safe spaces that welcome all walks of life. (We may also have been tempted by the allure of 500 Sephora Beauty Insider points. More on that later.)

“With SEPHORiA this year, one of our main priorities was to create a really customized, immersive 3D environment for our clients,” says Kate Biancamano, director of events and experiential marketing at Sephora. “We were thoughtful about adding in a lot of exclusive content to give them access to a number of our brands, and worked hard to keep the event programming innovative. We continued to champion our diversity efforts and showcase Sephora’s differentiated product selection—and we tried to do this all in really meaningful ways.”

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Vibrant and polished, each room within the digital footprint felt right on-brand for a beauty event and included new areas this year, La Sala and the Kitchen, designed to give attendees more content and touchpoints to interact with. Upon entering each 360-degree space, a Sephora host (a real employee) was virtually dropped in to introduce the room and the featured content and products displayed within. (The same strategy was implemented last year.) Then, attendees like ourselves used clickable hotspots to navigate at our own pace. And a Quick Nav feature made it easy to hop from room to room.

Just inside the home’s entrance, a hallway bearing Sephora’s signature black-and-white stripes, translucent lipstick installations and sparkly hanging crystals led to the center of the footprint, the Foyer, where a concierge was on hand to answer questions and a “house key” installation framed by makeup sponges gave attendees the lay of the land.

The Home Theater was where all live sessions were broadcast (although attendees could navigate to other parts of the Virtual House of Beauty while the live content played in a small corner of their screen). The agenda was full, but sessions didn’t overlap, ensuring attendees could catch all of the content that interested them. Like Tatcha’s Clarity Ritual session, which emphasized the importance of mental health and feeling good on the outside and inside while promoting its skincare products. Worth noting: live-chat capabilities allowed attendees to engage with brand founders, Sephora experts and other content creators across the event sessions—a feature the brand noted was more popular among attendees this year.

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La Sala served as a colorful family room-inspired environment that celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), and featured Sephora’s Latinx-owned brands and talent offering generational beauty tips and tutorials in Spanish and English.

The Kitchen focused on what Sephora will be cooking up for the holidays, and included clickable, pre-recorded content from beauty brands like Too Faced, which offered a bakeshop-themed digital skit of sorts that revealed its holiday-themed makeup palettes. There was also tips- and tricks-based content available from influencers from the #SephoraSquad, like Erin Nicole, Ndeye Peinda and Sonia Valencia. Another touchpoint we loved: the array of videos from Sephora beauty directors sharing their most cherished holiday traditions and the human side of the brand.

The Sun Room, overflowing with florals, was dedicated to clean, sustainable beauty products that offered live makeup tutorials during which attendees could vote on the model’s final look.

Over in the Spa, attendees encountered a tranquil setting and the option to participate in pre-recorded meditation classes with SEPHORiA sponsor FitOn, a wellness app. There was also a virtual photo booth that, when clicked, led to Instagram and an array of exclusive filters. We encountered some technical issues here, but nothing that took away from our impression of the experience at large.

And in the Backyard, which didn’t open until about halfway through the event—a good way to capitalize on FOMO and extend dwell time—a bar installation offered clickable content and a dj spinning tunes (although we’re pretty sure her pre-recorded “playlist” only had one song). A block-letter “SEPHORiA” installation was the centerpiece of the space, with each letter offering attendees a different interactive touchpoint, whether it be a game (like a fun Wordle knockoff), video, photo op or CTA to sign up for Sephora’s credit card.

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sephoria 2022_trans session_inclusiveSephora has proven that it takes its “You Belong to Something Beautiful” tagline seriously over the years through inclusive brand messaging and event programming. And while it was clear that efforts were made to ensure the 2021 SEPHORiA event felt welcoming to its diverse audience base, the inclusive touchpoints the brand incorporated into this year’s experience were on a whole new level. Consider this: every session featured AI-powered, ADA-approved captioning in multiple languages that accommodated the hearing impaired regardless of which country they tuned in from. In addition, the verbal introduction offered by a host in each room was also available visually in an adjacent caption box, with text written in multiple languages. And then there was La Sala, the space dedicated to celebrating and supporting the Latinx community.

Our favorite inclusive moment took place within the digital version of one of Sephora’s in-store “Classes for Confidence.” The live session featured a makeup tutorial with a transgender woman serving as the model and a Sephora expert offering her relevant tips, like how to use makeup to create a more feminine look and how to address the skin issues that often arise with hormonal changes. Throughout the tutorial, the Sephora host asked the model about her experience transitioning and how people can best help support the trans community (her answer: driving advocacy and access). Color us impressed.

“What we want to do when we’re creating these experiences and these activations is create not only a safe space for our clients to come to and enjoy, but also create that beauty community, so everybody feels involved, everyone feels like there’s content that they can relate to,” says Biancamano.

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A gamification strategy was one of the biggest upgrades to this year’s Virtual House of Beauty. U.S. attendees who are part of Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program could play seven games (some easier than others) scattered throughout the footprint to earn prizes in the form of Beauty Insider points. By racking up a high enough score across the games, attendees like ourselves scored 500 points (for the unacquainted, it’s a decent haul). It was a fun way to keep the event momentum going and incentivize attendees to interact with the environment. One example: a “Pressy Pileup” game played in the Kitchen that required participants to stack up digital holiday presents without letting them topple.

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The Virtual House of Beauty itself is a move toward the metaverse, but Sephora took it a step further this year by releasing its first-ever NFT as a means of engaging “clients that like to dabble” in the domain. The digital collectible, minted by sustainable blockchain company Polygon, and a branded crypto wallet were free to all attendees.



Sephora is still collecting data from the event to gauge its success, but with plenty of qualitative feedback and more than 16,000 event logins recorded (a figure three times higher than that of the 2021 event), it’s safe to say the second iteration of the virtual convention was a hit.

So what’s next for Sephora’s flagship event? Will it be another Virtual House of Beauty? Biancamano couldn’t reveal details just yet, but promised that the brand has “something special coming for 2023.”

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Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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