More than a pretty face: Direct mail was the glow up Sephora needed when it came to retargeting

3 minute read

Since its debut in Canada 20 years ago, Sephora has earned a loyal and committed following.

It’s no surprise, considering the omni-channel retailer offers more than 13,000 beauty and wellness products from over 200 carefully curated brands. Customers flock to the company’s more than 460 stores across the Americas (and more than 2,500 worldwide). The brand’s Beauty Insider program encourages shopping with increasing rewards as devotees make more purchases.

Its community of customers and advocates remains steadfast thanks to the Sephora experience, both in-store and online. For those online customers, the company has a robust digital retargeting program designed to keep them coming back.

The exterior of a Sephora retail store.


Beauty is a big business, accounting for more than $1.8 billion in 2022 in Canada alone with growth projected to surpass $2.2 billion by 2027. Those kinds of numbers mean a category packed with competition, from specialty brick-and-mortar boutiques and online retailers to drug store chains and big-box stores.

For all brands, cart abandonment is a reality of beauty ecommerce. Even loyal customers visit many website pages, click on multiple products and build big baskets, only to shut down before checking out. Sephora monitors those shoppers and has an effective email strategy in place to re-engage them.

“Still, we were interested in testing another personalized omni-channel approach to increase conversion,” said Deborah Neff, former Senior Vice President of Marketing at Sephora Canada.

For Sephora, that meant exploring if direct mail might glow up its marketing mix.

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Marketers understand that direct mail is a highly influential tool that can engage online customers and drive them back to abandoned shopping carts. While email reminders are effective, direct mail adds a tangible touch to personalized marketing strategies. By combining an omni-channel approach to media with retargeting, even the most digital of brands can create a cohesive and seamless experience for customers across multiple touchpoints.

Direct mail lets brands personalize each communication, tailoring to the customer’s preferences and purchase history. This personalization creates a stronger connection and enhances the likelihood of conversion.

Additionally, direct mail can help foster a sense of exclusivity by including special offers or content for loyal customers, reinforcing brand affinity and customer collaboration.

The interior of a Sephora retail store, with many shoppers browsing the aisles.

Inciting action

Working with one of Canada Post’s expert partners, AIIM (formerly Prime Data), Sephora created a control group and a test group. Each consisted of 13,000 online customers who had recently visited and added products to their cart but, for some reason, didn’t go through with the purchase.

Twenty-four hours after abandoning their cart, both groups received an email reminding them of the item they viewed and inviting them to return to the site and buy it. The test group received a second communication, a personalized direct mail piece.

The 6-by-9-inch cards included pictures of top-selling Sephora products and one item that the recipient had abandoned in their cart. The cards were mailed within 48 hours of customers abandoning their carts and arrived at their homes within five days.


The effect of receiving a piece of personalized direct mail was impressive.

The test group had a 16% higher response rate than the control group. That means customers who received the direct mail were more likely to return in-store or online to buy one of the products they’d previously abandoned in their cart.

“While this was a preliminary test, the results showed that personalization resonates with our clients and direct mail is a potential tactic we’ll consider for future campaigns,” Neff said. “Canada Post has been a great partner to work with, enabling us to target and test four different personalization tactics to reach clients at various stages of their purchasing journey.”

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