Project Deliverables

• Experience Maps
• Strategic Playbook
• Executive Summaries
• Comms Analysis + Press Release
• eBook + Infographics

The Challenge: Uncovering and Remedying Bias in US Retail

Sephora’s pioneering Racial Bias in Retail Study, undertaken between the fall of 2019 and late 2020, encompasses research from Material’s Growth Strategy and Insights divisions, as well as input from our academic partners. The report highlights the pervasiveness of inequity in US retail, from shoppers treated poorly because of their race or skin tone to BIPOC employees who contemplate quitting due to unfair treatment. Sephora commissioned this important study not only to improve its own retail experience, but to encourage other retailers to take meaningful action, a goal that became even more urgent after the nationwide protests against racial injustice in 2020.

The Five Truths

The study was designed to measure racially biased experiences in US retail, and to identify opportunities to end unfair treatment, both in Sephora stores and in retail more broadly. We interviewed shoppers and retail employees across the U.S. and identified five “truths” about the American retail experience for BIPOC customers. Respondents noted, for example, that marketing isn’t inclusive and fails to showcase a diverse range of skin tones, body types, and hair textures. Our research also revealed that U.S. BIPOC shoppers believe their skin color, appearance and ethnicity is a driving factor behind in-store interactions, resulting in an experience so unpleasant that many BIPOC shoppers chose to purchase online instead.

Raw Facts Revealed

Two in five retail shoppers have personally experienced unfair treatment due on the basis of their race or skin color.
• BIPOC shoppers are twice as likely to receive unfair treatment due to ethnicity.
Four of five feel marketing fails to showcase diversity in skin color, body types, age, hair texture.
One in three employees also feel they have been mistreated by colleagues and consumers because of their ethnicity. They have even contemplated quitting.

A Call to Action

Coupled with Sephora’s own strategies and commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, we helped the retailer formulate a swift action plan to address inequities across three key areas of its business, focusing on marketing and merchandising, in-store experiences, and workplace environment. Sephora will double its Black-owned brands and showcase diverse backgrounds, identities, ages, and body types in marketing materials. Other initiatives include a new greeting system to create a consistent store experience and increasing the depth and frequency of employee trainings to identify bias and exhibit inclusive behaviors in the workplace. In addition, client feedback will be encouraged, Sephora will inaugurate recruiting, mentorship, and career development programs for BIPOC employees, and zero-tolerance policies will be updated. These initiatives have positioned Sephora as an industry leader building a more equitable experience in its own stores and the wider US retail landscape.

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