Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sephora vs. Ulta Rewards Systems - Part I - Sephora

We've recently gotten a lot of questions about which is better - Sephora or Ulta? Well, the answer is NEITHER! So we decided to dispel the myth that one is better than the other. Of course, if you'd like to view our video on the subject you can right here! Otherwise, keep reading!

Sephora and Ulta both have their pros and cons. Girls interested in all of the beauty perks that you can get should definitely sign up for both loyalty programs. Granted, with Ulta's program you're going to reach their upper level status long before you reach it at Sephora but, again, you have to take this fact with a grain of salt. By that I mean, Ulta offers a lot more drug store quality items where is Sephora is strictly prestige beauty products. If Ulta required customers to spend as much as they do at Sephora, very few people would reach the promised land!

OK, so on with the Sephora rewards review!

Sephora Beauty Insider

Shopping at Sephora has several levels of rewards. If you don't want to join the VIB program (why you wouldn't is beyond me since it's free and if you're spending money you should get some reward from it!) you don't have to in order to get rewards for shopping. Every time you shop you should be getting beauty samples whether its in store or online. The trick to in store samples is that you have to ask for them. Online there's an actual sample choice screen you get sent to so, if you're not choosing your free samples you're missing out on discovering new products.

****TIP***** If there's a product you really want to try ask a Sephora associate to make you a sample. Why spend the money on something you're going to hate? Besides that, the samples are pretty generously sized so that you can make an informed decision on face care or other high end products.

****TIP*****Always take the samples of face wash, shampoo, conditioner or body wash if it's available. They make great TSA safe travel items. My next choice is always the peel pads (like Denis Gross Alpha Beta Peels), face scrubs, acne helpers or face serums. Again, these are going to be great go-to travel items. I keep a bag full of them for when I travel so that I don't have to mess with little bottles. Then, once I use them, I don't have to mess with re-packing them either!

The next level of rewards starts with joining Sephora's free beauty rewards program, Beauty Insider. This is the introductory tier of the program. At this tier you get:

1. Points for every dollar spent that can be saved for rewards. Points are usually 1 per $1spent. However, there are promotion times when Sephora offers double and triple points per dollar. NOTE: These points do not affect the dollar amount you need to spend in order to reach the other tiers. They only affect the amount of points you have to use towards rewards. (I put this in bold so that you wouldn't look at your tier status and think that Sephora had cheated you!) Obviously, the more you're willing to save your points the bigger the reward will be. Here's an idea of the rewards:

Deluxe Size sample of Clinique Concealer 100 Points

Deluxe size sample of Gucci fragrance - 250 points

Sample bag filled with deluxe size samples - 500 points
2. Free Birthday Gift. Every year during your birthday month Sephora offers it rewards members a little treat on their birthdays! In store you don't need to buy anything, it's just like the free panties at Victoria's Secret (if you don't know about this, then honey we need to talk!). You just walk in and ask for it at the checkout counter. They'll announce your birthday to the store and wish you a happy birthday. Then you get to leave...without spending a dime! How awesome is that! Online is a little different experience. In order to get your gift you need to buy something. Well, I guess that means more gifts for you! Here's what the gifts look like this year:

Deluxe size gift set from Fresh or Marc Jacobs

I'm a little sad that they're not upping the ante for their top tier members (last year the NARS set had an additional items for VIB Rouge Members) after last year's big disappointment (see this link for more info) but, their birthday gifts are still awesome and highly anticipated! I make it a point to always get mine.

3. Free Beauty Classes. I gotta imagine these are great and I really need to try one out! In fact, there may be a video coming on that...hmmmm...   Anyhoo, the classes are offered at lots of Sephora locations. You just go online, look at what's available and enroll free of charge. Some of the current selections include Contouring, False Lashes and Daytime Smoky eyes. I would like to attend all of these!

4. Seasonal promotions. These are things like the 2x's per year discount, sales, and additional points per purchase. There aren't a ton but, when Sephora has a sale, they don't mess around!

The second tier of the rewards program is called VIB ( Very Important Beauty insider). You can reach this level by spending $350 per year NOTE: every year on January 1st all money spent towards your tier status is re-set to zero. You will retain your points but not the tier status. You must re-earn your status every year. For example if you spent $350 in 2015 you will be a VIB until December 31st, 2016. However, if in 2016 you didn't spend at least $350 you would no longer have your tier status in 2017. For this tier you get all of what's listed above as well as:

1. Early access to products. This can come in handy when highly coveted products are released. Clinique made a new version of their cult color Black Honey called "Pink Honey" and released it just to Sephora to begin with. It was pretty much unfindable for a few months. BUT if you had early access you would have had first dibs on it! Sometimes this can come in handy. I've used this perk only two or three times but for the things I really want it's nice to have!

2. Seasonal VIB only gifts. The only gift that I've ever gotten is the Welcome gift when you first become a VIB. You get a little bag with some sample goodies similar to what's offered at checkout on the website and you get a 10% off coupon. NOTE: You will only receive your welcome gift once. If you are a VIB this year and retain your status for next year you will not receive another welcome gift. If you lose status for one year and then regain it, you will get another welcome gift. Complicated right? Other than this gift I've never received a random tier gift seasonal or not.

3. Advance access to sales. I'm assuming this means their annual Beauty Insider sale (you get 20% off *squeal*) and any major promo sales they have. They also have an actual sale page here.

4. Private, VIB only shopping events. These I've actually gotten emails for. They're invitations to private events to try new products, usually with some kind of freebie with purchase. The freebie is never something that makes me lose my mind but, if you want to go to the event its nice to have an extra incentive!

And, finally, the most exclusive tier VIB Rouge (for the French illiterate that Very Important Beauty insider Red ). To reach this tier you need to spend at least $1000 in one calendar year. See the note in the VIB description as it applies to VIB Rouge as well. You get everything from both tiers plus:

1. A special Rouge welcome gift. You'll get a really great red lipstick (mine was by Bite in a color made specifically for the Rouge program) and another 10% of card.

2. Complimentary 2 day Flash shipping. Like Amazon prime but without the $99 cost per year (this will cost you $1000 in makeup). The flash shipping is a nice perk. They also offer reduced one day shipping fees. Instead of $16.95 the charge is $5.95. However, this is a minor perk that Sephora offers to it's highest members. Any member can purchase flash shipping for the year for $10. For more information on Sephora's shipping policies and costs check out this link.

3. Unlimited Access to the Beauty Studio. Sooooo, I'm a little jaded on this one. I've tried to use this service many times when I have been in my local Sephora and every time I'm told I need to book time. However, when I go to the VIB Rouge site I find that for a quick mini-makeover or mini-facial that I should just be able to walk and sit with an available artist. This is NEVER the case. If anyone out there has any tips or ideas of how to take advantage of this service I'd love to hear it! For the longer services you can actually book an appointment time online. They offer a 45 minute and 90 minute makeover sessions. The purchase stipulation is waived for VIB Rouge.

4. Exclusive Rouge events - Ummmmm, yeah. I've been a Rouge member for 2 years and I've gotten the emails that are for both VIB and VIB Rouge, never just VIB Rouge. Unless I'm missing something it's the same events you have access to as a VIB.

5. Exclusive VIB Rouge Products. There is a product page on your VIB Rouge site that lists all of the products that the Rouge members have access to and no one else does. So la di dah! I have yet to buy one....

6. Special Gifts. If you're on top of your email you might catch these gifts. I, unfortunately am not (I currently have 19,000 unread messages), so I usually miss these things. However, one thing you can do to keep up to date is subscribe to Sephora's page on whatever form of Social Media you actually read. For me that's Facebook. Right now, they're giving a deluxe lip gloss with a $25 purchase. Not bad! Their deluxe lip glosses last me forever! So, again, I don't know that this is a perk I really use.

So, I know I've been kind of down on the Sephora rewards program but, I actually don't hate it all. I'm a beauty junkie so I'm going to buy the makeup anyway. I might as well get some reward for doing so right? My problem with Sephora's approach as a whole is that they do not offer exclusive perks for their most loyal customers, especially when they market their rewards program as being this super fantastic, super exclusive thing. I think I'm not the only person who has that opinion. Are the rewards nice? Yes. Should they be better? Hell yes!

The other problem I have with the rewards program is that there all of these secret codes and freebies that Sephora only publishes via social media. As a VIB Rouge member I should have access to all of these specials first. Also, I shouldn't have to hunt them down. My personal opinion is that I will probably drop down to VIB after this year. I get access to the most important sales, I still get a reward coupon at the end of the year, and I get free shipping as long as I spend $50 (which is hard not to do anyway). So, all in all you'll want to sign up for the rewards program but, I wouldn't recommend striving for the top tier.