Starbucks, Sephora, and Disney’s Omnichannel Approach


The good old days of customers coming from one channel are over.  With the rapid rise of social and mobile channels as valuable marketing platforms, omnichannel business strategy has become necessary approach for a successful brand.  While it is easy to understand “Why?” the “How?” is less clear.

Before we can discuss what techniques are being used to optimize omnichannel marketing, we need to take a look at what omnichannel marketing really means. Omnichannel is an approach to sales that utilizes multiple channels and outlets of shopping. The primary goal is to create a seamless customer shopping experience, whether the individual is shopping on a mobile device, desktop, or in a physical store. 

Now that we have established a what omnichannel is, let’s take a look at how three companies use it to their advantage.


Starbucks is an omnichannel expert

The Starbucks Rewards program is a perfect example of omnichannel marketing in practice. Starbucks is one of the biggest coffee retailers in the world. Their market reach is incredible, and they have harnessed the power of omnichannel to leverage that huge customer base. The Starbucks Rewards system uses an omnichannel approach to make the coffee buying experience more convenient for customers.  Customers can use the rewards card to make purchases without taking out their wallets and to also reload the rewards balance online, in-store, by telephone, or by mobile app. All changes to rewards accounts immediately update across all channels.  Thanks to the omnichannel approach, Starbucks customers can satisfy their caffeine cravings at any time, on any channel.


Online bags can become actual bags when purchasing in-store


The makeup retailer has also changed the way consumers interact with products. Sephora utilizes the omnichannel shopping process to create an enjoyable experience for customers. Sephora has implemented the “My Beauty Bag” program to allow customers to manage their beauty products and see purchase history. The “My Beauty Bag” program makes it easy and accessible for Sephora customers to add items to their shopping carts, peruse their browsing history, make savings on purchases, and re-order items. Sephora’s rewards program also allows members to use their Beauty Bags on their mobile device, computer, and send digital gifts.

While making in-store purchases, customers can use the Sephora app to complement the brick and mortar shopping experience. Sephora is also changing the in-store experience as well, by introducing the Beauty Tip Workshop. Customers now have the opportunity to access their Beauty Bags, see recommended items and looks, and make purchases based on the items shown in the store. Sephora is expertly using omnichannel to revolutionize the cosmetic shopping experience.


Disney brings omnichannel to the world on tourism and retail. The magic of Disney is brought to multiple channels thanks to their approach. Disney’s process pays attention to even the smallest of details to make a flawless and consistent shopping environment across channels. When booking a trip through Disney’s website or app, customers have access to the My Disney Experience tool to help plan the logistics of the trip. From dining options, to park attractions, to securing passes, the My Disney tool helps customers plan for the entire trip. Once customers get to the amusement park, the Disney mobile app can locate the attractions and performances across the park and gives an estimated waiting time for each attraction and show.

Disney takes the magic even further with the implementation of the Magic Band program. These wristbands not only act as theme park entrance passes, but also act as hotel room keys, Fast Pass check in, food ordering tools, and photo storage devices. These wristbands also include personalized surprises for each band holder. Disney uses omnichannel to make traveling a connected, all-in-one experience.


Omnichannel initiatives like these enable brands to create the ideal customer experience across all channels. Starbucks, Sephora, and Disney approaches are great examples of brand’s solving for the ever-evolving needs of the digital age.

If you are a marketer or are in an industry/company where marketing is a key strategy component, you have probably heard the term “omnichannel” one or two times (or twenty… or fifty…). It’s the buzzword that seems to be redefining the way consumer facing companies conduct business. Omnichannel marketing means reaching customers seamlessly across multiple channels from digital channels such as website and email to physical channels such as in-store and direct mail.

Consumers should be provided with the opportunity to connect with the company on various levels, and the brand or company should have the foresight to recognize the consumer as one and the same amongst these layers. Consistency across every channel is key; if the consumer purchases a product on the retailer’s ecommerce site, he/she should be able to return it at the physical store. The channels should essentially co-exist and be complementary in nature.

Here are some examples of A+ omnichannel experiences:


Omnichannel marketing SephoraBuy in store, receive an email asking for a review. I recently purchased foundation from Sephora at one of their mall locations and received this email a few days later.

I am an avid Sephora fan and have been a Beauty Insider member (their version of a rewards card) for many years. It’s intriguing that Sephora was one of the first retailers to embrace omnichannel marketing by pushing customers through to their website from an in-store experience.

As a result, Sephora now contains 1000s of reviews across a wide variety of products and is essentially the for make-up reviews. Sephora has also installed screens in their physical stores which gives access to customer reviews and prices. Just recently I received a few samples of various creams, and the store associate was able to print out a little “how-to” receipt with the average rating of the item and insert it into my sample bag. It is ingenious and quite frankly so very convenient.

While Sephora is making strides toward omnichannel marketing, they have not yet adopted pick up at store and have kept ecommerce and in-store purchases separate (a pain point for some). However, needless to say, Sephora has invested the time and effort into making the in-store purchasing process integrated with their digital presence, making the in store purchasing experience delightful and easy.


Omnichannel marketing Nordstrom
Nordstrom’s mobile app makes recommendations in the app based on the consumer’s previous search history.

Nordstrom has always been ahead of its time and continues to surprise and delight their customers with their seamless shopping experience. In fact, the large retailer was one of the first department stores to truly invest in their ecommerce platform while other traditional department store retailers lagged far behind.

The results speak for themselves, as web sales in 2014 grew 33% in the first quarter of 2014, and web sales accounted for 14.2% of all sales, up from 9% in 2012 (source).

Not only has Nordstrom invested in their flagship Nordstrom product, they have invested heavily in Nordstrom Rack’s ecommerce platform, using their 2011 HauteLook acquisition as a model. In May 2014, Nordstrom launched their ecommerce platform on along with a mobile app.

Hautelook members are able to sign in with their member IDs and passwords, and any purchases made on can be returned in store, making the omnichannel experience truly seamless.omnichannel marketing nordstrom rack

Nordstrom executive VP and Chief Financial Officer Mike Koppel has said Nordstrom “plan[s] to invest $3.9 billion in capital over the next five years as we focus on serving more customers through store and online growth.”

As Nordstrom’s omnichannel marketing investments grow, we will see an even better consumer shopping experience.


Although the massive data breach severely drove a bullet hole in the reputation of the big box retailer and revealed their severe lack of security coordination, Target has been the leader in omnichannel for big box retailers. In fact, Target has been so good at predicting customer behavior, a father got upset that his teen daughter was receiving coupons for expectant mothers, not realizing she was indeed pregnant.

omnichannel marketing targetTarget’s omnichannel experience consists of ship-to-store, pick-up at store, ship-to-home, an ecommerce website, and a mobile app. Target’s mobile app allows for customers to pinpoint exactly where items are located in the store, down to the precise aisle of where they reside. Other features of the mobile app include adding items to your virtual cart and selecting pick up in store, a map of the store layout, a coupon/savings section, shopping list, registry list, and wish list among others.

It’s clear that Target is using its mobile app as their central HQ for the omnichannel experience, as multiple channels are integrated into one, making marketing extremely easy. Cartwheel is a coupon service which integrates with Facebook to offer coupons on things the consumer already buys. In exchange for coupons, consumers are handing over their social data which Target can then use to send targeted offers.

Retailers are moving towards this direction of the omnichannel experience, but there are some retailers who took the plunge well ahead of their competitors, adapting to the desires of their consumers. It’s these companies that will continue to thrive in the battle between ecommerce and traditional commerce.