Kind: Whale
Link: Sephora
Platform: iOS
Version: 3.26
Rating: 4.5 Stars
AppScore™: A
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Teardown: Sephora iOS App

Sephora is a large French cosmetics company. It has over 300 stores worldwide, with at least one in every major US city. Sephora is owned by LVMH, a giant luxury goods conglomerate that also owns e.g Moet & Chandon Champagne (you learn something every day!)

Sephora understood the importance of app commerce early on, and clearly have invested significant resources in developing a polished mobile experience. That investment shows, with their iOS app earning an AppScore of 89 on our teardown


Cosmetics is one of those industries where not having an app should almost be a fireable offense; customers are repeat purchasers, likely to be loyal to a specific brand, skew young and affluent (and hence much more likely to be coming in on mobile). Just offering a mobile optimized website in that scenario is likely to leave a lot of money on the table for more nimble competitors to scoop up.

Luckily for Sephora they clearly understand this, and have invested suitably. There’s still room for improvement though – particularly the search function could do with some further thought. Let’s start off with the good parts:

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The Good

Whenever a retailer has a large number of SKUs to sell, having well thought out and designed product navigation and hierarchy is crucial. Don’t make your customers scroll through very long or very deep categories, guess about where they can find things or confuse them with non-sensical or repeated categories.

Sephora nails this. They’re selling thousands of different products, yet manage to make it intuitive and easy to navigate around this massive number of items.

Let’s see the specifics:

So simple, so well thought out. It almost makes you want to just browse around and shop..

The Bad

Okay, it’s not super bad. The search that is. There are definitely some issues we’d not expect to see in an app with this much polish and time on the shelf:

The main culprit here is that the app does not handle misspellings at all. Most of Sephora’s customers is likely to notice and re-try with the correct spelling, but in todays world not having this is poor. Pro tip: have your engineers google “Levenshtein distance” ;).

The Noteworthy

Shopping/wish lists are often terribly done aberrations that clearly have been bolted on last minute and frequently do not even work (yes we’re looking at you Walmart), so it’s noteworthy to see a well done one:

Bravo! A wish/shopping list feature boosts average purchase size and can be used for all kinds of awesomeness (push notification when something in the list goes on sale?), so it’s nice to see it well done.


If you’re a cosmetics company selling online, lacking a native app is basically equivalent to burning cash. Be more like Sephora – don’t burn cash.

Author: Emily Gomez & Einar Vollset, Corresponding Author:


For each teardown we collect over 200 data points, including UX best practices, search capabilities, payment integrations as well as re-engagement tactics and social/engagement features. Each teardown includes an overall score, along with the score for each of the 20+ categories we collect data under. We then provides either video and/or slideshow content of the actual app, highlighting important parts of the app along with particularly good, bad or surprising functionality.