Last week, beauty company Sephora released an ambitious app for the iPad that manages to merge e-commerce, social media and editorial into one glossy package. Download and you enter the Flipboard-ish “Social” area of the site, with user-generated content from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the Sephora community forum.
More interesting than that, though, is “Beauty Report,” a magazine-like spread that incorporates interactive elements like product overlays that can be swiped up and down; tips that, when tapped, open up in a new text box; and embedded inspirational and how-to videos. One of the app’s cool bells and whistles is an OPI nail polish color wheel that lets you scroll to see what new polishes look like on a sample hand. Another is the “Virtual Mirror,” which takes advantage of the iPad 2′s front-facing camera to offer a split-screen view—on top is your face, on bottom a how-to makeup video of your choice. You can prop your iPad up, watch yourself in the “mirror” and play the how-to with the intention of following along, step-by-step.
In contrast to the highly produced “Beauty Report,” the social area of the site feels a little unfinished. Some of the blog posts don’t display properly; though questions from the forum are surfaced, answers aren’t and you have to click through to the Sephora site to see if anyone else has commented. But these are minor issues. The truth is that Sephora has managed to create something pretty cool—an app that is at once functional and attractive, with a solid mix of features that are both advertorial and servicey, and a few nifty new tools thrown in for fun.