How Sephora Flattened the Spike and Outsourced Hundreds of Product Pages a Week.

Kelley had a problem. She was a Creative Director at Sephora managing multiple teams when the product copy team was moved under her leadership. When she asked about any issues with the team, she was told they had an ongoing yearly problem—a major workload spike during the summer months. In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, the number of products launched doubled and sometimes tripled. This meant hiring and onboarding an ad hoc contractor every year and hoping for the best. It was a stressful situation and had led to quality control issues in the past.

The solution seemed obvious. By outsourcing the pages to an agency, she could outsource the problem as well. An agency could simply have other cross-trained writers ready to cover the additional work. Bringing on an agency, however, was no easy feat. The writing process for Sephora's product pages was complex and filled with technical issues, legal considerations, and ever-changing launch dates for hundreds of products a week.

In addition, Kelley was worried by the knowledge that Sephora had tried to outsource this task to an agency in the past with disastrous results. Could she show she could do it better and make it worth the expense?

The first step was to get executive buy-in. Kelley dropped everything else and asked me to help create a training schedule and agenda she could pitch to stakeholders. She relied upon my deep knowledge of copywriting and Sephora's product page process, as well as my ability to refine complex training down into clear, understandable steps.

Armed with this agenda, she was able to illustrate the problem and her proposed solution in an organized way to executives, and they gave the project the green light.

Now the clock was ticking. The timeline was set for members of the agency to fly across the country for training. Together, Kelly and I worked to create a clear, organized, and effective onboarding process, including documentation, reference materials, and a method that allowed the agency to follow up and get answers on any issues that came up later on.

From there, Kelley was able to step out of the process and focus on other concerns. I worked exclusively with Molly, the point person at the agency. She and the other agency writers had tons of experience writing for the digital world but found it daunting to write technical copy at this volume. At first, they struggled with the stringent rules and strict technical requirements as well as the voice and tone guidelines for the brand.

There were some technical setbacks as well. Sephora’s computers were PCs, and the agency writers were on Macs. This meant that some of the technical tools and macros didn’t translate over. There was an issue with the project management software that left it vulnerable to being accidentally overwritten, deleting vital information that was needed by other teams.

During this process, I worked with IT and business development to modify and update Sephora's tools. I revised our initial training materials and feedback process to help Molly's team, and advocated with IT, merchants, and producers to come up with solutions to the problems we faced and help transition the workload to the agency.

Ultimately, Molly's team at the agency was able to take over completely. They still write Sephora’s product pages and have solidified their relationship with the company. Sephora executives saw the process as “seamless” from a customer perspective and were pleased with the smoothness of the transition. Kelley got good feedback from her executive stakeholders for her leadership role and resolved the scalability issue and saved Sephora even more money when product pages were able to be outsourced entirely—a major win after the financial impact of the pandemic.

Both Kelley and Molly appreciated my “optimistic energy” that made the process low-stress, professional, and kept communications open.

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