• Learning and Development

How Sephora and CycleBar Use Video to Train Employees

Is your retail employee training strategy inadequate or outdated? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, a shocking 31% of frontline retail employees say they receive no formal training at all. Learning and development are essential to keep up with ever-changing customer demands and ensure employees are equipped to provide exceptional customer service – particularly in a fast-paced industry such as retail with high employee turnover rates.

This gap in training can lead to decreased employee morale, poor customer satisfaction, and a lack of consistency in brand representation. But what if there was a way to provide accessible and effective training to retail workers? Enter video training. 

Hear from two L&D retail leaders paving the way in hybrid training and corporate communications to learn how they’re using video to revolutionize retail training. From elevating customer service skills to training new hires, we’ll see how video is transforming the way retail employees learn and grow on the job.


Use video to communicate internally 

The beauty mecca we all know and love is at the forefront of the retail industry, so it’s no surprise that Sephora Italy is a leader in L&D video initiatives. Video is a key part of the retailer’s internal communication platform, where employees are encouraged to spontaneously share their experiences through short videos.

Video is also used to support internal initiatives, such as Beauty Masters – Sephora’s internal morale-building program that encourages employees to expand their make-up skills and inspire them to own key roles in makeup. The program ends with a contest to determine Beauty Masters – the best makeup artist and skincare expert within the stores. “In this case, we use a lot of videos not just for sharing information, but also from an emotional point of view to involve people and engage them,” says Elisa Giulia Maria Albertini, Learning Senior Specialist at Sephora Italy. “We use real-life internal influencers to [engage employees]. I think it’s quite useful, quite emotional, and impactful for our people.”

Use video in multiple formats to connect with a wide range of employees

Sephora understands that different people learn in different ways, which is why the company uses multiple tools such as PDFs, asynchronous videos, and live webinars to share the same information in a range of formats. 

After analyzing how specific groups of employees were interacting with videos, Sephora discovered one interesting takeaway: Gen Z prefers webinars over asynchronous videos. “We expected so much more interaction from Gen Z because it’s stated that they preferred [pre-recorded videos] while they actually preferred webinars – it’s very strange for us,” says Albertini.  

Another takeaway – Millennials prefer flexible learning options such as asynchronous video

“Millennials are more into videos and e-learning because they find their own time. Maybe in their free time [they will say] ‘I don’t know what to do on Sunday, I will check these videos on e-learning because I am really into what I’m doing,’” says Albertini. “So it’s not like a literal job, but for them to stay updated with internal information on what they love – the beauty market.”

Employees are also able to watch training videos in their free time in stores. However, there is only one e-learning station, so employees have to rotate if they want to learn in-store – a technical issue that Sephora is working to address.

Create a personalized experience through video

Training employees with knowledge that can’t be found online is vital to creating a unique customer experience. “We have to share something really peculiar, like an insider, because if we don’t, we can’t grab the client’s attention,” says Albertini. “We have to offer something that can actually differentiate the service, the consultation, and elevate the level of our advisors.”

Offering employee-only information also helps build employee advocacy to make advisors passionate about their work and “proud of what you are doing and that you are learning something new, something different, something that you couldn’t have access to if you didn’t join Sephora,” says Albertini.

So, what’s the ideal video length for training employees? As short and quick as possible. Sephora also asks its community when creating a video to “stay within the one minute or at least one and a half minutes to really focus on the examples for the consultation with the client,” says Albertini.

“When you are with a client you don’t have much time to spend. So, the video has to share with you something that you can really use with the client in the end.”

Balancing video quality with experience

The biggest challenges Sephora faces when incorporating video into retail training? Balancing the quality of video with the content. “If you concentrate too much on the quality, you end up with a commercial promo,” says Albertini. “You have to produce something that is educational, more personal, and focuses on the employee experience.”

What advice does Albertini have for other L&D retail professionals looking to incorporate video into their training? Stay simple. 

“Just stick to the basics and stay focused on your goals,” says Albertini. “You are not trying to get 1 million likes on Instagram or TikTok, you are trying to engage your people. You know who you’re talking to, you know your population, and you know what you want them to take from these videos.”


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, indoor cycling franchise CycleBar had to find a way to pivot its in-person training to virtual. Enter video. However, a standard video solution wasn’t sufficient as the fitness studio required training videos that could include its signature mood-elevating music.

“Everything we do at CycleBar is fitness, but it’s also music related. So the only way to do that is through video, and you cannot do it on Zoom,” says Karen Maxwell, Director of Training at CycleBar, who oversees the entire training program for all 280 studios worldwide. So, CycleBar turned to Panopto for an asynchronous solution that could support its training needs. 

Train instructors asynchronously

CycleBar now uses video for its entire training program, to make assessments, and give the right feedback. “For us video is essential. We have to be able to see the trainee, and we have to be able to watch them and be able to give them feedback on what we see and hear,” says Maxwell.

A core part of the fitness industry has to do with form and the trainer’s physical body – it’s vital for CycleBar to see how trainees carry themselves. “We have to be able to hear how they cue, how they use the music, and how they’re riding the indoor cycling bike. We have to have that visual element in order to properly train somebody,” says Maxwell.

CycleBar instructs trainees what to record. They then upload the videos to Panopto and submit them for review. Being able to add notes to videos in Panopto has been game-changing for L&D leaders wanting to provide very specific feedback. “We watch the video and give timestamped notes. Then we give [the trainees] access to read the notes that we give them, so they can see second by second, what we’re seeing,” says Maxwell. “It can be something like at 2:35, ‘Your shoulders are really dropping right here. Be sure you lift your chest and keep it open.’”

“[The notes feature] is probably our favorite feature that we use on Panopto. It’s been very, very helpful for us to give trainees feedback on their videos.”

Give feedback in an engaging way 

In order to provide feedback to trainees in an accessible, engaging way, CycleBar trainers will often record themselves giving feedback to a trainee. “Rather than just typing an email, we want to make sure that we’re connecting with everybody’s learning styles,” says Maxwell. “So we’ll encourage [trainers] to make a three-minute video, and they’ll do it on Panopto.”

“It’s very clean to use Panopto because it doesn’t take up a lot of space on your phone; you don’t have to upload it to Google Drive.”

Recording videos on Panopto is a very user-friendly process, and feedback videos can be easily and securely shared with individual trainees thanks to Panopto’s permission structure. 

Create consistency across the company

Prior to the pandemic, a team of master instructors would conduct the training in person. The issue was that even though all instructors were technically saying the same thing, the information would be conveyed differently by everyone. Since implementing video for training, “it really eliminates the possible misinterpretation of content for us,” says Maxwell. “[Video] created a very high level of consistency for our product and for our training program.”

Using video also helped CycleBar implement clear standards for how its instructors should be trained across the company and to ensure they’re all teaching the same thing. “It’s also really leveled up our brand in general, because we know that we’re training everybody the same way across the board,” says Maxwell. “We’re such a big brand, and in fitness the product is the class. So we have to make sure that the class is of a certain standard and level throughout almost 300 studios, and almost 3,000 instructors at CycleBar.” 

Maxwell’s advice for other L&D retail leaders?

Stay organized with the content and make sure your videos are of high quality.

“People comment on the quality of our program all the time. They say ‘Wow! Everything looks really professionally done,’ and little do they know that I filmed it all on my iPhone on a tripod with a ring light,” says Maxwell. “But I just made sure that it was of the highest production quality as it could be.”


In the ever-changing retail industry where customer expectations are constantly evolving, video training has become a vital tool for companies like Sephora and CycleBar. These industry leaders have successfully used video to enhance employee training, prioritize their values, and deliver exceptional customer experiences. 

Sephora and CycleBar highlight the flexibility and effectiveness of video training in meeting the unique needs of retail organizations. By embracing video, companies can revolutionize their training strategies and equip their employees for success in a fast-paced and customer-focused environment.


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