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Ulta turns mobile app into ‘Glam Lab’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Selfies are taking on a new role when it comes to driving the guest experience at Ulta Beauty.

With e-commerce sales jumping 59.1% for the third quarter — on top of 56.3% growth last year — the beauty retailer is pulling out all of the stops when it comes to evolving and upgrading the guest experience. Once of the company’s newest initiatives is its Glam Lab.

Launched last month, the mobile service allows guests to virtually test products and shades within the company’s iPhone and Android app. “Shoppers simply upload a selfie or choose a model with a similar complexion,” Mary Dillon, Ulta’s CEO said in the company’s third quarter earnings call on Dec. 1. “Our technology partner for this platform is a company known for best-in-class realism and accuracy of color matching.”

The service is one of a few enhancements the specialty retailer made to its mobile app, including a redesigned product detail page that better displays product options and information; the integration of a new content platform, and a new salon appointment booking tool, she added.

While these tools are still evolving, the company is bullish on its booking tool, especially its impact on its “Brow Bar,” an in-store service dedicated to the maintenance of eyebrows.

“There is no real specific data that we are ready to share about direct impact, but we think it’s really important for us across all services to make it as easy as possible for our guests to make appointments and engage with us,” Scott Settersten, the company’s CFO said during the call. “We will continue to evolve the technology. We know that will improve the guest experience and we are excited about that going forward.”

These initiatives are indicative of the company’s commitment to its mobile channel, overall. “While we will continue to work on that desktop, all the growth and attention is in mobile,” Dave Kimbell, chief merchandising and marketing officer at Ulta, said during the call, adding that over two-thirds of traffic is coming through mobile.

“It’s a growing part of our sales, so we will keep building that content experience to give [our shopper] access to information when and where she wants it, and then just make it as easy as possible for her to shop,” he said. “Since it’s a different shopping experience on a mobile device, we are continuing to innovate in that space and make it easier through find and pay for products, as well as explore new information and trends.”

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In a first, non-family member to take reins at Meijer

BY Marianne Wilson

Family-owned and operated Meijer is getting a new CEO — and for the first time in the retailer’s 82-year history, it’s not a family member.

Effective January 1, 2017, Rick Keyes, president of Meijer, will add the title of CEO. He will replace Hank Meijer, who is stepping down as chief executive and will serve as executive chairman of the board.

"We have witnessed Rick's deep understanding and appreciation of our culture and his passion for the people who make Meijer a great company," said Hank Meijer. "His accomplishments throughout a 27-year career — and his leadership as president for more than a year now — give us tremendous confidence in the future as he assumes a new title that better reflects his responsibilities."

Traditionally, the role of president at Meijer has been held by a non-family member, with the title of CEO through the years being held by Fred Meijer and Hank Meijer respectively. The decision to make an adjustment in titles is based on the company's desire to align the roles more accurately with current responsibilities.

Meijer, which operates 230 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin, has been privately owned and family operated since it was founded in 1934. In keeping with the Meijer family's ongoing significant involvement, executive chairman Hank Meijer will work closely with Keyes in developing and executing strategies consistent with the values at the heart of our team.

Doug Meijer and Mark Meijer will also stay actively involved through their roles as directors of Meijer. All new roles will become effective January 1, 2017.

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The Cyber Week winners were…

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Competition was fierce during Cyber Week, however, the clear winners were those retailers that stayed in-stock and offered assortments at the best price points.

That’s according to the third annual “Holiday Season Report” from Ugam. The managed analytics firm collected and analyzed detailed assortment and pricing information among Amazon, Best Buy, Jet.com, Target, Toys "R" Us and Walmart during Thanksgiving week, from Nov. 24-28, 2016.

Analysis revealed which companies were selling specific products, and at what price. For example, Amazon had the highest availability of the top 100 trending electronics, carrying more than 95% of the sample during the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period.

Target.com had the lowest availability, carrying less than 65% of the same sample set. Among the trending electronics in the sample were Samsung 4K TVs, Apple iPads and iPhones, Amazon's E-readers and tablets, and Fitbit activity trackers.

As expected, Amazon was also the lowest-price leader, offering the lowest or same as lowest prices on more than 63% of the sample electronics on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. BestBuy.com was the least price competitive during the analysis period, offering the lowest or same as lowest prices on less than 25% of the same sample set, the study said, adding that average prices for sample electronics that were available across all the five retailers were the lowest on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24).

Meanwhile, Jet.com, Walmart’s newest acquisition, had the highest number of products that were out-of-stock during the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period. Out of the sample products it carried, 20% went out-of-stock on Thanksgiving, 19% on Black Friday, and 32% on Cyber Monday.

When it came to the toy category, Amazon had the highest availability of the top 100 trending sample toys, carrying all 100 throughout the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period. Again, Jet had the lowest availability, carrying only 59% of the same sample set. Among the trending toys in the sample were Hatchimals by Spin Master, Hasbro Speak Out Game, and LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, the study revealed.

When looking at specific sale days, Amazon and Walmart.com were the lowest-price leaders on Thanksgiving, offering the lowest prices on 55% of the sample toys available on both web sites. Amazon continued to offer the lowest prices on more than 60% of its sample toy assortment on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Toys "R" Us was least price competitive throughout the analysis period, offering the lowest or same as lowest prices on less than 16% of the sample set, data revealed.

Like electronics, Jet had the highest number of products that were out-of-stock during the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period. Out of the sample products it carried, 14% went out-of-stock on Thanksgiving, 10% on Black Friday, and 22% on Cyber Monday. Interestingly, average prices for sample toys that were available across all five retailers were the lowest on Nov. 26.

“Near real-time, data-driven insights can help retailers stay on top of key trends during crucial shopping days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday," said Sunil Mirani, Ugam CEO. "These insights combine customer demand and competitor data to help retailers better understand what they are doing right and identify areas where they can improve."

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