TECHNOLOGY

Ulta Beauty shoppers behold new AR, AI features

BY Dan Berthiaume

Ulta Beauty offered a palette of leading-edge digital customer experience enhancements during the first quarter.

During the specialty beauty retailer’s recent first-quarter earnings call, CEO Mary Dillion reviewed several new tech-enabled customer features. These included an updated version of GlamLab, Ulta’s augmented reality (AR)-based mobile app feature that enables customers to see how different beauty products would look on them.

Ulta initially launched GlamLab for iPhone in January and will release a version for Android phones this month. Other Q1 enhancements to the Ulta mobile app included an improved order history view. The retailer is also piloting an AR-based try-on service in its stores.

“Augmented reality innovation includes testing in-store Ulta digital stylists in six pilot stores,” said Dillon. “This tool, intended for associates in the salon or brow bars to show possibilities to guests in the store, offers virtual try-on for hair color, makeup, and eyebrow shaping.”

During the quarter, Ulta also introduced an artificial intelligence (AI)-based skincare virtual beauty advisor on ulta.com. The virtual advisor enables guests to browse Ulta’s skincare assortment by concern or by-product. The virtual beauty advisor asks a series of dynamically generated questions and presents a set of personalized recommendations that can be further reviewed, and then purchased.

According to Dillon, an omnichannel program called “store to door,” which enables store associates to assist customers in ordering products online when they are out of stock at the store, has seen a 20% year-over-year increase in demand.

“It’s improving (customer) satisfaction, particularly as we expand our assortment of emerging and digitally native brands that are frequently offered in limited doors,” said Dillon.

In response to growth in awareness and usage of buy-online-pickup-in-store, which Ulta currently offers in 47 locations, the retailer redesigned the functionality on its website for customers to find items in-store.

Additional Q1 digital customer experience initiatives included Ulta’s first production chatbot experience on its customer conversation platform. The chatbot automates online responses to frequently asked questions about loyalty points or birthday emails.

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