As other retailers struggle, Ulta is rapidly growing. Sales at the cosmetics chain surged nearly 24% to $1.07 billion in the past quarter, reflecting both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce growth. Buoyed by that success, the retailer will add 100 stores this year.
A key to Ulta’s success is the in-store experience it creates. A fifth of Ulta shoppers spend 30 minutes or more in the stores, which feature hair salons, brow bars and testing stations.
“You hear and see and smell and feel beauty happening around you. It elevates the whole store, even if you are not using it,” chief marketing and merchandising officer Dave Kimbell told The Wall Street Journal.
For consumers unable to shop in person, Ulta evokes that experience online through sampling. Online shoppers can select sampler packs within categories such as fragrance or skincare – a strategy likely to boost sales. Nearly a third of beauty enthusiasts cite sampling as a major influence on purchase decisions.
However, L2’s Beauty Sampling report finds that two-thirds of Beauty brands do not offer samples on sites like Ulta and Sephora. Given the rapid growth of these distribution channels, they are missing a chance to dramatically boost exposure.