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Ulta Beauty is early retail adopter of Apple’s Spotlight search

Cosmetics and salon chain Ulta Beauty is one of the first retailers to take advantage of Spotlight search for its iPhone application, enabling users to easily find recently viewed items by swiping on the screen.

With iOS 9, Spotlight search enables developers to surface content within apps already on a user’s phone as well as content on the Web that can be accessed by swiping on their screen. As retailers continue to explore ways to streamline navigation and discovery on a phone’s small screen, Ulta Beauty’s adoption Spotlight search points to a path that, so far, has not been widely adopted.

“Spotlight Search for retail is still very much in its infancy and hasn’t yet been implemented by many retailers,” said Wes Chiang, sales director at GPShopper.

“The fact that Ulta is trying this is a positive step because it requires relatively low effort for potentially high impact, which will pay off in the long term,” he said. “As with any mobile functionality, the more places your brand can be seen; the better.”

In the spotlight
Spotlight search is one way that retailers can help shoppers easily find items they are interested in without having to navigate through multiple screens on an app.

The Spotlight search page sits to the left of the home screen and organizes suggested content across several categories with deep links to a developer’s Web site or app content.

Ulta Beauty recently updated its iPhone app with several new features that make it easier for users to engage with the brand’s products and services.

In addition to the Spotlight search integration, users can now opt-in for push notifications to find out about exclusive offers and upcoming events.

Additionally, the app’s scanner has been improved, with QR codes now supported, enabling users to view product information, ratings, reviews and save their favorite items.

Members of Ulta Beauty’s Ultimate Rewards program who have reached Platinum level can shop exclusive products and offers.

Short attention spans
Making products of interest easy to find on a phone screen is one way retailers are trying to drive conversions on mobile, as traffic continues to grow.

Sur La Table is hoping to turn the excessive online traffic it has into real sales through a new search and product categorization system that presents shoppers with items in a more accurate way that fits their behavior (see story).

Apparel retailer Kit and Ace used the idea of sliding doors to merge content and commerce on its ecommerce revamped platform, hoping to better meet the needs of mobile users by making each side easily accessible at any point during a visit (see story).

Ulta’s app update furthers its mobile makeover. Late last year, the chain launched its first multi-platform campaign and sponsored a new second-screen experience from Bravo Media that merged mobile video content with commerce to target fans of the “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” series (see story).

“The attention span of a mobile user is short, but if they see your brand consistently through mobile Web, apps, Spotlight Search, and other channels, the brand becomes much more sticky to the consumer,” Mr. Chiang said.