Cosmetics and skincare retailer Ulta shared improvements to its mobile app in its earnings call with investors last week. The app now includes an improved order history to make reordering more efficient for users, said CEO Mary Dillon during the call.
App improvements include an update to the GLAMLab, an augmented reality try-on feature that launched for iPhone in January. The Android version of GLAMLab will release in June, and six stores will pilot an in-store version for associates to show options for hair color, makeup and eyebrow shaping to clients, she said.
The cosmetics superstore has also rolled out a virtual beauty adviser to help customers narrow down skincare products with personalized recommendations, and a chatbot has been implemented to keep guests up to date about their loyalty points or birthday gifts, Dillon said.
Ulta's mobile developments were detailed alongside the company's announcement that it will begin a global expansion this year by opening stores, first in Canada, alongside its 1,196 U.S. locations. The retailer posted a strong first quarter with a net sales increase of 12.9% over last year to $1.74 billion. Dillon has noted previously that 95% of the company's revenue has come from members of its loyalty program, which has swelled to more than 30 million.
But as retailers have learned, the sheer existence of a loyalty program isn't enough to keep customers coming back. By focusing on improving GLAMLab features in its app, Ulta encourages a similar try-on atmosphere on mobile as it does in its stores. Where others have focused primarily on in-store virtual try-on features or fun mobile AR features, Ulta cuts through the new fourth wall of the consumer smartphone to bring inspiration that may lead to increased mobile spending.
Dillon also reported growth for the company's BOPIS program, now operating in 47 stores. "We redesigned the find in store functionality on our website to support the upcoming full chain rollout of buy online, pick up in store to improve and simplify the guest experience," Dillon said on the call. Demand for that service grew 20% in the first quarter compared to last year.
Combined with a recent branding shift to include diverse models, TV ads in English and Spanish, and an overall, more inclusive definition of beauty, Ulta has repeatedly shown its competitive side in a crowded cosmetics market.