Sunrise Series Event Recap: ULTA’s Beauty Experience

daveAt the June 22 Sunrise Executive Breakfast Dave Kimbell revealed how ULTA is raising awareness of its brand by making beauty a fun experience for women across the nation.

David Kimbell, Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer of ULTA, presented the evolution of ULTA’s latest marketing campaign at the first suburban Sunrise Executive Breakfast, held at Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse in Rosemont on June 22.

As ULTA’s CMO, Dave has the formidable task of making sure that this innovative company continues to grow within the context of a unique vision.  Established 25 years ago, ULTA was built on a new business model inspired by an insight about the buying behavior of cosmetics’ consumers. The company’s  founders realized that contrary to conventional marketing of cosmetic products previously, women didn’t buy just one brand of beauty products. Nor did they limit their purchases to one type of store. Instead, they bought what they liked when they needed it from drug stores as well as department stores. Furthermore, they felt as confident about their selections made at the grocery store as they did about those purchased from high-end salons.

Today, under Kimbell’s leadership, the company continues to be guided by the attitudes, needs and desires of its primary audience – “Beauty Enthusiasts.”  This group, largely suburban women between the ages of 35 and 55, view ULTA stores as a special place to explore new cosmetic trends, learn about new beauty techniques, access a wide range of products and enjoy sharing this experience with like-minded friends and family members.

Since 1990, ULTA has grown from its original store in Chicago to 800 locations in 48 states. Yet, despite the fact that it’s now the largest specialty retailer in its category, ULTA’s brand awareness is only 70% compared to that of its competitors who score 90 to 100%.

This realization led to the development of a new customer-centric marketing strategy that includes selling much of its product online, offering more in-store services and a highly successful loyalty program. Currently the company’s 15 million rewards members not only account for 80% of its sales, they offer ULTA access to detailed data on which to base future strategies.

To sum up, Dave described the steps ULTA took to pay off the premise that at ULTA – “Beauty is a fun adventure.” Here they are:

  • Study the marketplace. Find out what the competition is doing, what’s working, what’s not. Where do the opportunities lie to grow your own business at all levels.
  • Define your target. Make sure you know where your primary focus should be. In ULTA’s case it was “Beauty Enthusiasts.”
  • Integrate all the elements of your company. These include how you communicate, what you sell, how you sell it and internal communications to support your efforts. Also the infrastructure needed to support your current programs and future growth.
  •  Build a strong culture. One that will support your brand and enable you to successfully meet your goals.
  • Be open to learning and change. Being able to adapt quickly to trends already developing and knowing enough about the market to create your own new trends will mark your company as a leader.

Dave’s presentation was well received and led to several lively table discussions as audience members considered how to apply his insights to their own work.

The Sunrise Executive Breakfast Series will return in August. Look for announcements of upcoming programs under events and in the Chicago AMA blog.  In the meantime, have a wonderful summer!

 

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