The largest US beauty retailer uses SAS® Customer Intelligence 360 to create world-class customer experiences online and in stores
Ever wonder how brands create a cult following?
With more than 38 million loyalty members, 1,300-plus stores across the US and 7 million Instagram followers, Ulta Beauty seems to have cracked the code.
Since opening its doors in 1990, Ulta Beauty has been breaking the mold. The company recognized that beauty enthusiasts consumed a combination of prestige and mass items, but no retailer housed both categories. Changing the beauty game forever, Ulta Beauty opened to offer all things beauty, all in one place. This novel approach propelled the Midwestern chain to become a national sensation with stores in every state and an impressive online presence.
As Ulta Beauty grew into an enterprise brand, its volume of data increased exponentially. In addition to its ever-growing loyalty program, the company also has an in-store credit card program, email and SMS lists, as well as robust marketing programs. As a result, Ulta Beauty manages an astounding amount of first-party data. A dream scenario for most marketers, the flood of data quickly created a new set of challenges. Data was scattered and difficult to access and mobilize for campaigns for quick and efficient use.
That’s why Ulta Beauty turned to SAS to aid in transforming its abundant data sources into easily activated and comprehensive customer journeys with SAS Customer Intelligence 360.
Personalization is the key to unlocking our future success, and to do this well means we need to apply data and decisioning alongside campaign activation. SAS was the perfect partner to meet our challenges. Kelly Mahoney Vice President of Customer Marketing Ulta Beauty
Goal: Personalization in digital marketing
Prior to implementation, scattered data silos slowed marketing campaign design and execution times, reducing team efficacy across the organization. Most importantly, Ulta Beauty’s customer engagement leaders were missing opportunities to delight guests with personalized marketing due to data latency.
“Before SAS came into the picture, our challenge was to create a technology stack ecosystem that could complement or couple data analytics with campaign activation,” says Kelly Mahoney, Vice President of Member Marketing for Ulta Beauty. “Personalization is the key to unlocking our future success, and to do this well means we need to apply data and decisioning alongside campaign activation.”
Creating a single environment where Ulta Beauty marketers can access all of the company’s insights in one place would allow for agile decision-making and better return on investment.
“SAS was the perfect partner to meet our challenges,” Mahoney says. “As the leader in analytics, SAS knew how to infuse our data into the customer journey. Today, we’re able to leverage analytics and our campaign activation-to-decision messages that reach our guests in almost real-time.”
Being able to activate data in SAS Customer Intelligence 360 while applying AI and machine learning techniques, such as customer journey optimization, allows us to continue as customer engagement leaders. It’s truly an exciting time. Melissa Berscheid Senior Director of Member Marketing and Technology Ulta Beauty
Putting marketing automation and artificial intelligence to work
Over the past several years, Ulta Beauty has re-imagined customer experiences and personalized marketing campaigns with a specific focus on its fan-favorite loyalty program, Ultamate Rewards.
Guests benefit from personalized marketing campaigns with targeted customer recommendations powered by AI, among other things. “The two areas we’re really leaning into – AI and machine learning – are anchored in a recommendation engine,” Mahoney says. “It’s an algorithm that’s proprietary to Ulta Beauty and allows us to bridge the physical and digital worlds.”
For example, using AI predictive models to optimize print marketing campaigns has decreased marketing costs without reducing marketing effectiveness.
“We were easily able to shift product recommendations and focus because of the targeting aspect,” says Melissa Berscheid, Senior Director of Member Marketing and Technology for Ulta Beauty. “For our team, using SAS and data is the easy part. We can get to a granular group of guests who we want to present something new to readily.”
Automating and personalizing its marketing efforts has helped Ulta Beauty achieve an impressive 95% sales penetration, meaning 95% of sales come from returning guests. Using data to create granular targeting and personalized campaigns has been a key benefit of using SAS.
Ulta Beauty – Facts & Figures
in annual revenue
The possibilities are beautiful
While Ulta Beauty has long been re-imagining the industry, today it’s re-imagining retail and customer experiences in a digital era. By prioritizing automation, data-based decisions and personalized marketing campaigns, Ulta Beauty can quickly scale without sacrificing quality.
“We decided to partner with SAS because we knew it would help our scalability,” Berscheid says. “As a high-growth company, our member base increases substantially year over year. We have significant data tied to each of our members, and we want to make sure we can continue to market effectively and efficiently to that base of important guests.”
With continued growth on the horizon, Ulta Beauty remains focused on delighting customers and providing all things beauty, all in one place.
“We expect our relationship with SAS to continue delivering significant results,” Berscheid concludes. “Being able to activate data in SAS Customer Intelligence 360 while applying AI and machine learning techniques, such as customer journey optimization, allows us to continue as customer engagement leaders. It’s truly an exciting time.”