February 13, 2015

Now that technology has changed the shopping experience for many customers, retailers now have to figure out how to translate the experience had in the store online. To sort through these difficulties, Allure’s editor-in-chief Linda Wells interviewed executives two cosmetics retail giants at a Cosmetic Executive Women’s Newsmaker Forum. These execs were Sona Chawla, President, Digital and CMO, Walgreen Co. and Mary Dillon, CEO, Ulta Beauty.


Online cosmetic shopping can be a bit difficult, as users aren’t able to try out colors or refer to the opinion of the sales staff. Dillon says that Ulta is working to fix this, despite the fact that only about 10% of their sales come through e-commerce. To make things easier, Ulta has already launched “shoppable” videos where bloggers describe their experiences with products and advice for how to use them. Additionally, they’ve added a live chat function to the site to answer questions.

According to Dillon, getting serious about your digital strategy is important if you plan to stay relevant. This is true even if the majority of your sales still come through a physical store. It’s important to keep in mind that in the cosmetics world, a customer might be shopping in both locations so it’s important to keep up both experiences.


In the case of Walgreens, convenience is key according to Chawla. Although they have a large number of digital consumers, Chawla says that 55% of Walgreens customers are using the while in a physical store. Since most Americans live within 3 miles of a Walgreens, stopping by the store is often more convenient than ordering something online. Still, Chawla says Walgreens is working on in-store pickup and home delivery orders through the app.

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Both execs also agreed that a crucial part of any cosmetic company’s digital strategy should be utilizing social media and reviews. Social media often provides instant gratification in advertising — in other words, a new product is seen by millions in just a few minutes. Chawla says that the key here is understanding the different way people use each social media site and incorporate those tactics into your plans.

Reviews are also important, as 35% of beauty shoppers prefer to research products online before purchasing. Dillon noted that many of Ulta’s customers arrive to the store already knowing what they want, and just needing the staff to help them find it. The easier cosmetic companies make it for consumers to find reviews and information about products, the better their online experience will be.

For more information from this interview, check out the online exclusive at Beauty Packaging.

Posted In: Industry News