Creating Predictability in a Chaotic Environment at ULTA Beauty

One of the best things about working for a global software brand in the retail space is that I don’t struggle to understand my customer’s customer (the consumer). Why? Because I’m a consumer too.

This is not a result of my job. In fact, if anything, my drive to find just the right gift, or the perfect candles for the dining table, probably influenced my career choices.

But, in the real world, retailers find my shopping behavior frustrating. I’m brand loyal, but not predictable. I’m a splurger, but my splurges can be few and far between depending on my schedule.

A recent realization is that retail strategies like clienteling, where retailers put defined measureable systems in place to manage customer engagement and improve the shopping experience, can be a huge benefit for consumers like me. And, a big payoff for retailers.

For example, mobile clienteling apps, like the ones ULTA Beauty is rolling out, provide an engaging environment for one-to-one selling techniques which offer convenience, entertainment, and personalized offers to consumers. Let me give you an example.

ULTA Beauty’s latest clienteling app is great for busy consumers like me that regularly buy cosmetics but don’t have time to go to a store. I, like many women, tend to stick with the same cosmetics once I find something that works. ULTA recognizes this by offering auto fulfillment of common items, like foundation or mascara. But they also use my historical buying data to suggest other items I might like based on my personal preferences.

By making my experience easier and more convenient, ULTA Beauty can actually create predictability out of an unpredictable consumer profile, which helps manage inventory, fulfillment and sales forecasts. Both the consumer and the retailer benefit and form a closer relationship.

Clienteling apps also give the consumer more control over the relationship. As the RSR Research Benchmark Report 2014 pointed out, for an industry that always defined what, when, and where consumers could buy, this new loss of control is a huge challenge. But, retailers don’t have a choice.

We, as consumers, get to decide if we want to engage as “self-service” consumers or “customized service” consumers. And we can switch between the two at any time. Retail platforms that don’t allow for this flexibility won’t last long.

I predict that more retailers will leverage mobile clienteling apps to create a stronger bridge between the digital world and the store. It’s hard to argue with a solution that can build efficiency into retail operations, and give consumers the seamless and personalized experience they demand.

Lori Mitchell-Keller is Senior VP and Head of Global Retail at SAP.

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