The beauty retailers we all know, and love, are giving their websites a makeover, using the powers of AI and Virtual Reality to create personalized, interactive experiences with makeup online!  

Once upon a time the only way to receive a service like this was to come into the store and have a consultation with an employee on the floor. While Ulta still provides in-person beauty services, implementing a new approach to beauty online is huge for accessibility and technology in beauty!  

Looking back, there was a direct push for technology in beauty to evolve quicker than it ever had before starting in 2020. When the pandemic hit, stores like Ulta and Sephora were forced to close their doors for the foreseeable future without knowing how to keep up with the level of sales they were used to. However, they needed to continue to make sales to stay in business, so technology rose to the occasion to keep the beauty industry afloat during what we graciously referred to as “unprecedented times.” Meaning their website needed to come as close as possible to the personal and individualized experience customers were accustomed to in stores. Augmented or virtual reality held the key to seamlessly integrating technology into the beauty industry in a fun and interactive way for online shoppers.

Now,  we shall dive into what these features are that secured the success of Ulta amidst a pandemic that kept us home, with our laptops and stimulus checks–the perfect recipe for a new wave of online shopping.

First, you’ll have to visit the Ulta website and click on the Discover option on the top bar. From there you’ll go to Virtual Tools, where you’ll be prompted to choose between Makeup Try-on and Hair Color & Style Try-on.  

Let’s say you need new lipstick and a matching eyeshadow for your big night, but with your busy schedule you never make it to the store. The GlamLab tool brings everything you’ll need straight to you, no matter where you are. This tool uses augmented reality to show customers how more than 19 million shades look on them. Grant access to your camera and allow virtual reality technology to illustrate how the shade really looks with your features, coloring, etc.  

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 Source: Ulta

If a change is what you need, but you’re not ready to take the jump and experiment with a new cut or color without seeing it on you first, they’ve got the perfect tool for you. If you select Hair Color & Style Try-on in the Virtual Tools section, you’ll be asked to accept their terms and conditions, upload a photo and from there you’ll be free to play around with a wide range of hair colors and styles from the comfort of your computer. Virtual reality broadcasts new styles onto your image, giving you a proper feel for how you’d look with a short bob or long pink hair.  

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 Source: Ulta

Ulta has even created surveys that do virtual skin analysis, hair analysis, a foundation quiz, and a mascara & lash quiz to help customers discover the products that best meet their needs. This kind of technology drastically streamlines the shopping experience for the beauty industry, where there are thousands of products and it’s nearly impossible to choose what’s best for you, and you alone.  

These technologies offer the same caliber of service as an employee being in the store with you, allowing customers to test makeup and even accept recommendations. Being able to match the same energy you find when you visit an Ulta store made the brand not only pandemic-proof but successful beyond the pandemic, too. There are billions of online shoppers in the world and if they can find interactive, comprehensive service online, they’re more likely to spend money and drive sales in the online market. Ulta has used the power of virtual reality technologies to expand its brand and its customer base while keeping customers’ experience and accessibility at the forefront of its business.There’s a lot to be said about technology’s impact on the beauty industry, both positive and negative. Brands like Ulta and influencers on TikTok ultimately have one common goal — to make money in the beauty space. However, influencers accept money from brands to push products regardless of their quality or age appropriateness, while Ulta delivers tools that are breaking down doors and changing the landscape of the beauty industry. These virtual tools prioritize customers’ needs and encourage their customer base to explore a wide range of products with ease, using tools designed to guide them to their perfect match. Technology will continue to be an integral part of the future of beauty, and I’m excited to see where these technologies will take us next. Maybe one day they’ll design a robot that does your makeup for you and makes it last all day…wouldn’t that be nice?! 

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