Brick and Mortar Beauty

The beauty sector seems to be having a lot of success recently. But as most brick and mortar stores struggle in the e-commerce climate why are beauty stores soaring? Many may argue this is because of the ‘try and test’ nature of the industry- people need to go to the store to find their perfect foundation shade. Yet this argument comes up flawed when we look at how department stores and their beauty counters are faltering in the current environment.

Ulta beauty’s stock grew more than 3000 percent between 2009 and 2016. This also occurred at a time when Ulta continued to open more brick and mortar stores, even though most others were losing out to online competition at the time. Ulta continues to say that the experience with their store is as important as the product they are selling. Ulta’s loyalty program has more than 23 million active users, which allows them to even more personalise their communication.

David Kimbell the company’s chief marketing officer highlights that Ulta sees their online business as a complement to the brick and mortar and not a replacement. Their goal is to bring each of their online customers into their store.


In terms of Sephora’s success, some of it can be put down to their unique in-store experiences.  Sephora has begun to give their stores a huge tech focus, with VR mirrors allowing customers to virtually try different shades of lipstick and blush. Along with colour scanners that scan your skin and tell you your perfect foundation shade.

Sephora also launched a social media platform designed for loyalty members to talk to each other about products and have beauty-focused discussions. Don’t get me wrong many people across the pond also shop solely on (for example in Ireland where we still don’t have a Sephora yet?!- another post coming on that soon). Sephoras success also comes from the retailer’s reputation for always having the newest and best brands- they got their hands on the recently launched Fenty beauty- which has been deemed a huge success.

Sephora created a concept that disrupted the way people shopped for beauty. Before Sephora you had to go to a department store and shop each counter separately while trying to avoid pushy salespeople.

Sephora and Ulta have made shopping for beauty an enjoyable experience for many, experience being the keyword.

I couldn’t write an article about the beauty industry without mentioned Glossier which has been deemed one of the most disruptive companies of the year. Glossier (created by Emily Weiss- you may recognise her from MTV’s The Hills). Glossier’s USP is that makeup does not have to be flaw covering, it can be fun and unique and SHOULD be about embracing what you already have. Since its launch, Glossier has gained a massive cult following. It has tapped into the blogger/vlogger industry to promote its products.



In the two years since Glossier launched it has raised $10.4 million in venture capital financing over a seed and series A round. Their New York pop up shop has now become a permanent establishment, with many people travelling across the pond just to visit the showroom. Their pop up stores as well as their frequent communication with followers on Instagram has made Glossier’s ownership with its customers rather than with some executives in HQ (They often crowdsource product idea from their followers) They are not the first brand to try and communicate to real women on Instagram but they are the first to do it successfully. I could talk about Glossiers success for hours (and I probably will in an upcoming post) but what I want to get across is that even with Glossier’s success they still found the necessity for a Pop-up Shop. They allowed their store to be a complement to their online business, not a distraction.

So how should brick and mortar retailers respond to the competition from online?

Look to Sephora, Ulta and Glossier for inspiration thats for sure.



One thought on “Brick and Mortar Beauty

  1. Pingback: Glossier and Influencer Marketing – Eva Murphy Ryan

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