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Could Virtual Beauty Try-on Be the Answer to In-store Product Testing?

Ulta Beauty is marketing its GlamLab virtual try-on feature as an alternative to product testers, as the retailer reopens 180 of its doors.

A virtual try-on program Ulta Beauty launched four years ago is now experiencing a surge in usage during the coronavirus.

Ulta, which reopened some of its doors Monday after temporarily closing them due to COVID-19, launched GlamLab with photo try-on capabilities in late 2016. Two years later, the retailer acquired GlamSt, the beauty technology company behind GlamLab, and upgraded the program to a live try-on experience within the Ulta Beauty app.

Since the onset of the coronavirus, GlamLab usage has increased four times, with more than 13 million shade try-ons in the last two months, according to Prama Bhatt, Ulta Beauty chief digital officer. The retailer is now marketing the program as an alternative to physical product testers as it welcomes customers back in-store.

“GlamLab’s a great way to continue to try on product whether you’re at home or in-store,” Bhatt said. “Especially now, we feel like it’s a convenient and safe alternative to product testers. It also is a smart way to have the opportunity to discover and learn about what product is right for you.”

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On May 11, Ulta reopened 180 doors across states such as Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, at limited occupancy. A representative for the retailer said though it did not have precise information regarding Monday’s turnout, “guest and associate enthusiasm was strong with safety measures in place.”

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While some of the reopened stores will resume offering hair services, none will have product testing available.

“Testers will be there for display only but not for testing purposes,” Bhatt said. “We’ll be guiding [customers] to download the [Ulta Beauty] app and use [the GlamLab] try-on capability from the convenience of their home, but also as part of their shopping experience in-store. We think it’s actually really convenient for it to be on your personal device during this time where there’s so much around staying safe and managing contact.”

Lip has historically been GlamLab’s most tried-on category, dethroned by foundation when it launched on the program earlier this year. Nearly 4,000 products are available on GlamLab. That number is expected to “double and triple in short order” as Ulta looks to add categories such as hair, lashes and brows, Bhatt said.

“We’re accelerating making more of our products able to be digitally tried on,” Bhatt said. “In response to the current situation, the team’s thinking about different ways we can engage digitally, including one-to-one consultation. They’re starting to do beta testing on opportunity to get advice and insight from a beauty advisor. We’re going to be testing and learning what other safety measures we might need to bring into our app so we can assist the in-store shopping experience.”

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