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CSA Exclusive: Ulta Beauty brings the store home with Google Cloud


A leading specialty beauty retailer is leveraging cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) to provide personalized recommendations and realistic try-on via customer mobile device.

Ulta Beauty provided Chain Store Age with an exclusive first look at how it has been delivering its augmented reality (AR)-based Virtual Beauty Advisor and GlamLab mobile customer services utilizing Google Cloud artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. The retailer initially announced these features in June 2019.

The Virtual Beauty Advisor tool provides Ulta Beauty shoppers a mobile, interactive experience with data-driven personalized recommendations. The solution enables customers to browse Ulta’s skincare assortment by concern or by-product, asking a series of dynamically generated questions and presenting a set of personalized recommendations that can be further reviewed, and then purchased.

Leveraging Google Cloud solutions such as Big Query, Cloud Storage, and Compute Engine, Ulta Beauty can quickly gain access to large volumes of customer data from disparate sources, including its Ultamate Rewards loyalty program, and analyze it to create a personalized experience. The company can obtain access to, consume, and process secure and resilient data at scale as demand grows. According to Ulta Beauty, launching Virtual Beauty Advisor has fueled an increase in sales and decrease in returns.

Ulta Beauty also leverages Google Cloud to support its GlamLab virtual try-on experience. GlamLab allows shoppers to virtually test beauty products online or via mobile device using AR. Customers can find the right beauty products based on their personal characteristics, viewing AR images of how specific products interact with their skin tone and facial features on their screen. For example, a customer could select foundation specifically using their skin tone/undertone, with recommendations based on color and brand preferences.

According to Ulta Beauty, customer engagement with GlamLab has increased nine times since the onset of COVID-19, with 19 million virtual shade tests. The retailer enables product calibration to make the effect more “true” to specific features such as color and texture, and currently offers thousands of brands and products for virtual try-on.

“Google Cloud listened to our needs and worked in tandem with our engineering team to address our challenges,” said Michelle Pacynski, VP, digital innovation, Ulta Beauty. “The ease of working with their team and their breadth of experience made the decision a no-brainer, laying the foundation for a great partnership.”

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