Retailers Like Ulta, Stitch Fix, Build a Bear, Foot Locker Bridge Physical and Digital Overhauls

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
Liz
Ulta

Ulta Beauty CEO Dave Kimbell said it best during the company's latest call with investors: today’s consumers are moving “effortlessly” between the physical and digital channels. 

In order to keep up with their flexible shopping habits, retailers have had to overhaul their experiences, transforming all touchpoints to deliver an improved presence that considers both digital and in-store capabilities. 

E-Commerce Upgrades

The latest Q3 2023 earnings reports shed light on the massive overhauls that retailers are undergoing particularly in the e-commerce space. Ulta, for example, is moving along on its multiyear digital transformation, upgrading its infrastructure to provide an elevated “digital guest experience.”

“In August, we completed a significant step in this process with the transition of our digital commerce experience, including cart motions, checkout, and member account data to our new architecture,” said Kimbell. “Overall, our team successfully executed these changes, and I am pleased to report our new digital experience performed very well over the high-demand Thanksgiving weekend, including Cyber Monday."

Foot Locker moved forward with e-commerce enhancements as well, reporting reduced friction points and improved experiences and features. As part of this initiative, Foot Locker president and CEO Mary Dillon said the company will be rolling out a new app next year with a smoother, cleaner experience.

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Artificial Intelligence

Some digital innovations transform the operational side of business, with benefits then trickling down to the end consumer. 

Ulta is using generative AI behind-the-scenes in the supply chain, and to streamline and automate tasks like writing product descriptions. Stitch Fix, too, has tapped an artificial intelligence-powered buying tool for its supply chain efforts which helps drive informed decisions and keep assortment up to date with changing consumer demands. 

[Also read: Is AI the Next Frontier for Macy’s New CMO?]

Stitch Fix

“We already see improved keep rates in the initial phase, and we expect this tool to be utilized in more than 50% of all units ordered by the end of fiscal year 2024,” said Stitch Fix CEO Matt Baer.

Stitch Fix is also using AI to support its stylists, tapping generative AI to personalize notes clients receive with their fixes. This creates a more customized experience for consumers, referencing their prior purchase history and allowing stylists to spend more time doing a deeper analysis of buyer profiles to curate more accurate style fixes.

“This lets us deliver a more robust experience to clients at a lower cost to serve, and lets stylists redirect their time to conduct deeper analysis of client profiles, curate the best possible fixes, and spend more time building relationships with clients,” said Baer.

Efforts are being led by a new chief product and technology officer, Tony Bacos, who joined the company just a few weeks ago. 

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Retailers Aren’t Discounting In-Store Experiences

While much of the investment is going toward digital experiences, retailers recognize the importance of bolstering in-person exposure as well. Build a Bear has a new POS system and other integrated in-store tech, while Ulta is investing in in-store capabilities as a result of member data that shows elevated experiences lead to increased spending and frequency and lasting loyalty.

“This quarter, we launched a refreshed guest engagement model, which elevates the guest experience through authentic engagement, helpful experiences, and friendly interactions to create a genuine human connection,” said Ulta’s Kimbell.

Meanwhile, Foot Locker is doing much of its in-store work by supporting workers with tools like engaged learning and training, and upgraded handheld devices.

“The technology gives our stripers improved visibility on inventory access to product information and the ability to checkout customers and improve in-store conversion,” said Dillon.

Trending: New POS Systems

Build a Bear

“Our new POS system enables associates to easily order items not currently available in their store and, our new mobile POS tools provide guests with an elevated and faster checkout process.” — Ulta CEO Dave Kimbell

“We implemented a new POS system this year, which is already yielding a more efficient and positive customer experience in stores.” — J.Jill CEO & President Claire Spofford

“There's just a moment where when you're setting up a new platform or changing some third process that there's going to be some volatility in the results as you're kind of mastering the new technology, that also goes for the rollout of a new POS system.” — Build a Bear CEO Sharon Price John

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