Ulta Beauty Makes Leadership Changes Amidst Digital Reinvention

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
Jamie goodman

Ulta Beauty has made several key senior leadership changes, including promoting Prama Bhatt to chief digital officer, as the retailer continues work on its “reinvent digital imperative.”

Bhatt will oversee digital, including digital innovation and e-commerce. Discussing Ulta’s digital imperative during the company’s recent earnings call, CEO Mary Dillon said Ulta continues to “make progress in creating a more seamless omnichannel experience” that meets consumers wherever they want to engage with the retailer. For example, in the third quarter of 2019, the Ulta Beauty mobile app was refreshed to incorporate more personalization and a stronger linkage to the retailer’s Ultamate Rewards to reinforce the value of the loyalty program.

The new version of the app includes a prominent loyalty dashboard, making it easier for shoppers to track the value of their loyalty points. It displays how points can add up and be more valuable, and features a birthday module highlighting birthday month benefits. Ulta has also combined its message center and offer hub to make it easier for loyalty members to activate targeted offers and quickly access eligible offers.

Additionally, Ulta is using its in-house artificial intelligence engine to power the added feature of new replenishment reminders and handpicked recommendations within the app.

“We also continue to leverage augmented reality and artificial intelligence to create compelling beauty experiences for guests to drive stronger brand loyalty,” noted Dillon, referring to Glam Lab within the Ulta Beauty app, which allows users to virtually try-on makeup for eyes, lips, and cheeks, as well as foundation, a features Ulta added recently.

To further extend the reach of virtual try-on experiences beyond the mobile app, Ulta began to experiment with try-on capabilities on ulta.com. during the quarter.  “We also continue to experiment and learn as we create more virtual beauty advisors,” said Dillon. “In addition to the existing skincare advisor, we recently launched a foundation finder, and mascara and lash advisor to help our guests find what works best for their needs.”

Looking ahead, Ulta plans to spend between $305-315 million in CapEx, which includes $90 million for supply chain and IT, as well as approximately $170 million for new stores, remodels, and merchandise fixtures; and around $50 million for store maintenance and other costs. The reduction from its previous guidance reflects Ulta’s decision to delay the opening of its fast fulfillment center in Jacksonville, FL, until 2021.

Senior Leadership Changes

The retailer also made several senior leadership changes in addition to Bhatt’s promotion, including expanding Kecia Steelman’s role to take on responsibility for Ulta Beauty’s international growth, as chief store operations officer & president, International. Ulta announced earlier this year it would expand internationally, with its first market entry in Canada.

Additionally, Monica Arnaudo has been promoted to chief merchandising officer and will lead the company’s merchandising and assortment strategy.

Shelley Haus has been promoted to chief marketing officer and will lead all brand building and consumer initiatives.

“Ulta Beauty’s continued success is fueled by a strong leadership team, a winning culture and organizational design that aligns to our strategy and most effectively serves our guests and our associates,” said Dillon in a statement. “I am proud to elevate these leaders who have played a pivotal role scaling our business for growth and achieving our vision.”

Dave Kimbell will continue serving as Ulta Beauty president overseeing merchandising, marketing, digital functions and the corporate strategy team.

“Our ability to promote from within underscores the incredible talent and passion our team has for growing our business and leading through our values,” said Kimbell. “With this world-class leadership team, Ulta Beauty will continue to deliver an unrivaled in-store experience and merchandising assortment, drive our digital innovation and engagement, and continue to establish ourselves as a powerful and meaningful brand.”

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