It’s no secret that times are tough for many retailers, between store closures, rapidly evolving consumer preferences and the need to pivot quickly to adapt to ever-changing trends. But one sector that is positively crushing it is beauty and make-up, and that success is largely owed to the customer experience side of things.

The Rise and Rise of Beauty Brands

Beauty brands have positioned themselves well to align with shopping trends. Brands like Ulta and Sephora are exploding in online sales and in-store experience, respectively, according to Retail Dive. Ulta’s online sales grew by a whopping 63% in the third quarter of 2017, and Sephora’s concept Sephora Studio store took home Retail Dive’s Store Concept of the Year award. Emerging beauty brands like subscription-based Birchbox and online-only Glossier are also making a big splash with their innovative, digital-first models. Catering to online shoppers, offering unique products on a subscription basis and especially focusing on in-store experience is propelling these brands to new heights, even in a challenging retail landscape.

Experience and Technology as Foundations of Beauty’s Success

Few retail sectors are as built for experience as beauty. As Retail Dive points out, beauty product customers are generally shopping for a certain look for a special occasion, so it stands to reason brands would focus on making the in-store experience feel like an event. They’ve done this in part through personal service like in-store makeovers, but also through leveraging technology, such as augmented reality (AR) mirrors and mobile apps that let shoppers see how products will look on their faces before they buy. Beauty brands have been first-movers in committing to innovative ideas and technologies, and haven’t been afraid to experiment with outside-the-box tactics.

Of course, some technologies are better suited for certain industries than others, and augmented reality mirrors and apps practically scream out to be utilized by beauty brands. The implementation of such technologies feels more organic in the beauty space, where it adds legitimate value to shoppers, as opposed to some retail sectors whose application of the latest technology feels more tacked-on and out of its element.

These and other timely moves have made beauty brands juicy acquisition targets, with rumors swirling around Birchbox and Ulta both being snapped up by other companies. Retail Dive reported that beauty specialty shops have captured marketshare to the point of verging on eclipsing drugstores to become the second biggest sales channel for beauty products.

It’s a good time to be in the beauty industry, and the focus on experience and intelligent leveraging of well-suited technology has seen it consistently emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the retail world.

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