New Data Shows This Beauty Retailer Has the Highest Customer Loyalty

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Brand loyalty in beauty is no joke. Some women use the same product for decades and have no interest trying anything else. There are also those women who choose to shop for their all their beauty must-haves at one store, and one store only. It might be because their goal is to rack up serious points in the store's loyalty program, or it could boil down to sheer preference or access—is there an Ulta right across the street from your house and Sephora requires a drive to the mall? Or vice versa? 

To quantify women's beauty shopping habits, analytics company 1010data evaluated the credit and debit card transactions at the top two retailers in this category—Sephora and Ulta Beauty—from January 2016 to December 2017. The data reflects the spending habits of more than 1 million consumers and how those shopping behaviors changed from one year to the next.

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According to the report, Ulta Beauty’s retail locations claimed a higher share of sales than Sephora stores in 2017, with 49 percent of sales compared to Sephora's 30 percent. However, Sephora took the lead in the e-commerce space, with 13 percent of sales compared to Ulta's 4 percent.

Overall, Sephora and Ulta's combined online sales grew 14 percent year over year, which proves more people are surfing the web in search of their beauty buys, but good ol' brick and mortar shopping still reigns supreme. One key reason is most likely the "try before you buy" marketing ploy, which lets consumers sample before they make a purchase—who wouldn't want to swatch an entire range of eye shadow shades on their arm before they buy one? Of course there are apps that let you virtually "try on" makeup and such nowadays, but this "touch it, feel it" way of shopping just simply isn't available online.

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Another noteworthy stat from the report: Ulta has the highest customer loyalty of the two beauty giants—a whopping 98 percent of Ulta's shoppers did not shop at Sephora in 2017. But, that's not to say Sephora doesn't have a loyal following as well. Eighty percent of the retailer's active customers only shopped in-house last year and didn't pay a visit to its competitor.

Luckily, we don't have to pick a favorite—how could we even choose? 

  • Jeanne
    Posted on

    Ulta will not give samples so you can try products before purchasing. I especially need to try out foundations, primers and skin care items as I have very sensitive skin that sometimes reacts to products. Done wasting time and money on products I cannot use.

  • Sabrina
    Posted on

    Ulta is the best! They send me coupons all the time by snail mail and email for 20% off my purchase (even prestige brands and fragrance). All you have to do is sign up for the points program. Then whenever you collect 2000 points you get $125.00 to spend on anything they carry. Last year I got a big bottle of Chanel Chance perfume, a set of IT makeup brushes and a Dyson hair dryer free with my points! I don’t even bother with Sephora anymore.

  • Jaysie
    Posted on

    This doesn't surprise me at all. Ulta has far more product diversity and price ranges than Sephora, so it's easier to go to Ulta for everything. I think of Sephora as more of a niche retailer carrying higher cost brands and they are quick to jump on a trend like Korean beauty lines. The one thing Ulta lacks is carts to carry those big hair care bottles, hair tools, and all manner of cosmetics and body products. Ulta's silver totes are a joke.

  • Maddie
    Posted on

    After being a Sephora customer for 18 years, I have abandoned them almost entirely since last year. Their stores are filthy and crowded with children messing things up. And most of the time, their staff seems uninformed. Ulta completely won me over (although I’ve been an Ulta customer since the mid-90s) with their great rewards program, generous gifts-with-purchase offers and expanding array of high-end beauty brands. I shop at Ulta often, both online and in-store, because they have what I want and make getting it a pleasureable experience.

  • Michelle Garrett
    Posted on

    I shop at Sephora and am a loyal VIB Rouge customer. I sometimes shop at Ulta but IMO their rewards program isn’t as good as Sephora. No samples, hard to accumulate points and no discounts on prestige brands. Very disappointing.

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