The company will stock over 55 of its top-selling products in 250 Ulta locations beginning this August. That number will grow to 300 by the end of the year. And it’s no coincidence that Ulta itself will be growing this year too, from 886 stores to nearly 1,000.
Company founder Jane Park sees the move as a way of expanding on the Julep company approach to consumer engagement. The brand has always valued consumer input, she says. “We’re a cosmetics company that started in the era of social media,” Park tells Seattle Times Business reporter Janet I. Tu.
“We always invite women to give us feedback. The mission of always trying to have customers in the boat with us is part of Julep,” she explains. “Knock down the wall between customer and company as much as possible.”
The company conducts surveys on social media, sends product samples (with various formulas and applicators) to thousands of women, and gauges the response to new products by including them in its monthly subscription boxes by listening carefully to the feedback.
The third generation of beauty brands, according to Jason Stoffer of venture capital firm Maveron, is comprised of digital-first companies. “Our belief is that the next generation of great consumer businesses are going to start online, really understand their core customer, and then move to omnichannel over time,” Stoffer tells Tu.
Maveron has invested in Julep. And as Stoffer sees it, “the reality is customers want to touch and feel. This is a natural evolution for Julep — taking the brand they’ve built online and enabling it to reach more consumers by moving [into new channels].”
Enough pure-play digital beauty brands have gone omnichannel with brick-and-mortar retail that market researcher Kline highlighted the trend in last summer’s Beauty Retailing USA report. (Read more on that report from Cosmetics Design.)
And it was never Park’s intention that Julep only ever be an online skin care and cosmetics business. “This is a big growing-up moment for us,” Park tells Tu. “This is what every brand dreams of in terms of the big leagues.”
Julep investors share the CEO’s vision: “From the get-go, we saw this as an omnichannel brand,” Julie Sandler principal at Madrona Venture Group tells the press. “What we’ve been waiting for is this type of partnership to emerge — where the retailer and brand are aligned.”