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Ulta Expands In-Store Retail Media Offerings with Sampling Machines

The retailer will pilot smart vending machines that dole out free product samples and promote brand messaging via digital screens at 10 stores across the U.S.
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Ulta Beauty will debut smart vending machines at 10 stores across the U.S. through an exclusive partnership with female-founded company SOS.

SOS operates a network of smart vending machines that dole out modern and premium health and wellness products from brands such as feminine care brand Rael, Church & Dwight’s recently acquired acne and skincare brand Hero Cosmetics and Luxury Brand Partners’ prestige beauty brands. The company’s hardware includes a large touchscreen that also serves as a digital advertising and marketing platform.

Ulta’s partnership with SOS expands the in-store solutions offered by the beauty giant’s retailer media network, UB Media, and ushers in a new era of in-store product discovery and sampling driven by digital innovation for the retailer, according to a media release from SOS.

The two partners believe this digital in-store advertising pilot program will deepen customer engagement while also driving growth for brand partners by giving them another opportunity to get their products in the hands of shoppers.

The SOS machines will initially offer free samples of Rael period care products to Ulta’s Ultamate Rewards loyalty members, which will also ideally incentivize new member sign-ups. Members will be able to claim one free sample per week from a variety of travel-sized products from popular brands across cosmetics, skincare and haircare. Shoppers will enter their phone number or email address to access their Ultamate Rewards account to receive a free sample, while non-member guests can sign up and create an account at the machine to receive a freebie.

Alongside the sampling experience, the machines also serve as dynamic, interactive advertising platforms using digital screens for sampling awareness, product launches and brand messaging.

[Also Read: Ulta Beauty Launches Retail Media Network]

"Our partnership not only reinforces our mission to help consumers discover new products when and where they want them, but it provides opportunities for Ulta Beauty to drive growth for brand partners through personalized customer engagement, sampling, media and data collection,” Susanna Twarog, co-founder and co-CEO of SOS, said in the release.

The sampling/advertising kiosks will first launch in 10 cities in New York, Massachusetts, Florida, California and Texas.

"At Ulta Beauty we are committed to delivering new, engaging ways for guests to experience, try and fall in love with new products," Maria Salcedo, senior vice president of merchandising at Ulta, said in the release. "Through our pilot program with SOS, we have the ability to learn how guests are engaging with vending machines and digital brand touchpoints in store, opening up new opportunities to transform the beauty shopping experience. This collaboration further exemplifies our dedication to pushing the boundaries of innovation in beauty retail with a guest centric approach."

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