How Ulta and Pandora Use Audio to Drive Holiday Sales
Luscious red lipsticks, dramatic eyes, seasonal shades, and colors that pop: it’s obvious why retail and beauty advertisers have historically leaned into visual-centric marketing strategies, opting to spend on digital display, video and native.
The flip side of this approach? They may miss the opportunity to play to consumers’ other senses — most notably, sound.
While most beauty brands only opt for visuals, Ulta Beauty, the largest beauty retailer in the U.S., took notice and deployed an agile strategy to leverage innovative solutions, shifting to audio to successfully reach target audiences.
The goal was to help drive in-store traffic and reach key audiences during the 2019 holiday season. With Hispanic and Black populations rapidly growing (minorities currently represent nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population vs. 31 percent in 2000, per the U.S. Census Bureau), Ulta Beauty aimed to reach its important and diverse audiences through a unique, hyperpersonalized way using Dynamic Audio, an intelligent ad technology.
The magic of this solution is in leaning into personalization so the right message is delivered to the right person at the right time. This tool is especially important as different cities adjust to varying factors in reopening. Specific messages can be tailored to location to ensure curbside pickup or mask reminders are lead messages where needed. As everyone is trying to find their footing this year, and the holiday season upon us, now is the time when customers want to genuinely and personally hear from businesses.
Ulta Beauty opted to leverage location, date, and time of day data to engage listeners at relevant moments before the holidays. It also used Pandora's multicultural demo as a data signal to reach its audiences with an added layer of personalization. The technology will then string together pieces of an audio ad — based on each one of these data signals — to get a particular message just right for each listener.
To test the effectiveness of the creative, Ulta Beauty partnered with audio intelligence platform Veritonic to A/B test the dynamic creative vs. the standard creative. In addition, it tested the general market vs. multicultural creative.
And the results were positive; the campaign drove increased purchase intent and increased emotional attributes across general market and multicultural audiences:
- The Hispanic Dynamic Audio creative drove a +9 point increase in intent to shop at Ulta Beauty during the holiday season.
- The African American Dynamic Audio creative drove a +7 point increase in intent to shop at Ulta Beauty during the holidays.
- All audio spots met or exceeded the emotional attribute benchmarks in nearly every category.
- Among Hispanic audiences, the ads most often conjured the emotions “Happy” and “Makes Me Feel Good,” while for African American audiences, “happy” was a top feeling.
Overall, all Dynamic Audio spots served ads tailored to listeners in real time that outperformed the standard audio creative, proving hyperpersonalization is more effective in connecting with core consumers. What’s even more interesting is that while intent to visit Ulta Beauty had already high baseline scores, these insights drove even stronger consumer impact via personalized creative.
In 2020, more than ever before, delivering the right message to the right person may be tricky, but this is where Dynamic Audio comes into play. Personalized audio plays an important role as a nimble medium that can be adapted quickly and tailored to each unique circumstance.
Claire Fanning is vice president, ad innovation strategy, Pandora, a subscription-based music streaming service.
As VP of Ad Innovation Strategy at Pandora, Claire considers key market trends and lends them to proprietary ad product initiatives, ensuring seamless go-to-market offerings that solve industry-wide challenges for advertisers. With a decade of agency history – at Digitas and Razorfish - creating digital strategies for high profile brands prior to joining Pandora in 2015, Claire brings solutions to brand challenges in a way that scales across Pandora’s continually evolving platform. As audio consumption trends shift towards smart speakers and an influx of spoken word content, Claire helps brands solve the challenge of building an audio strategy that takes advantage of creative and personalization levers in the audio space. Claire’s work has aimed to push the boundaries of audio measurement in a space that has room to catch up to its visual counterparts. Claire is a graduate of New York University and resides in Manhattan Beach, CA with her husband and two children.