While the beauty business has fared better than other sectors like fashion, accessories and travel, the way consumers shop for beauty products has drastically changed. The pandemic has made essential retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target go-tos for items beyond essentials, and conveniences in the form of buy-online, pick-up in-store and same-day delivery have become tablestakes. Target’s beauty business has benefitted because as shoppers have ventured out for groceries, many are adding a side of lipstick or moisturizer. The once-siloed luxury beauty experience has changed, and so has the traditional beauty consumer.

“The Target beauty guest is anyone that walks into our store, clicks through to Target.com or downloads the Target app looking to shop a wide array of affordable, value-driven products they know and love,” said Cassandra Jones, vp and gm of beauty and cosmetics at Target.

Target has been fine-tuning its beauty strategy for nearly five years by introducing emerging brands and its own clean ingredient standard. But its partnership with Ulta, launching later this year, changes the game for beauty retailers and brands alike. Ahead, Jones discusses Target’s growing beauty proposition

What has happened to Target’s beauty strategy in the last year?
Target has been evolving and innovating within our beauty department for decades, and in the past few years, we’ve devoted even more energy into establishing Target as an authority in the beauty space. By prioritizing our guests’ shopping experience above all, we’ve made it a goal to offer a product assortment that is rooted in our guests’ shared values and diverse needs. We want to make sure that no matter what our guests are looking for — clean,  sustainable, minority or BIPOC-owned brands, personalized, or direct-to-consumer beauty — Target is their one-stop shop for not only restocking their bathroom with their favorite products, but also for discovering new brands.

What categories or brands are resonating most with customers today?
Through our guest research, we’ve seen an increase in demand for direct-to-consumer and personalized products; calls for more clean ingredients, more transparent ingredient information and sustainable packaging; and a desire to shop for products from diverse brands. Not only are these product categories imperative to provide our guests with an enhanced and joyful shopping experience, but they are also an integral part of our ever-expanding beauty assortment as we look to reimagine how we provide for our current guests and invite new ones in.

How has your beauty assortment changed in line with that?
To continue elevating the shopping experience and deliver on guests’ wants and needs, we introduced 30 brands to our beauty assortment over the last few months, including exclusive brands like Function of Beauty, Anomaly, Mix Bar, Jason Wu, HeyHumans and Range Beauty, and guest-favorite brands like BYBI, Revolution, Golde, Beauty Bakerie, and Mented. We’re especially proud to be leading in the space for diverse beauty, with 50 Black-owned brands available for our guests to shop, and [we] plan to continue to increase that number. Grooming has continued to be a growing business, and we’ve seen a new level of demand for specialty, premium products, including Art of Sport, Bravo Sierra and an increase within our Harry’s assortment.

It appears you are ramping up your private-label strategy company-wide, as well as with partners like Anomaly and Kristin Ess. What is your exclusive brand strategy?
Bringing diverse, innovative brands and products into our beauty assortment has always been part of our DNA. Our goal is to make Target a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. That begins with exclusive brands like Anomaly and TPH, Function of Beauty, BeLoved and Mix Bar, among others. Our work continues with our upcoming partnership with Ulta Beauty, where guests will have the opportunity to shop prestige and premium brands they love while on their routine Target run.

What can you share about your Ulta partnership now?
Since we announced our partnership with Ulta Beauty in November, our teams are continuing to make progress. We’re on track to launch Ulta Beauty at Target online and in about 100 stores, scaling to hundreds more in the next few years. We’ll continue to round out both our in-store and online specialty shopping experience with the upcoming launch of Ulta Beauty shop-in-shops, where we’ll bring in a host of new brands to Target and engage with our beauty guests on an even deeper level. This is an innovative, forward-looking approach to provide to meet the needs of our guests and welcome new guests who shop at Ulta Beauty now.

How are more specialty experiences like Winky Lux’s gondolas faring and addressing a different kind of beauty consumer?
Our interactive in-store Winky Lux displays are fun and informative, highlighting the brand’s clean formulations and bringing a luxe feel to them. They capture guests’ attention right away and invite them to explore. In addition to our guests being excited and engaged with our beauty assortment in stores, they can also experience the joy of discovery online. From our immersive experience in customizing your own Function of Beauty shampoo and conditioner set to filtering products and brands by their status as Black-owned, women-owned or Target Clean, guests have a broad array of options in exploring our assortment.

How has personalization with partners like Function of Beauty been performing?
We’ve seen the trends in personalization on the rise for some time now and wanted to continue to improve on our offerings for guests in this category. With the introduction of brands like Function of Beauty and Mix Bar, we’re offering an opportunity for guests to further customize their shopping experience with us. For Function of Beauty specifically, where other mass retailers might have thought customizable hair would be too complex for an in-store environment, we worked together to design a product and packaging system that makes personalized shampoo and conditioners easy to shop in-store and online. Our guests are loving the addition of Function of Beauty offerings, and the brand is exceeding our expectations. Based on guest response, we have some more exciting brand launches coming up that will continue to bring a true level of personalization.