ULTA BEAUTY: KEEPING IN-STORE ALIVE
CHAPTER 4 SYSTEM APPROACHES
REVIEW OF ARTICLE
• According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of “in-store” is
“existing, happening, or available in a store”.
• In the article, Think in-store is dying? Check out Ulta Beauty by Evan Schuman, he
discusses how in-store experience is about the way that retailers need to deliver
services and goods in a way that e-tailers cannot.
• E-tailers have the advantage of price, convenience, inventory range, and now
sometimes even same day delivery.
• Schuman explained that physical stores must deliver “unique
and compelling experiences” or they will not win their
customers over long term.
REVIEW OF ARTICLE
• Ulta being a very unique company, carries mass brands such as CoverGirl and
Maybelline where women would typically buy at drug stores. They also carry brands
such as Lancome and Clinique, where women would typically buy at a specialty or
• On top of the mass variety of products, they also have hair salons and facial and
• Ulta even considers being located where parking is easily accessible, unlike large
malls, but rather in a strip mall.
REVIEW OF ARTICLE
• Schuman believes a large part of Ulta’s future success falls on associate training.
• In order for Ulta to remain successful, they must offer a better experience than
online companies as well as other in-store chains.
• Some of Ulta’s rivals include Macy’s, Sephora’s, and drugstores.
REVIEW OF ARTICLE
• Ulta becomes a destination. The environment Ulta has created is closer to a spa
being a pure experience outing. Schuman compares Ulta with a typical retail store
such as Walmart and Target, and explains the difference. He believes if you can buy
a couch and car battery in the same place, it no longer is a specialized experience.
• Ulta strives to be a destination, not a “shopping chore”.
• This article looks at how this company took this industry and made it “engaging and
REVIEW OF ARTICLE
• The key to the success in part is having associates there and able to make good
• For example, Schuman describes this as moving auto parts into an outer area and
allow people to drive their cars into a showroom-like area and see what fits and
• This is exactly the set up of Ulta.
• There is a circle of different cosmetics and the center of Ulta allows the employees
and customers to try out the cosmetics.
REVIEW OF ARTICLE
• Ulta ‘Beauty Advisors’ do their best to truly understand their products in order to
make useful suggestions creating trust with the customers.
• These associates invite the customers to try out the product in the store, and allow
the results to dictate the sales.
• If they truly believe in the product they are selling, sampling it in the store will do
nothing but potentially create more sales.
• In summary, not all products are meant to remain in-store. Creativity is keeping in-
store alive, and will do so while creating “powerful experiences”.
• According to our book Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes,
interdependence implies that the functioning of one component of a system relies
on other components of the system.
• The human body is a highly interdependent system in which the breakdown of one
component would lead to breakdowns in other component and in the system as a
• Ulta wouldn’t be as successful as they are now, if they didn’t have all of the different
factors and parts.
• For example, Ulta is composed of the store aesthetic, the trained associates, the
variety of products, and the uniqueness of goods and services.
• Equifinality, a system property, states that “a system can reach the same final state
from differing initial conditions and by a variety of paths”.
• A change in the training of salespeople might serve to increase sales. Another way
to increase sales could be through the supervisors. This shows that because systems
are complex and interconnected, therefore, this is more than a single path to any
• There is no single key to success. Ulta, understanding this, chooses what they
believe to be the best way to success. Therefore, using many important components
to solve and work towards one main goal.
• A final system property again deals with the relationship between a system and its
environment, according to our book.
• “If a team or unit is unable to recognize, absorb, and deal with the variations in its
environment, it is unlikely to evolve and survive”.
• Any company or organization in todays business that is unable to evolve with its
environment will not survive for very long.
• Ulta understands the growing online shopping industry, and is working to create
and keep the in-store experience alive.
• However, if Ulta just continued doing what they are doing with no evaluation and
updates, they would no longer thrive and survive.
CYBERNETIC SYSTEMS THEORY
• According to our book, Cybernetics derives from the Greek word for a boat’s
steersman. This means the process through which physical, natural, and
organizational systems are steered toward reaching system goals.
• The first of these components is the system goal.
-Ulta’s system goal is remaining successful as an in-store destination. According to
their website, they are on a quest to bring the fun of “beauty to all”.
• The system uses a variety of mechanisms. These help the system maintain the
-Ulta has their beauty loving associates, and their variety of products, their store
aesthetic, and the overall experience working towards their experience.
CYBERNETICS SYSTEM THEORY
• The last component is the feedback. This is sent to the control center and compared
to the goal. If there is a difference between the overall system goal compared to the
feedback, new mechanisms will be instituted to adjust the behavior of the system
according to our book Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes.
System Goal Target
KARL WEICK’S THEORY OF ORGANIZING
• The idea of this theory is that organizations exist in an environment.
• Weick clearly states that this environment is not “merely a physical environment but
is an information environment”.
• Individuals create the environment that confronts them through the process of
• This theory is highly complex and abstract.
• Weick’s theory of organizing emphasizes a number of relevant systems theory
concepts. Our book states, “the notions of environment and permeability are critical
to his theory, as is the concept of system component interdependence”.
“NEW SCIENCE” SYSTEMS THEORY
• Our book shows some new theories such as chaos theory, complexity theory, and
self-organizing systems theory.
• These theories show a different way of communicating in organizations.
• One of these is “the appreciation of organizational change and instability”.
• This argues that organizational change can be created by a group of committed
individuals or champions.
• Ulta, recently having a new CEO, created change to the environment in Ulta. For all
of the associates, having no say in Ulta’s changes, had to appreciate and be ready
for the change and handle it well.
METHODS FOR STUDYING
• There are three different research approaches.
-Network Analysis: This provides a means for creating and analyzing those maps of
relationships A network consists of a system of links among components. This is
useful in drawing and analyzing the maps that characterize organizational
-Modeling Techniques- Allows researchers to assess complex relationships among
variables through the evaluation of casual models or to assess changes in
organizational communication systems through the use of time-series analysis and
-Case Analysis- Suggests that the richest understanding of organizational systems
can be obtained by closely observing specific organizations grappling with specific
• Schuman believes that Ulta is
achieving its goal of being a
destination for fun and friends.
• Similar to Starbucks, Ulta is now a
destination and experience being
a place people want to go.
• Ulta has a guest-centric, values-
based, high performance culture.
• Ulta is a good representation of looking at your own lines of products and to figure
out ways to make it engaging and attractive.
• Ulta believes they are on a quest to bring the fun of beauty to all. While also
offering a rewarding career to passionate, beauty-loving associates.
Our success is not only defined by
what we are achieving, but also how
we are getting there.
• How the systems approach to organizational communication works in Ulta.
• Methods approaches useful to organizational communication in systems.
• Network Analysis
• Modeling Techniques
• Case Analysis
• Looking at the three different systems theory.
• The Cybernetic Systems theory
• Weick’s Theory of Organizing
• The “New Sciences”
• What does Ulta’s headquarters or corporate look like?
• How do they view their systems?
• When having a new CEO taking over in 2013, was there a notable
change in their systems?
• Which basic system property does Ulta specifically identify with?
• I noted that there was not much research on the higher ups in
Ulta at all. I found it very difficult to find a lot of information about
Ulta’s systems specifically.
• Systems can be very complex, and I am curious to learn about
these complex aspects specifically within Ultas organization. I am
fascinated to learn about their systems and how successful they
are. As well as their culture they uphold in the higher ups.
Miller, K. (2012). Organizational Communication: Approaches
and Processes(Sixth ed.). Lyn Uhl.
Schuman, E. (2016, July 01). Think in-store is dying? Check out
Ulta Beauty. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from