Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sephora vs. Ulta Rewards Systems - Part II - Ulta

So, just to recap, Sephora has a "good-ish" rewards program that can get you some some deluxe size samples, access to their super awesome 20% off sale and some other minimal rewards. If you'd like to see more about the Sephora rewards program, check out my earlier post here. Or you can just view or video on the topic!

It's now time for Ulta to enter the smack down! Sephora does have a few pros on Ulta outside of the reward program. Sephora offers more prestige brands (you can see this as a plus or minus because prestige brands definitely equal more money), better information available in the store, and in general better customer service. Now, I know there were be a lot of people out there that will LOUDLY disagree with my customer service statement. What I mean by that is when you walk into a Sephora it's more like walking into Nordstrom vs. JCPenney. A Sephora associate will generally greet you and ask to help you find what you need (Ulta is getting better at this but, most of the stores I frequent in the Orange County and Inland Empire areas still need work) they will offer up suggestions of what other customers have and what they, themselves have tried, and they will offer samples if needed. There have been many times that a Sephora associate has basically shopped with me through my entire visit at the store.

Ulta is my cheap thrills store. I know I can go there for basic stuff, but they also have all kinds of off the wall items that I LOVE. Plus the prices are great and there's always a sell (except on their prestige lines like Tarte, Urban Decay, etc., their pricing is comparable to Sephora). But, Ulta's major selling points are the values they bring to their customer in their every day promos and their rewards program.

So let's dive in!

I think the best place to start is to talk about Ulta's benefits for anyone that shops at Ulta.
***TIP*** You should definitely sign up for Ulta emails and flyers. You'll get the $3.50 off weekly coupon (which you can also find on the Retail Me Not App) thats good on everything except prestige brands and on occasion you'll also get a $10 that good on ANY purchase in the store.
***TIP*** Sometimes shopping online at Ulta is better than shopping in store. Check out their Gifts with Purchase Page. They have some awesome deals that are definitely worth that stock up trip for beauty products that you know you've been avoiding! For an idea about some of their better deals, check out our previous gift posts here and here. Or you can check out our video here.

Beyond that, Ulta is the ULTIMATE drug store mixed with high end makeup, skin and hair care. Come on! Admit that when you have to go get a prescription at the drug store you don't just it drop it off. You have to "wait for it" (even if the clerk said it might be an hour) and since you have to wait you might as well browse the beauty aisles right? They have awesome beauty finds in the drug store aisles. Ulta is the drug store on crack! Not only do they have all of the great drug store finds, they have brands that should be in drug stores and aren't. So the pricing on these really great items is sooooo cheap. Mix this in with a salon quality hair care section and Ulta could be my personal downfall.

So these are really great benefits right! Why wouldn't you just shop at Ulta? Well because they don't have all of the brands that I love. Beyond that they don't have the professional staff that you'll find at Sephora. If you have a hair care question, Ulta is the place to take it. Makeup and other beauty, not so much. The reason is, is that most Ulta's have a salon in the store and they hire professional sylists to work in the salon and circulate throughout the store. The rest of the staff, while they may be makeup and beauty lovers, are not necessarily skilled in those departments. Sephora is a lot like MAC where most of the staff are at least fake professionals (definition: the people who do not have a license but, who are so good at doing their own makeup can recommend a fairly good product for you). These two facts alone make shopping ONLY at Ulta an impossibility (I'm not only a wine dummy, I'm also a makeup dummy).

But, enough about all of that, you want to know about their rewards program right? Ulta has two tier levels for their rewards. The first level is called Ultamate Rewards (no, I didn't spell it wrong...). This is what you will get when you sign up:

1. Points per dollar. You'll get 1 point per dollar spent. You can even earn points on services at the Ulta salon. Ulta has promotions similar to Sephora's promotions where they will give you 2 or 3 times the points per dollar spent. This is very valuable as the points convert to money off of your Ulta purchases. Here's the conversion chart for redeeming points:

Redeem points Dollars off any merchandise
100 $3.00
250 $8.00
500 $17.50
750 $30.00
1000 $50.00
2000 $125.00

So, the longer you save, the more you get off of your purchase! Really, if you think about it, Sephora's 100 point rewards are probably similar in value but when it's money off even $3.00 feels like a nice reward versus a deluxe size sample. Beyond that points are easy to use. Ulta is constantly telling you you have points to spend. So, it's not like you'll forget that they're in your account.

2. You get a member exclusive magazine (up to 15 per year). These are usually the magazine that the $3.50 coupon comes attached. I didn't know it was exclusive as I received them prior to joining the rewards program. But, this is a good perk. ***TIP*** Read this magazine! Usually Ulta will advertise their highly coveted beauty bag with purchase in these magazines prior to the launch. Also, you'll find Ulta's awesome buy one get one 50% off deals and their even better buy one get one free deals (which I just did with their Real Techniques brushes!).

3.  Receive member exclusive offers. Again, I think I got these prior to being a member. I'm pretty sure this refers to the $10 off coupon. But, it also refers to point multiplier offers and I think they also have a percentage off coupon of 10% that is sometimes sent out.

4. Earn double points on purchase during your birthday month. So, this is a little known trick at Ulta even though they advertise it in their FAQ's you can do the following to really rack up your Ultamate Rewards:

Can bonus points offers be combined?
On really pretty days, Ultamate Rewards may also offer a chance to combine two or more bonus offers on a qualifying purchase. When this occurs, base points are earned only once. For example, if a member buys $25 worth of a skin care product when we offer 2X points for that product, and another offer for 3X points on your entire purchase, the total points earned would be 100 points. Let's do the beauty math: 25 base points + 25 bonus points from the 2X product specific bonus offer + 50 bonus points from the 3X on your entire purchase = 100 points. Wow those are some stunning savings just for you! And that's how beauty loves you back with Ultamate Rewards.

So, keep track of bonus point incentives that you get offered (they're always saved in your account until they expire) and bonus point incentives that are being offered by Ulta to everyone. You can combine these in your birthday month. In the offer above you just earned $3.00 to spend for only a $25 investment. Awesome!

5. Plus you get a birthday gift! Take that Sephora! Now, I guess I should note that these gifts are in no way as good as the Sephora version but, when taken as a whole...

6. Get invited to member exclusive events. I think I've seen these and haven't been overly impressed. I've got to pay more attention! However, from what I have heard from other beauty junkies these are brand related events where with a small purchase (usually around $25-$30) you'll get a deluxe gift of one to three items with purchase.

So far, pretty good rewards right? Well the second tier is called Platinum Ultamate Rewards. Ulta really turned it out on this program! You'll reach Platinum once you spend $450 in a calendar year. It's the same idea as Sephora where you'll need to re-qualify every year. You get everything listed above plus:

1. Instead of 1 point per dollar you get 1.25 points per dollar. That's 25% more! And all the point multiplier offers apply to this point scale as well. So, let's do the math: For a $25 spend on skin care with a 2X multiplier plus a 3X multiplier on your entire purchase it's: 31.25 + 31.25 +  62.5 = 125 points. That's halfway to the $8.00 reward mark!

2. Points do not expire when you're Platinum....oh! did I forget to warn you? Non-Platinum members points expire as long as you maintain your status! Boooooo! However, with this incentive Platinum becomes very attractive.

3. More bonus offers. You'll get offers like this:

 These are actual size products. YES PLEASE!

So while Ulta definitely wins the Rewards smack down do I advocate ditching Sephora completely? Absolutely not. Do I wish Sephora would take a few ideas from Ulta when it comes to gifts and benefits. YES! If you haven't had the chance to check this program out yet, hurry over to Ulta and join! Happy Shopping!