Madison Reed Partners with Ulta; Brit + Co Pivots to DTC Model

Madison Reed Ulta partnershipMadison Reed Ulta partnership

DTC’s Daily Digest brings you the latest news on the world’s fastest growing direct-to-consumer brands. In today’s edition: Madison Reed partners with Ulta; Brit + Co pivots to DTC model; and Google’s online travel agent is expanding.

Madison Reed partners with Ulta

Madison Reed, a direct-to-consumer hair colour company, has announced its expansion into over 1,200 Ulta Beauty stores, which is now the brand's exclusive wholesale partner both online and in stores.

Madison Reed has been available at certain Ulta stores and online since 2017. With the expansion, however, Ulta will carry all of the brand's products, including hair colour kits, colour reviving gloss, colour protecting shampoo and conditioner, root touch up powder, and hair colour primer.

The partnership includes a chatbot named 'Madi', which gives customers hair colour recommendations based on computer vision technology. Ulta shoppers can text a selfie to the chatbot, answer a few questions, and receive recommendations for their ideal hair colour shade.

From Ulta’s perspective, the move is a similar play to what Target has done in scooping up direct-to-consumer brands, becoming somewhat of a go-to partner for digital natives like Casper, quip, and Native. Target has placed less of an emphasis on exclusivity (for example, Native now sells at Walmart as well), but is nevertheless cultivating a name for itself as a brick-and-mortar partner for DTC brands.

Brit + Co pivots to DTC model

Brit + Co is shifting its focus to direct-to-consumer, following a number of layoffs. The digital media company, which made a name for itself as a lifestyle destination site for women over the course of its eight-year existence, announced layoffs and changes to its business model this week.

Brit Morin, founder, Brit + Co, explained that the brand has seen a lot of return from its commerce and direct-to-consumer retail initiatives. The company “will be placing a bigger emphasis” on such areas moving forward, she says, and will announce more soon.

Brit + Co has its own line of do-it-yourself kits at Target and has a shopping section on its site. The company’s cross-network distribution generates hundreds of millions of unique users a month, according to Morin.

The writing has been on the wall for this pivot, given that Morin has written that, in the future, smaller publishers will begin to resemble direct-to-consumer brands by “brokering distribution deals with larger platforms; launching subscription services; and bolstering ad revenue with e-commerce, licensing deals, and other consumer services”.

Google’s online travel agent is expanding

Google’s Touring Bird is expanding its coverage of tours and activities in cities around the world by a magnitude of 10x.

The massive jump from its official launch number of 20 in September 2018, to 200 this week, comes almost a year to the day since the search engine was first tested in the open market via Google’s internal incubator, Area 120.

The app and now-desktop platform is still being hosted by the Google incubator rather than formally being a product line within the search giant's travel division. The current number of products included within Touring Bird is now claimed to be more than 75,000.

The expansion represents a major challenge to online travel agents (OTAs) such as Expedia, GetYourGuide, and Viator. Unlike these OTAs, which draw a range of products for a specific attraction together to create a specific deal, Touring Bird, has stripped away the different elements so that users can select which part they want, or build their own package.