Next-Level Tech Gives Beauty Brands a Boost


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It’s a good time to be a beauty brand, as millennials embrace technology and social media in unprecedented proportions.

Happy to step out of brick-and-mortar confines, beauty brands are experimenting with VR and AR in everything from customer service chatbots to 360-degree video.

Add to that, emerging from the social media ooze, “Influencers have greased the wheels of the beauty industry, providing trusted conduits between brands and customers as brand loyalty and faith in salespeople erodes, and ad blockers proliferate.”

According to Marketing Dive, “The power of influencers is so great in the beauty business that a collaboration with a single YouTube personality — Jaclyn Hill — transformed the sleepy brand Becca into a hot commodity, leading to it being acquired by Estée Lauder.”

Major brands including P&G’s SKII, Laura Mercier, First Aid Beauty, L’Oreal, BareMinerals and MAC are all working with influencers–big and small–proffering a cardinal tool for make-up behavior (trying it on), and AR is a major boon.

L’Oreal partnered with Image Metrics on the virtual mirror Makeup Genius, which has drawn some 20 million users globally and led to AR apps Nail Genius and Essie Dressing.

Shiseido and Microsoft Japan created the Telebeauty app for women to ready themselves for video conferencing. Coty has unveiled Clairol MyShade for hair color, Rimmel Get The Look for makeup and Sally Hansen MiniMatch for nail polish.

Beauty marketers are trialing 360-degree video and VR to transport customers to stores to virtually interact with social media influencers. Burt’s Bees recently collaborated with Google, Baldwin& and MediaMonks to creat a VR tour of founder Burt Shavitz’s rural cabin. And Charlotte Tilbury premiered a virtual-reality film with Kate Moss to launch fragrance Scent of a Dream:

“I wanted people to feel as though they’re truly surrounded by the alluring characters of my hypnotic, other-worldly film, and be totally immersed in the euphoric atmosphere of a wild, glamorous party,” said Tilbury.  “I wanted it to be thrilling, real and intense.”

Mobile video shopping platform MikMak connects Instagram Stories and Snap Ads for e-commerce sites and brands on board include Beautyblender, Birchbox and Dr. Brandt.

L’Oreal opened a center for AI in Montreal and rolled out a Facebook Messenger chatbot giving advice on gifts. L’Oréal Beauty Lab in New York City is being used to improve their 30 different cosmetics, hair-care and skin-care brands rather than focusing first on consumers. The VR capabilities and 3D renderings allow the brand to jumpstart prototypes and in-store demos.

Dermablend was a first-use case of L’Oreal’s Beauty Lab for “a strategic and aggressive leap forward” in 2017 and Malena Higuera, GM said, “We’re undergoing a renaissance of sorts […] Every time we need to see something in real life, we come here. Speed is important. But it’s about doing the right thing, fast.”

Estée Lauder’s Messenger chatbot pairs skin tones with foundation shades while Dior’s Dior Insider chatbot answers product questions.

Procter & Gamble’s Olay launched a Skin Advisor platform that uses AI to analyze skin using selfies and recommend products.

Sephora’s Innovation Lab in San Francisco created ModiFace, a brand that “pushed facial recognition technology to a new point of sophistication.” Its capabilities are impressive, “After months of development, the technology can break down one virtual makeup application into a step-by-step layering process, while maintaining critical accuracy and reaching mass scale.”

In-app, The Virtual Artist tutorial tool offers steps to a nighttime-perfect smoky eye, eyeliner three ways, brows three ways, contouring and highlighting, as users watch a video play in the bottom right of their screen reflecting their face shape and skin tone. As each step is completed, instructions on product and how to apply it appear over their image.

Spanish brand Natura Bissé enrolled John Mayer in viral Snapchat videos, sharing personal hacks for better skin, followed by The Mindful Touch Experience, “the most innovative and trailblazing venture within the spa sector, in which the results of Natura Bissé’s cosmetics are combined with the most advanced technology.”

How it works: “Through virtual reality, mindfulness and the therapist’s expertise– the touch–we invite the client to reconnect with the here and now, to relax their body, to awaken their senses and to experience the pleasure of beauty in a more intense way.” And all for just $1,200 for one hour.

Natura Bissé spent two years developing and refining “‘The Mindful Touch” treatment, “to translate the fashion for mindfulness into the beauty world, to help quieten the constant chattering in the brain, which is the main source of our worry, anxiety and stress.”

Virtual makeup app YouCam just partnered with celebrity makeup artist Kristofer Buckle on six new fantasy looks to the app’s beauty catalog. Buckle said, “You can paint a soft natural angelic look or create a ferocious aggressive sexy style with the same products, and I’m showing you the fun extreme possibilities with YouCam.”

Guive Balooch, global VP L’Oréal’s technology incubator, summed it up for Canada’s The Globe and Mail: “The more we’re able to use these tools like augmented reality [and] artificial intelligence to provide new consumer experiences, the more we can move to customizing and personalizing products for every consumer around the world, no matter what their skin tone is, no matter where they live, no matter who they are.”