Within an industry like beauty, cosmetics, and skincare, personalization is key. Brands have dozens and sometimes hundreds of products, which yields different product combinations numbering in the thousands. These products are highly personal, and customers want to know how they’re going to look wearing them, or how the product will better their skin over time.
Beauty tech has offered an answer to this unique challenge. Through innovative tools in augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI), customers can experience the impact these products will have virtually.
In an era where customers value convenience, in-person, consultative shopping isn’t always the best option. AR and AI can transform how personalization works for beauty brands, and better data strategies can work to connect the dots from online to in-store shopping to create a truly unique omnichannel experience.
In a roundtable discussion at the 2023 Global Beauty and Fashion Tech Forum, a panel of experts including:
- Kathryn Hopkins, Senior Beauty Editor at WWD,
- Shanna Weinblatt, Vice President of Innovation, Beauty Tech and Metaverse at COTY,
- Gary Binstock, Director of Technology for Strategic Innovation and Technology Alliances at Colgate-Palmolive,
- Stevie Journey, Senior Director of Omnichannel Digital Experience at Elemis London
They sat down to discuss the transformational affect AI and AR beauty tech have on personalized customer experiences, and how that translates to real-world sales.
Watch the full conversation below
The All-Important Role of Personalization
Consumers have always valued personalization when it comes to beauty products, skincare, and cosmetics. In the past, that personalization has been offered through individualized consultations within a retail or salon setting, As solutions became more robust and technologically advanced however — and as the Covid-19 pandemic meant customers could no longer rely on the in-store experience for hands-on product trials — that personalization needed to become digital.
The digital transformation that was accelerated in 2020 has now enabled beauty brands to offer personalization at scale. Through innovative tools in AR and AI, brands can now take a photo or a live video of a customer and tailor unique product recommendations based on their appearance, observable skin conditions, or their stated concerns.
“Consumers are complex,” Stevie Journey says. “We want to give them exactly what they need.” His brand, Elemis London, has integrated an AI tool that looks at six unique skin concerns: pores, redness, wrinkles, texture, oiliness, and firmness, and then prescribes a specific product regimen unique to that customer.
But personalization isn’t only limited to the before, or sales, portion of the customer experience. Brands also need to show customers how their products will work and show results over time. By leveraging tools in AI, customers can visualize the results they can expect when selecting a specific skincare product or beauty regimen.
Expanding the Scope of Personalized Beauty Tech
Beauty and cosmetics brands were some of the first and most notable adopters of AR virtual try-on, but innovative companies from across the spectrum are now beginning to explore the possibilities of the technology. When looked at on a larger scale, the utility of AR and AI beauty tech solves for the same need: consumers want a personalized experience that enables them to get a realistic preview of how a product will work for them. It’s this driving force that makes this technology such a great fit for industries such as oral care.
“The focus of [our work] with Perfect Corp was for oral care, which emanated from, ‘if they can detect skin tone and color and all of that, what could they do with teeth?’” says Gary Binstock. “It's a consumer frustration when they see a whitening product, and they see different claims: ‘remove X years from your smile, or 10 years from your smile, or 5 shades more in a month.’ What does that mean? What does it look like? The average consumer doesn't have relevance of what a shade is, right?”
Once again, as with skincare, AR and AI technology can be used to offer different product solutions and regimens to show customers their desired results. Using this technology offers customers an accurate preview of the products’ efficacy, which can be an incredible sales tool.
In fact, since launching their AR tool, Colgate-Palmolive saw a 64 percent increase in average intent to purchase rate.
Creating Unique, Personalized, and Connected Brand Experiences
One of the most exciting parts about emerging beauty tech is how every brand is able to tailor the technology towards their unique product offering. In the past, virtual try-on may have been limited to specific types of makeup, but now the technology has the capacity to encapsulate all aspects of cosmetics, including how different products work together. In the same way these experiences provide a personalized experience for the customer, that personalization exists on a brand level, with each unique solution tailor made for that brand.
“We've launched 24 tools across 12 brands in 16 markets,” says Shanna Weinblatt. “And every brand is different. For us, what's been super rewarding is seeing that every single brand has its own experience.”
This process of connecting to a brand’s particular beauty tech offering not only creates better engagement — Weinblatt notes that one of their partner brands saw an increase of 70 percent of time on site — but translates to better sales and increased brand loyalty over time.
The digital transformation has given brands entirely new avenues to delight and inspire customers. By leveraging AR and AI beauty tech, brands can provide a truly one of one experience for their customers. And, by piecing together the data from on-site or in-app activity, brands can bring that same level of personalization to entirely new frontiers, whether that be in an in-store experience, or in a completely virtual setting like a virtual store. While AR and AI tools are considered essential, they’re truly just the tip of the iceberg for personalized customer experiences.
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