When we think about brands, regardless of industry, they tend to fall into one of two camps: the established, legacy brand getting by on name recognition and a history of quality products, and the upstart brand leveraging innovative tools to gain ground on those established players.
The story of the Estée Lauder family of brands is the best of both of those worlds; an established brand that leveraged their success to invest in the technological tools that would fuel their ability to adapt to changing consumer needs in the long term.
▼Jane Lauder Shares Estée Lauder's Experience in Digital Transformation
This focus on high-quality products and high-touch experiences forges deep connections with their consumers, leveraging technology to drive their brand strategy. Their embracing of digital solutions, including virtual try-on, is a benchmark of the beauty industry. Today, Estée Lauder has deployed these advanced VTO solutions across nine brands in 40 countries, and continues to add more activations each year.
A Quest for a Cohesive Omnichannel Consumer Experience
While many saw the pandemic lockdown conditions of two years ago as the big signal for the need for brands—particularly beauty brands that require in-person consultation or try-ons—to digitize, the Estée Lauder family of brands was ahead of the curve. Even before the pandemic, the company was using virtual try-on technology in stores to meet the needs of the consumer.
When lockdowns set in, Estée Lauder had already laid the groundwork for a digital consumer experience. Unlike other brands that needed to change strategies overnight, Estée Lauder was able to leverage its existing infrastructure and expand it to drive sales and brand loyalty.
“When everything was closed, we used virtual try-on and live chat as one of the most important areas of our business,” says Jane Lauder, Executive Vice President of Enterprise Marketing and Chief Data Officer at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.
“We're able to take the technology of virtual try-on and do it with the beauty advisor, with the Clinique consultant, with a MAC makeup artist online. And they could teach you how to put it on with you and talk one-to-one.”
But this tech innovation was only the beginning. These days, consumers are looking to interact with brands across countless channels, and it’s incumbent on brands to offer that uniformity of experience for consumers no matter where they are. Through engaging AR and AI technology, brands are able to create these cohesive omnichannel experiences to better engage with customers.
Adapting Technology to Meet Consumer Needs
The needs of the consumer are constantly evolving. Yet one fact has remained constant: in an industry like beauty and cosmetics, consumers demand a personalized, one-to-one experience. When shopping was solely an in-store endeavor, those personal consultations were simple.
Now, consumers are demanding a merging of physical and virtual channels to engage with brands and products.
Estée Lauder has been pioneering at every iteration of the consumer journey. They established themselves as a marquee brand before the digital age, were early to adapt a hybrid, virtual-and-physical model with in-store virtual try-on, and their purely digital activations are some of the most innovative in the industry.
When consumer demand shifted more towards social channels, for example, Estée Lauder was there to meet the moment. For their MAC brand of cosmetics, Estée Lauder developed and deployed—in a partnership with Perfect Corp.—a shoppable try-on lens.
▼Estée Lauder Adopts Virtual Try-On Solutions
“I think that that was the first time our brands had done a shoppable try-on lens,” Lauder says. “It was a huge traffic boost for the brand and drove a lot of consumers new to the brand to try on the looks.”
As the consumer journey continues to evolve into new frontiers, including the metaverse, Estée Lauder will continue pioneering these omnichannel experiences to connect with their customers where they are.
The Importance of “Aspirational Intelligence”
Beginning as an in-store brand and transitioning to more digital offerings has presented a world of opportunities for the Estée Lauder family of brands. At the core of all of these ambitions, however, is the drive to create better one-to-one, high-touch, experiences for the customer through personalization. Virtual try-on is not a one-size-fits-all solution, it’s a journey of customization and personalization at all levels.
Technology has helped enable more dynamic activations, enabling Estée Lauder to forge bonds between consumers and products in ways that were once relegated to the in-store consultative buying experience. This technology brings that one-to-one experience to a global stage, providing unique brand interactions and product education to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world, at scale.
“We talk about it as aspirational intelligence,” Lauder says. “For us, it's not just fulfilling a consumer's needs, or using technology to fill the needs. It's to be able to anticipate what the consumer would desire and fulfill their aspirations. I think that's really where companies are going to be using technology to drive that high-touch in the future.”
Using Data and Technology to Learn From Consumer Behavior
Leveraging technology is essential for modern beauty brands; but once activations are put to the consumer, it’s just as essential to understand how consumers are interacting with the technology and what that means to the brand overall.
Investing in technology always comes with the question: was this worth it? While sales are an obvious benchmark, it’s equally important to frame data analysis around engagement. The more time consumers are spending with a virtual try-on activation, the deeper their bonds to the brand are, and the greater their loyalty becomes.
“I think when we look at virtual try-on, you see that with lipstick try-on, the engagement is high. Then when you do eye shadow, it gets even longer engagement and higher engagement,” Lauder says.
“For all of us, we think about engagement levels as a way of understanding the real ROI and value. Because the more time the consumer spends with you, the deeper they get into our brands and experiences, the more connected they are.”
With all of the digital tools at the disposal of beauty brands, the key is understanding consumer behavior and matching technology to meet those needs. Virtual try-on was a key step in keeping consumers engaged in a remote setting, and creating activations within social platforms has been essential for brands to meet consumers where they are.
The beauty industry is changing rapidly, but having pioneers like Estée Lauder who continually invest in cutting-edge technology will help pave the way for those that follow.
Watch the entire conversation with Jane Lauder here. And for more information on Perfect Corp.’s industry-changing technology, get in touch today.
Get expert advice from Perfect Corp. and be part of the beauty tech trend. Contact us for details on beauty tech solutions trusted by 400+ brands globally.
Read our “Beauty Tech: The Complete Guide” to unlock powerful ROI secrets.