As millions of people around the world enter month two of quarantine, life as we once knew it continues to become a distant memory. While even the most hopeful among us can see the light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel with a return to some sort of normalcy, it’s clear the “new normal” will look quite different from what we once knew. With heightened concerns surrounding personal health and hygiene and the fear of future pandemics, people are quickly adopting touchless behaviors, replacing handshake and hugs, with waves, nods, and elbow bumps.
We’re also beginning to observe a shift in consumer shopping behavior. While stay at home orders have restricted our shopping at physical store locations for the short-term, it’s fair to assume that growing health concerns will likely re-imagine how consumers approach brick and mortar shopping in the future. It’s hard to imagine anyone reaching for a public “tester” sample—or brands and retailers even providing them, for that matter— post-pandemic. Yet the consumers’ desire to try-before-they-buy will still be apparent and brands are investing in more digital technology such as YouCam Makeup Virtual Try-On to help meet the new demand of the non-touch shopping era.
While physical product trial as we once knew it has become a thing of the past, it introduces a new paradigm with the emergence of touchless retail environments. These new in-store experiences will rely heavily on augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to re-create the interactive trial elements through a touch-free lens. Given the accuracy and convenience of virtual product try-ons, consumers can now try on more products in a fraction of the time. This invites a huge opportunity for brands, as consumers who may have only swiped on one or two lipsticks at a beauty counter with a physical tester, can now virtually try on the complete collection of 30 lipsticks in 30 seconds. Then, as a result of trying more, the consumer is more inclined to buy more.
But the scope of smart beauty technology spans far beyond a hyper-realistic try-on. Advancements in AI and machine learning technologies, have enabled more personalized recommendations in consumer shopping experiences including foundation shade matching and instant skincare diagnostics. These advanced no-touch experiences deliver a heightened level of personalization that speaks to individual consumer needs. For example, YouCam’s shade finder technology accurately detects a user’s skin tone and instantly generates a “best match” foundation shade, along with cooler and warmer shade suggestions to play to the various degrees of personal beauty preference. AI technology and machine learning also help to power YouCam’s Skin Diary tool. This instant skin diagnostic uses advanced beauty tech to detect four common skin concerns including spots, wrinkles, texture, and dark circles—with advanced iterations capable of tracking oiliness, redness, and hydration. These no-touch beauty tech innovations will continue to emerge in the retail environment to help alleviate consumer health concerns post COVID-19.
In-store virtual beauty experiences can already be seen at Estee Lauder, MAC, and Nordstrom retail locations—all powered by Perfect Corp.’s hyper-realistic YouCam virtual beauty try-ons—and speak to the touchless shopping environment preferred by the shopper. Many brands have also launched with experiential e-commerce solutions, like Make Up For Ever’s and Estée Lauder’s AI Shade Match foundation finder for web.
It must also be addressed that while digital touch screens eliminate the need for messy and unhygienic product sampling, consumers may very well be fearful of a touchscreen experience all together, posing further challenges. Here is where advancements in voice-control and gesture touch-free commands will quickly be introduced and evolve within the retail shopping experience. Brands must lean into the era of no-touch retail and explore the opportunities presented by advanced beauty technology which help to speak to the human connection.