Aveda (pronounced ah-vay-da) was founded by world-class hairstylist and environmentalist Horst Rechelbacher in 1978, after Horst traveled to India and was introduced to the science of Ayurveda (the Hindu traditional holistic system of medicine and surgery from India), and his vision for his company was born. Horst formulated the first product, a clove shampoo, in his kitchen sink with help from Ayurvedic doctors, and swiftly moved on to creating additional beauty products—using natural and organic ingredients. Today Aveda is part of Estée Lauder Companies Inc.Hair color soon became an important part of Aveda’s offering—provided through a global network of 9,000 Aveda partner salons where colorists—or Aveda Artists—deliver best-in-class experiences to their guests.
Aveda found the super realistic AR experience it needed with Perfect Corp. and the Perfect Corp. AR platform. Perfect Corp. combines powerful artificial intelligence (AI) with its industry-leading AR to provide stunningly lifelike results. Aveda chose Perfect Corp. after evaluating other AR solutions.
“We had looked at another AR try-on experience, but it didn’t have nearly the sophistication and realism of what Perfect Corp. gives us,” says Heather Lockwood, Director, Digital Transformation and Strategy at Aveda. “Realism was an absolute essential for us, and realism is difficult to achieve with something as subtle as hair coloring.”
Aveda was impressed with the way Perfect Corp. integrates artificial intelligence (AI) with its AR to provide an experience so real that it drives customers into the salon.
“The thing that really stood out for Perfect Corp. for us is their use of artificial intelligence,” Lockwood says. “Their AI algorithms work with their augmented reality that gives it that very realistic appearance. In contrast, other try-on tools in the market are just straight-up augmented reality, and not as realistic-looking.”Customers visiting Aveda.com can use the Perfect Corp.-powered hair color virtual try-on to experiment with colors, and then capture an image on their phone to take into an Aveda salon. The Aveda Artists find the AR images so real that they are able to use the image as they work their magic.
Aveda also worked closely with Perfect Corp. to capture the virtual try-on experience for its “Color Melt” process, which is a hair color technique that Aveda Artists use to gradually change the color or tone of hair along its length.
“Working with Perfect Corp., we were able to customize what the bottom color of the hair could be along with the transition,” says Lockwood. “Our virtual try-on integrates with a slider so users can see how far up their hair the color would go—allowing them to customize the transition to their exact preference. One guest might want to flow from more brunette on the top and blonde on the bottom. Or, more dramatically, someone might want to go with blonde on the top, melting to blue on the bottom. Perfect Corp. helped us achieve this in a virtual try-on experience.”
Overall, the try-on tool is increasing time spent on site and average order value, with Aveda finding:
Aveda used a multifaceted approach to promoting its Perfect Corp.-powered hair color virtual try-on, and enjoyed a big response.“As part of our roll out we promoted our hair color virtual try-on across the most popular pages on our site, and through our regular e-mail communications with our customers,” says Ostrom. “We also promoted through social media.”
The social media effort included encouraging Aveda Artists to share images on Instagram, and across other salon-specific social accounts.
“Our salons were very excited about what they could do with our hair color virtual try-on, and this excitement got passed along to their guests (the friendly term Aveda uses for its customers whether on the website or visiting salons). We had an increased focus on the try-on tool while salons we shut down due to COVID, March through May, and we saw a 220% increase in traffic to the try-on tool.”
Aveda has been delighted to find that in addition to driving traffic to its site, the hair color virtual try-on experience has also increased the time guests spend on the site.
“Since launching our virtual try-on tool we’ve seen the average time spent on the try-on tool perform 112% higher than our site average,” Ostrom says. “This extra time on our website has had a positive impact on other lead KPI’s like retention and conversion.”
The company sees benefit in customer retention.
“As our guests spend more time on the site, learning about the brand, retention increases,” Ostrom says. “In addition to gaining product knowledge, we believe that satisfaction is increased as our guests are able to find great products that they want to use, in addition to discovering their own custom coloring for their hair. All of this leads to greater customer retention.”
One of the big goals of introducing hair color virtual try-on was to help drive traffic to Aveda salons. The strategy has worked.
“We’ve found that guests who try hair color virtual try-on will then go to our Salon Locator tool to find an Aveda salon near them,” Ostrom says. “In fact, guests who try our virtual try-on go to our Salon Locator at a rate five times greater than site visitors that don’t experience the virtual try-on. Customers are so impressed with what they can do in creating their own color styles that they are taking the next step to find an Aveda salon where an Aveda Artist can make it happen.”
Aveda helps with its Salon A-Commerce program in which they help salon owners to build custom e-commerce pages that are fulfilled on the backend by Aveda—while generating commissions for the individual salons.
“Our Salon A-Commerce program allows our salon owners to create their own e-commerce business at no cost to them,” Ostrom says. “This means that even when the salons were shut down, they could earn commissions. It is a priority to do all we can to support our salon owners, and our hair color virtual try-on does just that.”
Looking at metrics from site visits, Aveda found a pleasant surprise: 14% higher sales from guests who engaged with the hair color virtual try-on.
“Our goal was to use hair color virtual try-on to drive traffic to our site, and to encourage them to visit our salons,” Ostrom says. “What we found was that those who experience our virtual try-on, purchase more product. While that wasn’t our key goal with this tool, it definitely is having a positive impact on order value.”
All along, Aveda knew that its toughest critics of a hair color virtual try-on experience would be its highly talented Aveda Artists who perform the art and magic of coloring hair in the salons. Earlier AR tools the company looked at fell far short.
“We looked at AR tools that didn’t have AI, but worked as filters to overlay color onto the hair,” Ostrom says. “They didn’t create the realistic effect that we knew our guests were looking for. Perfect Corp.’s combined AI and AR technology created the best look.”
Without AI, virtual try-on tools can be extremely disappointing. A person might apply a color to their hair, turn, and see the color streaking along the wall behind them, or seeping down onto a fuzzy sweater mistaken for hair, or onto a cat they might be holding. And that isn’t even considering the challenge of actually capturing the real texture and tone of the hair. Lockwood notes: “This is why someone can go to a store, pick up a hair color product, apply it and then discover their hair color looks nothing like the color on the box. The same thing happens with simple AR solutions.”
So, the demands were high as Aveda rolled out its hair color virtual try-on tool.
“We needed the AI and AR power of Perfect Corp. because for Aveda, our hair color is completely customizable and our Aveda Artists are experts in terms of their ability to achieve what their guests desire,” Lockwood says. “If two women decided to dye their hair pastel pink, for example, the process for each would be different depending upon the tone, texture, and color of their hair. Perfect Corp. is able to capture this. Their algorithms consider the starting point when color is applied, and our Aveda Artists appreciate this commitment to realism.”
Aveda can trace innovation clear back to the founding principles of using natural and organic ingredients—from across the planet. The company has continued as an innovative leader with its product development, online services, and the exceptional experience that guests enjoy at Aveda salons. So, it’s natural that the company sought out an innovative leader in blending AI and AR to create life-like virtual try-on experiences.
“We're a beauty brand, and that's where our specialty and dedication lays,” Lockwood says. “Perfect Corp has a passion for creating amazing technology. Together, we're trying to push the boundaries in terms of providing innovative experiences for our guests on the site and at the salon. Working with Perfect Corp. we are able to tap into a technology pipeline that helps us continue to bring new experiences to our guests and our Aveda Artists.”
Lockwood describes a “frictionless experience” in working with Perfect Corp. to create experiences that are “awesome, but also realistic.”
Being realistic in the deliverables is essential. And Perfect Corp. has the technology and experience to help Aveda bring innovative ideas into reality.
“At the end of the day, we want to deliver the best experience we can for our guests,” Lockwood says. “So, if you're bringing them digital technology, you need to be able to bridge the gap between concept and reality. You need to give them AR color that is so true, that they can see exactly what they will be getting when they go into the salon and request that color. Perfect Corp. helps us achieve this.”