The Kao Blaune Lumiést hair coloring brand, famous for its impeccable gray hair coverage, launched the virtual hair color try-on experience on its website on Monday, September 28, 2020 prior to the product release just one week later. The website featured innovative augmented reality (AR) hair color try-on technology developed by Perfect Corp. The now outdated and obsolete in-store hair color swatches made the transition to the AR experience inevitable.
During the first week of November 2020, when the AR hair color try-on experience was advertised on TV, the brand recorded more than 1 million simulations per week for the first time in Japan. It was the highest number of try-ons among all brands across the world that utilize YouCam Makeup try-on technology. Each visitor tried the try-on service more than 22 times on average, and Lumiést also recorded the highest number of daily website visitors in its history.Below, Haruka Motoya from Kao Blaune Lumiést details the company’s successes with the integration of the virtual hair color try-on experience.
Please tell us about your decision-making process that led to the launch of the AR virtual hair color try-on experience.
Blaune’s Lumiést line is a hair coloring product series designed for the brighter hair shades. Our brand mission is to help users dye grey hair as well as enjoy the bright hair color shades. Often, products designed to cover greys are one-toned, dark, full coverage, and absent of the joy of having colorful options. Having thought about how to deliver our branding message to consumers, we decided to consider AR virtual try-on.
Previously, Liese, the brand formerly known as ‘Prettia’ under Kao Corporation, was running a promotion for hair color try-on through the YouCam Makeup app, and users were required to download and open the app to access the try-on feature. For Lumiést, the try-on experience is accessible directly through the brand website. Our products are targeted towards mature age groups that value simple and straightforward access to virtual hair color try-on. We decided to introduce this digital experience as a communication tool with consumers that would need hair coloring products for grey hair in the near future.
Lumiést introduced a new purchase experience that eliminates the need for in-store hair color swatches for customers to look at when they visit the retail stores. Traditionally, in retail stores, we put a physical hair color bundle sample on display as consumers cannot try on products before purchase.
However, many shoppers were asking, “Wouldn’t the actual color finish depend on my hair type or the original hair color?” When using hair color swatches as a reference, the majority of consumers also end up purchasing the popular shades or options that say “average” tone (neither too bright nor too dark).
We took the feedback from our in-store consultants into consideration as well. Every time a new product line is released, it requires a lot of effort to arrange the hair color swatches. So we decided to introduce the AR virtual try-on experience on our website to replace the conventional product sampling systems and help consumers find the best product for their needs.
Was there any pushback in regards to doing away with bundled hair color swatches in-store?
The AR virtual try-on experience allowed us to offer the kind of hair color testers that were previously unavailable. Consumers can try on various hair colors on themselves in real time.
It also addresses the sustainability issue, a notion that is growing in importance in Japan. Discarding old hair color swatches in bundles every time the product lineup is replaced generates a large amount of plastic waste. In the beginning, distribution partners were skeptical about abolishing hair bundle samples completely as it has been there for decades to support in-store sales. We discussed our idea with the distributors, explaining that AR virtual try-ons will be a part of the entire consumer interaction process. A month after the product was released, we have received a lot of positive feedback. Even more significantly, some consumers even asked "This is going to be deployed not only for Lumiést, but also for the whole Kao’s hair color product line, is that right?"
After TV commercials were broadcasted, the number of try-on sessions exceeded 1 million per week. The number of weekly try-on sessions is 20 times higher compared with other common cosmetic brands and it also marks the record-high engagement numbers for a single brand domestically. What is your marketing strategy at this time?
Our communications strategy was to appeal to customers using AR simulations, showing them the merits of AR in our TV commercials. Throughout our communication process, we focused on the benefits of the new AR experience and how fun it is, as well as on promoting our product. In short, we wanted to show our customers what they can do with AR virtual hair color try-on and to promote it not only via TV commercials, but also using online banner ads.
For example, AR virtual try-on, along with our product information, was presented as an infomercial at “Hirunandesu,” one of Japan’s variety shows targeted at young females. As a result, after the launch of the TV commercial on November 2 2020, 60 percent of visitors to our brand website tried AR try-on, nearly triple the number of try-ons since we started collecting the data.
How was the initiative received internally?
The number of unique visitors to Blaune’s brand website in a single month ranked 5th among all Kao brands websites. Previously, this brand had not been ranked at all. We believe that this is a direct result of our promotional efforts that attracted customers.
The time customers spend on our website has nearly doubled, increasing approximately from 3 to 6 minutes, which shows us that customers spend some time getting to know Blaune. The data also tells us that customers favor multicolor try-ons, which would be impossible to do without AR technology. We also see that the hair colors that we thought wouldn’t be very popular are tried on many times in the AR experience. This information is crucial for the growth and development of our brand.
We hope that AR hair color try-ons will continue to become more common. Our customers truly value the seamless shopping experience that the AR technology provides. Our main goal is to offer customers an enhanced shopping experience, not simply to eliminate promotional materials.