Karin Tracy at Facebook's first beauty summit


The future is not still.

Whether in the form of scrolling carousel ads, live video feeds, conversational bots or layered virtual-reality universes, Facebook executives Thursday — in Los Angeles’ Hotel Bel-Air, at the company’s first beauty summit — explored the smartphone not as a static device but as an increasingly active one that responds to and compels shopping habits. For beauty brands, they underscored the bottom line: Commerce is shifting to mobile — and they better be on board with that shift to nab sales.

“Consumers are comfortable buying key products in their regimen online, where I see the opportunity, especially for social commerce, is in impulse-driven categories such as lip, eye and color, where mobile plays a critical role in terms of discovery and where all of the innovation and trends happen so quickly,” said Karin Tracy, Facebook’s U.S. industry lead for beauty and luxury, speaking to WWD before the intimate event that drew 75 attendees, from brands such as L’Oréal, Smashbox and NYX. “As the consumer behavior evolves, we are going to be seeing more conversions.”

Facebook is already detecting strong mobile momentum in beauty. Released at the summit, a report by Facebook IQ entitled “Beauty Beyond: The Thumb is in Charge” revealed internal data showing more than three in ten beauty and personal-care purchases by people 18 years old and above occurred on mobile from September to December. Millennials, moms and multicultural customers accounted for 81 percent of beauty transactions last holiday season. In five to ten years, the report predicted, everyone will be a mobile shopper, an assertion supported by a finding that 64 percent of omnichannel Millennial beauty buyers obtain products on smartphones compared to 54 percent of Gen Xers and a quarter of Boomers.

The trick to enticing mobile-savvy beauty buyers is offering captivating social media content that will build brand equity as well as revenues. That content is taking shape in a growing variety of formats, and video is playing a larger role for beauty brands. “What they need to figure out now is how to translate their storytelling for mobile, where our users are watching 100 million hours of video daily on Facebook and the time people watched video increased more than 40 percent on Instagram,” said Tracy.

Thomas Puckett, creative strategist for beauty and luxury at Facebook, gave suggestions for advertising success based on recent campaigns using video and research. Citing Nielsen Digital Brand Effect metrics, he detailed that 3 seconds into a video, 47 percent of the value is delivered, and 10 seconds in, 74 percent is delivered. “You need to capture the attention quickly, so people won’t just scroll right by you,” said Puckett.

Immediacy was at the heart of a campaign by L’Oréal to promote Root Cover Up, which displayed the product concealing gray roots in a seconds-long video that segued into carousel ads featuring several images exhibiting shades and directing consumers to buy them. “That’s a high need state and that’s an incredibly dramatic presentation that answers that high need,” said Puckett. According to Facebook, the campaign resulted in a 30-point lift in ad recall and a 12-point lift in product awareness.

For its fall collection, Puckett pointed out, nail polish brand OPI produced a mixed-media carousel program that was “a well-thought out campaign that [generated] fantastic results.” Working with Instagram to develop the campaign, OPI showcased four nail trends for the season, such as venetian lace and ombré, and presented their polishes with objects and in surroundings that hammered home the trends. Facebook disclosed the campaign reached 5.4 million people and caused an 11-point lift in ad recall and a three-point lift in top-of-mind awareness.

Aurelien Jehan, senior vice president of marketing and creative at OPI, credited a lifestyle-oriented approach for the campaign’s effectiveness. “Think about the content that we used to put out there — which was a bottle of OPI and that was basically about it. We wanted to give more context to our story,” he said, adding, for example, that a bottle of the minty blue shade Gelato On My Mind was paired with real gelato in a visual. Of OPI’s goal for the campaign, Jehan elaborated, “Where we really need the help of Instagram and Facebook is to target the unfamiliar customer. When we do that and they engage with these posts, we manage to drive them to our Web site, which is the ultimate goal.”

Targeting is a key element of Facebook’s value proposition to beauty brands. In another OPI campaign for polishes it partnered on with Hello Kitty, Jehan noted the brand pursued consumers interested in Hello Kitty, OPI and nail art. “That super-refined targeting cannot really happen on any other place,” he said. With Facebook’s targeting capabilities, Tracy emphasized beauty marketers can “reach personalized marketing at scale. They can target an audience of beauty-obsessed consumers, and we have millions of them that we can reach. It’s that at-scale piece that’s going to move product for them.”

Facebook is flexing the muscle of its reach with Facebook Live. Although Twitter-owned Periscope was earlier to live video broadcasts, beauty brands appear to be adopting Facebook Live at a rapid pace. Every Thursday, the brand Benefit stages “Tipsy Tricks with Benefit!” on the platform, with a guest and a host who choose a beauty topic, dish out advice, sip wine and field questions. Two initial streams pulled in 42,000 and 59,000 viewers, with an average of 2,000 people watching at any given time. In general, Facebook mentioned people spend three times longer watching a live video than a video that’s not live, and comment a minimum of ten times more on Facebook Live videos than on videos elsewhere.

Illustrating how Facebook Live can be skillfully tapped, Puckett highlighted live videos of Oscar-winning makeup artist Mark Coulier doing zombie special-effects makeup and Asian singer-songwriter Yuna, an ambassador for SK-II, announcing her world tour. Tracy said, “It’s the power of TV — in your pocket. It’s a massive opportunity for marketers in the beauty space.” Jehan believes Facebook Live could be a powerful tool for live nail tutorials. “That would be a great way to connect. It’s very true to us, and it could also be leveraged worldwide,” he said.

Going forward, Facebook will provide beauty marketers with an even fuller cabinet of tools to consider. Puckett expects virtual reality to become a promising avenue for beauty brands, envisioning a virtual experience on a device from Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, that transports people to the sea for a close-up look at the ingredients in La Mer products. He continued, “What about designing a building and being able to walk through it before it is even built.” Puckett stressed brand participation in virtual reality, now primarily the province of gamers, remains a year to a year-and-a-half out. “It’s too nascent,” he said.

Facebook Messenger bots that rely on artificial intelligence to handle customer service may be closer to actual applications in the beauty industry. Facebook estimates at least 900 million people use Messenger monthly, and the number of messages between people and businesses on Messenger more than doubled in the past year. The company is testing initiatives around ride-sharing, order receipts and live chat on Messenger.

Tracy counseled brands to focus today on Facebook Messenger’s customer-service functions with the employees they have, not with automated bots. “We have yet to understand what the real potential is for businesses on Messenger. We think it is going to be great, especially in the beauty space, where people have lots of questions,” she said. “What beauty brands are doing in the short term is having Messenger set up on their pages, and making sure they are answering questions in a timely manner. Then, as the developers figure out the right technology around bots, they will be ready, because they will have understood the patterns of questions being asked, to inform the artificial intelligence.”

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