Could Technology Nudge Out Beauty Advisers?
The Buggles sang, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Can technology sabotage the power of beauty consultants?
One important sales tool has been the major difference between mass and class beauty retailing for years. That weapon is the human touch of a beauty adviser who can educate consumers about new products, colors, formulas and even gifts-with-purchase. Try as hard as they might, mass merchants haven’t been able to duplicate the level of training, despite some impressive sales staff at retailers, such as Walgreens.
But in the past two years, technology is improving to the point where service without a human present is possible. It isn’t quite Watson winning Jeopardy, but technology is making self service an easier sell. EZface has been mentioned in this space before. This is technology where shoppers can virtually try on colors in stores. The system snaps a photo and shows how colors would look on the shopper.
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Now Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada has a unique lipstick sampling feature. Shoppers Drug Mart has traditionally been on the cutting edge of beauty innovation, offering prestige skin care and cosmetics lines not always available to U.S. mass retailers. The beauty departments have also traditionally been more upscale than American counterparts. Now the chain is trying out a system developed by a company called FaceCake that allows customers to use a mobile application on their iPhones to view new favorite lipsticks on lips. Called Lip Makeover, the new app made its debut during Shoppers Drug Mart’s Free Express Lip Makeover campaign for Valentine’s Day, according to FaceCake. FaceCake dubs the virtual sampling, “tryvertising.”
Choosing from 12 of the latest lipstick colors from premium brands, such as Dior, Lancôme, Smashbox, Benefit, Lise Watier, Bare Escentuals Buxom and Elizabeth Arden, Shoppers Drug Mart customers can use the Lip Makeover app to preview their lips with a number of shades before making a choice. They can then “animate their kiss and send virtual smooches to family and friends,” said FaceCake.
“The Lip Makeover application allows Shoppers Drug Mart to put a lipstick aisle in every purse,” stated Lori Sroujian, manager of digital marketing at Shoppers Drug Mart. “We are thrilled that FaceCake extended our store’s reach to wherever our consumers are while also providing a fun, viral app.”
There are myriad other virtual sampling programs in the works at chains and at beauty suppliers. Many firms are hard at work developing interactive Web sites to assist in the beauty process. Others have nifty in-store technology ready to deploy. Perhaps a live beauty consultant will never be replaced, but shoppers do like having assistance without having to be pounced upon in the store. As the late and renowned buyer of K&B drugstores Jeanette Solomon once said, “Shoppers like to be left alone; until they want help.” Those words are so true. We like to shop on our own and not be hounded with questions until the moment we want to ask a question, and get angered if help isn’t available. Virtual help is always on call.
People, Place and Things
A few words with Adam Cirlincione, a podiatrist who came to the aid of his pregnant wife to launch a safer nail color called Dr.’s Remedy.
WWDBeautyNews: What possesses a podiatrist to get into the beauty business?
Cirlincione: My wife was pregnant and her very efficient doctors warned against hair dyes and chemicals that could be harmful in nail polish. I began researching the ingredients in her favorite polishes and found things like toluene and formaldehyde. I partnered with another podiatrist and we researched and found a supplier to create a line of polish that is not only safe, but fosters nail growth too. We now sell more than 800 doctor offices.
WWDBeautyNews: Do you want to expand that distribution?
Cirlincione: We think we are ready to take the next step and bring our polish to more women. We think this would fit well with a Sephora. We also have extended into products that can help conceal veins and other flaws on legs that we also think are a good fit for retailers. I love my patients, but the beauty business is fun!
What’s In Store
Ulta Offers Scholarships: Ulta is becoming more than just a retailer with a potent combination of mass and class products. The retailer has been active in promoting breast cancer awareness and is now offering scholarship grants across 13 cities to female high school seniors. The 2011 Enrich, Empower and Enlighten Scholarship program will offer each winner an $8,000 scholarship to the educational institution of her choice. Applications will be evaluated on community involvement, leadership qualities, academic achievement and commitment to continuing their education, Ulta said.
Fashion Week Tie-Ins: It was Fashion Week this week and that means beauty companies were busy, too. Maybelline was the official sponsor and offered its chic lounge at Lincoln Center. Sally Hansen colors adorned models at a number of shows and models at the Z Spoke by Zac Posen show had tresses styled with Got2b products and celebrity stylist Larry Sims. The link between fashion and beauty continues to strengthen and more women are using the Internet to see the beauty looks at fashion shows. Stores will have to react faster than ever to the makeup trends debuted on the runway.