It is shaping up to be the year of the beauty app.
The latest is Counter, a try-on app from Meitu’s Makeup Plus. The app goes live Wednesday and is designed to help brands connect with consumers for a virtual lipstick try-on experience. Brands including Charlotte Tilbury, Clarins, Stila, Glamglow and Lime Crime will be the first to launch on the app — with additional brands rolling out in the coming months, according to Frank Fu, managing director at Meitu.
MakeupPlus’ Counter lets users see a look before purchase. Apps of its kind have been credited with encouraging consumers to try something they may have shied away from before virtual options, such as a bold gloss.
There are a handful of app developers, including Modiface and Perfect Corp.’s YouCam, jockeying for brand and retailer’s favor. Fu said Meitu has a competitive market advantage thanks to its long history and patented software. The company, he said, has developed apps focused on facial recognition and augmented reality since 2010 and has earned nearly 200 patents and software copyrights on augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.
“Today, our apps are installed on more than 1.1 billion unique devices, processing six billion photos and videos per month from more than 450 million monthly active users,” said Fu. “That’s a lot of faces our tech team is receiving feedback from, which we use to constantly optimize our facial recognition algorithms, and a massive, global user base brands can access with Counter.”
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He added that Counter has a feature where users have the ability to see the actual product while browsing and trying on colors — the tube, the shape of the lipstick bullet — as opposed to just a swatch of the color. “With Counter, we wanted to preserve some of the in-store visual experience for our users, and actually seeing the packaging is a huge part of makeup discovery.”
While the platform is mobile first, he said the company is exploring in-store installations. But for now, there’s ample opportunity for e-commerce, he said. “So many industries have now been ‘disrupted’ with new technologies offering convenience and quick service, but the beauty industry has yet to revolutionize the e-commerce experience with real on-demand technology. Women are purchasing beauty products online, but they tend to purchase color products that they already use and love, and rarely purchase new color products they haven’t tried — especially lip products.”
He added lip product try-on works “exceptionally well” in the augmented reality environment. “It’s the one product that women really like to try before they buy, but it’s also the one product they are least likely to experiment with because of the hygiene issues with in-store try-on, and mess of removing and reapplying several colors,” Fu said. In fact, more than a third of MakeupPlus users report that they are less likely to experiment with lip color products compared to eye shadow, blush and other elements of their makeup looks in store, many stating that it is not hygienic.
Since lip products are typically very opaque with distinct finishes, they render well as AR filters. Consumers can really tell the difference between colors and finishes on their skin as opposed to more transparent color products, or products that have little variation in color (such as mascara), he elaborated.
Beyond the U.S., Meitu offers Counter in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America with brands including Bobbi Brown, Charlotte Tilbury, Clinique, Lancôme, YSL and Giorgio Armani.