In the beauty industry, the demand for greater personalization was on an upward trajectory well before the COVID-19 pandemic. And the technology that facilitates personalization — such as virtual try-on — has been around a long time, too.
For Sampo Parkkinen, chief executive officer and cofounder of AI and AR beauty technology provider Revieve, there were several questions that needed asking, including how the pandemic is impacting consumer preferences, whether these preferences will last, what opportunities exist for brands in the current environment, and how advances in technology can help.
To explore these topics, Parkkinen met with brands to brainstorm and analyze the market. The ceo shared insights learned from those meetings with Adriana Lee, WWD technology reporter, during a workshop session, “Role of AI/AR Technology in Online/Offline Engagement.”
Revieve partners with beauty brands across many different segments to create customized and interactive shopping experiences, which could be online or in-store, or via an app or on social media.
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Parkkinen told workshop attendees that “COVID-19 aside, it doesn’t matter which channel they’re shopping in. Consumers are really demanding a personalized shopping experience.” And with restrictions imposed on physical retail, he add that “not being able to serve consumers in-store doesn’t mean that the consumer themselves don’t want to receive a personalized customer experience.”
He also said while the technology itself and demand for personalization have been around prior to COVID-19, the challenge of offering personalized experiences while using technology to drive engagement is new.
Other lessons learned from Parkkinen’s discussions with brands (which can be found as podcasts on the company’s web site), include that companies have been forced to accelerate their digitalization because of COVID-19.
“That has consequences in the minds of the brands that we interviewed, not just in the fact that they get to deploy new digital solutions and engaging associates for the customer, but that sort of shift is also a mind-set shift for a lot of these companies,” he said. “They recognize that they’re going to have to deploy technology fast. They’re going to have to innovate faster.”
Once the brands realized it was doable, then the opportunities suddenly opened up. But they had to embed their digital strategy into the core business strategy, Parkkinen said. That is still just half the equation. The other part is knowing that while everything is more digital, engaging the consumer is also more difficult in the current environment.
The ceo said there’s a need for more “channel-agnostic technology” while also being mindful that technology is ever-changing and evolving, and “it’s evolving at a faster pace than brands can really adopt.” Brands need to partner with technology companies that are keeping up with these changes, “so that you’re deploying technology for a particular purpose.”
“And whoever you are deploying it with understands that purpose,” he added. “Whoever you work with, when it comes to technology, should be someone who is looking to the future and really understands the purpose of deploying that technology, as opposed to giving you just the technology that may be obsolete in a few years.”