Parham Aarabi, Andy Howell and Kelly Alexandre

Technology has already altered the path to purchase in the beauty category. But, during a sold out educational panel at this week’s Cosmoprof North America meeting in Las Vegas, three experts teased compelling advancements in the pipeline.

The session, Beauty+Tech=A Beautiful Marriage, recapped how far technology has come in regard to personalization, augmented reality and try-on apps. As an example, Kelly Alexandre, Kline’s senior analyst in the consumer products practice, presented statistics that the U.S. has the second-greatest acceptance of beauty apps at 35 percent, behind China at 64 percent.

The speakers also cast a glance into the future where they feel artificial intelligence, as soon as within the next five years, will further aid the selection of beauty products.

In the 11 years he’s worked on augmented reality technology for the beauty industry, Parham Aarabi, founder and chief executive officer of ModiFace, has developed in improvements resulting in enhancement of brand return on investment in technology.

“We’re finding today that at every point that a beauty brand interacts [with a consumer], it can increase sales, increase time spent, engagement — any metric that is measured for success, AR can make a positive impact. Seeing a product on a viewer’s face can boost conversion an average of 84 percent, ModiFace data shows. But it isn’t just the ability to try on that makes a difference. With Sephora’s Virtual Artist, which is having a positive impact online and in stores at the beauty giant, a big part of the allure is editing from the hundreds of colors for IRL application online or in stores.

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Aarabi said early iterations of AR required opening an app and uploading a photo. Now users can work with live video across all platforms. “The transition from photos to videos made an instant difference,” he said, adding in the next decade he hopes to create even more true-to-life “mirror” imaging.

The quest is to make virtual application as realistic as possible. “When [users] see something that looks clownish, they have fun with it, but they may not buy a product based on it,” he said.

Already ModiFace tweaked its technology with light rendering so colors are true to life no matter what background, along with facial recognition tracking identifying where consumers are gazing on screens which can prompt actions such as the color they are eyeballing popping up with an offer to buy.

The future, he said will be not only facilitating the chance to try makeup on, but also the ability to personally guide users.

Estée Lauder’s chat bot. 

The day after the presentation, in fact, Estée Lauder launched a conversational augmented reality lipstick adviser powered by ModiFace. The lipstick chat bot works on Facebook Messenger. It searches for and allows virtual try-on of Estée Lauder’s full assortment of lip shades. There is also a quiz providing personalized shade recommendations based on the user’s ideal color and finish preferences. Estée Lauder executives called it the next step in the partnership between the two companies. “Messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger are the perfect platform for consumers to search, explore, try on and ideally purchase Estée Lauder products,” stated Stephane de la Faverie, Estée Lauder global brand president.

Directing consumers to the perfect shade is the sweet spot of the just-launched BareMinerals Made-2-Fit, customized by MatchCo. (BareMineral’s parent Shiseido purchased MatchCo. in January). MatchCo.’s cofounder and strategy officer Andy Howell explained the myriad benefits of the custom-made foundations derived from image scans transmitted by iPhone.

Consumers get a custom item at a comparable price to a mass-produced product and a chance to engage with beauty lines they love. For brands, there is the chance to increase the size of the order while also requiring less inventory since only a few colors need to be in stock to blend for the customized hue.

There’s potential beyond foundations, Howell said. “It is virtually endless what can be done and we feel it works across products, categories and brands in adding personalization for us.”

BareMinerals is integrating the concept in its boutiques, too, which Howell said is building sales of ancillary items in the stores along with purchase of the customized foundation.

Kline’s Alexandre put the facts to the technology boom during the presentation. “The beauty consumer is demanding technology in her shopping experience,” Alexandre explained, citing everything from “smarter” products to augmented reality.

That’s played out, she said, in the meteoric growth of online shopping for beauty, the power of influencers along with user-generated content, the mounting quest for personalization and acceptance of augmented reality and beauty apps. Online sales, for example, posted a 20.8 percent increase, while bricks-and-mortar was held to a 2.5 percent increase, she said, citing Kline research. Physical store market share declined 3 percent while e-commerce market share increased 3.8 percent.

Speed is driving the shift to online — especially with same-day delivery available in some markets. Kline’s research found that 74 percent of its sample even bought skin care, traditionally an in-store purchase, on Amazon.

Tech-savvy beauty consultants drive a shift to online, Alexandre said, which is accelerating the growth of social selling such as Coty’s Younique or Rodan +Fields. “It’s easy to see the impact Younique’s 3-D Fiber Lash Mascara 14-Day Challenge online,” she said. And of course, influencers are a prime example of harnessing technology to move a brand’s sales needle. But as powerful as influencers are, Alexandre noted that consumers are emerging as a powerful voice in building attention to a brand.

She forecasted more fusion of apps and products. “We’re seeing the emergence of beauty apps colliding with beauty devices,” she said, pinpointing tools such as HiSkin which analyzes pigment levels and hydration of skin in order to prescribe products and even a diet. Kline’s research noted 50 percent of its sample of U.S. consumers are willing to buy a device that diagnoses and can treat a skin-care concern.

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