“We loved the idea of using augmented reality to create an escape of sorts,” shared Gerard Quiroga, president of Bellacures, a nail salon franchise with locations in Southern California and Texas that introduced the use of virtual reality in the business this year.
Available exclusively at the Beverly Hills address, customers have the option of donning a VR headset for a visual and audio experience of their choice: a secluded beach, waterfall or forest.
“We knew virtual reality was going to start making its way into the health and wellness space and have been discussing ways to incorporate a more meditative element into our treatments,” continued Quiroga. “I like to think of it as taking them on a mini vacation, so for that hour or so we get them in our chair, they can disconnect and go to a beautiful location to turn off their mind.”
A VR manicure is priced at $55, while its pedicure equivalent costs $60. “They are loving it and saying it is extremely relaxing and allows them to disconnect and recharge more than a normal service,” he said of consumer feedback. “We have even had a couple fall asleep in the chair, so I think that says it all.”
More than ever, businesses in beauty and wellness today — large or small — are experimenting with ways of improving the customer experience utilizing VR or artificial intelligence, which is growing. AI will reach $12 billion by 2023 in global spending by retailers, including beauty, up from an estimated $3.6 billion this year, according to Juniper Research.
“325,000 retailers [are] to adopt AI technology [between 2019 and 2023],” states the research. “The use of machine learning in demand forecasting will prove to be a key market for AI vendors, with associated service revenues reaching $3 billion by 2023, up from $760 million in 2019.”
AI tools range from proprietary algorithms for AI-optimized pricing, which provides consumers with competitive offers — a tactic most notably used by Amazon and adapted by many industry leaders — to chatbots, a computer program created to simulate human conversation, used by the likes of Sephora to help and engage with consumers in a speedy and efficient way.
In beauty, there has been a rise in brands embracing augmented reality with companies like Modiface Inc., which was acquired by L’Oréal and allows users to virtually test and see makeup and hairstyles in real time. There has also been the emergence of voice activation apps like Estée Lauder’s creation, “Nighttime Expert,” on Google Home; brands like Function of Beauty, which offers customized hair care; and initiatives like The Skin Genome Project, a thorough skin-care database and winner of MIT’s 2018 Artificial Intelligence Award. The focus, essentially, is to offer personalization while gathering data to better understand consumers, anticipate their future actions and market trends.
NakedPoppy, a start-up cofounded by Jaleh Bisharat and Kimberly Shenk four months ago in San Francisco, combines personalization with clean beauty.
“[We use] AI technology and smart analytics to provide consumers with high-performance, highly-vetted clean and sustainable beauty products,” shared Bisharat, its chief executive officer, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School and former chief marketing officer at Eventbrite and vice president of marketing at Amazon.
“NakedPoppy’s three-minute, algorithm-based assessment analyzes everything from skin type and individual concerns, skin tone and undertones, age-related factors, hair and eye color considerations, allergies, sensitivities, personal preferences…Once the assessment is complete, you’re directed to your own personalized online clean beauty shop, which features an assortment of today’s top clean, luxe and high-performance brands.”
The company, which ships for free, allows buyers to return their products for no cost, if unsatisfied.
“Makeup is one of the last categories where people don’t feel confident shopping for new brands online,” continued Bisharat. “We believe that, using AI technology, NakedPoppy can change that and bring the convenience of online shopping to women who are short on time. This will happen as they develop confidence that what they receive will look on them.…The NakedPoppy algorithm learns from returns, as well as from ratings and reviews.”