As made-to-order makeup upstarts such as Toronto-based Bite are gathering momentum, beauty brands everywhere are innovating to offer more personalized products and experiences. This month, Cover Girl is officially rolling out its Custom Blend app, a smartphone application that leverages facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence to mix and match unique shades of foundation specific to their customer’s skin tone. The technology enables Cover Girl to cut out retailers by selling direct to consumers, signaling a newfound intimacy between cosmetics companies and their customers.
Cover Girl’s Custom Blend app, which is available for iOS users across the U.S., offers women a bespoke alternative to the few-shades-for-all approach to foundation. After inputting basic data such as their name and e-mail address, users are invited to scan their face via their smartphone’s camera and the app’s integrated panoramic video-scanning software. Custom Blend then analyzes skin color, intensity and undertone, and generates a unique numeric indicator.
Customers can then customize the look and feel of their product by choosing from a handful of fonts and label colors. They can even include their name and a tag line, which will appear on the bottle. Next, they enter billing and mailing information (the foundation costs $25, including delivery) and within a few days, their custom Cover Girl foundation arrives in the mail in a black-and-white box.
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“We recognize that many women struggle to find their perfect shade in mass channels because they can’t always try it on,” said Ukonwa Ojo, Cover Girl’s senior vice president. “We challenged ourselves to maintain the accessibility delivered in the mass channels while helping our customer solve her shade-matching dilemma. Taking inspiration from evolving digital and social technologies and our increasingly ‘on-demand’ economy, we thought — what’s more accessible than figuring out your perfect shade from the palm of your hand on your phone and having it shipped right to you?”
The app’s color-matching capabilities are made possible by ModiFace, a Toronto-based company that has helped pioneer augmented reality technology for the beauty industry. Now that ModiFace has successfully installed AR into the apps and in-store mirrors of leading beauty brands such as L’Oréal, the company is turning toward artificial intelligence to help further enhance the customer experience.
“Artificial intelligence is a very direct extension of augmented reality,” said Parham Aarabi, ModiFace’s founder and chief executive officer. “If you look at where AR is headed, it’s getting more intelligent and more capable, and that’s only achieved with artificial intelligence.”
One of the innovations inside Cover Girl’s Custom Blend app is the ability for the software to intelligently analyze the light field of any environment. Scientifically, light field is the amount of light flowing in every direction through every point in space. Using the panoramic video selfie, ModiFace not only gets to know a person’s skin tone, but also can understand how light is present in any space so they can better analyze true skin tone and make more accurate recommendations.
“Cover Girl has always offered an ‘easy breezy’ proposition for our customers, so a customized approach aligns not only with our equity, but also with the future of shopping, marketing and customer service,” Ojo said. “We’ve also been a brand celebrating the diversity of beauty, as evidenced by our unconventional roster of boundary-breaking Cover Girls. Providing customers with a foundation made just for them is in our DNA, and now it’s possible with even greater accuracy and agility.”
Cover Girl isn’t the only cosmetics company banking on personalization. Earlier in January, Shiseido acquired MatchCo, a California start-up with an iPhone app designed to help women find the right shade of foundation. Like Cover Girl’s Custom blend app, MatchCo uses skin-scanning techniques to create a custom blend all-in-one makeup for each customer. “It is a way to get more consumer intimacy and create more consumer satisfaction,” Marc Rey, ceo of Shiseido’s American subsidiary, said.
The following week, L’Oréal unveiled the first five beauty start-ups picked to participate in its accelerator programme in collaboration with Founders Factory. Each selection, in its own way, is about providing personal experiences, whether it’s customizable nail design; individualized, all-natural skin care, or product recommendation platforms.
When it comes to artificial intelligence, ModiFace isn’t stopping at foundation color. The company recently worked with Clairol to implement AI solutions that help women discover the most flattering shade of hair color, as well as Sephora to build a chatbot solution for Facebook messenger that helps customers discover new lipstick shades. The company demonstrates the potential for artificial intelligence to enhance the process of product discovery, enable better purchasing decisions, and extend the beauty counter experience beyond brick and mortar.
“The future of the beauty industry is personalization” Aarabi reiterated. “Not only in terms of the shades that are created, but also in terms of recommendations — knowing which products are ideal and should be used by each person. Artificial intelligence will power that future.”