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The new sweep of tech tools and experience-driven retail is an essential part of marketing — at least for brands that want to appeal to Generation Z customers. And according to Perfect 365’s Leila Aziz, they absolutely should.

Laying out a compelling case for Gen Z’s rising value as a consumer base, the business development manager said, “Research points to the fact that they are the most diverse generation to date. There are more than 69 million of them in the United States alone. And that actually puts them ahead, in headcount, of Millennials.”

Even more importantly, she explained that this generation has $44 billion in buying power, and that’s just for starters. This trajectory is poised to head even further north over time, as their incomes grow.

And because they’re digitally savvier and more informed than their predecessors, they come with a new host of expectations and preferences. Millennials may have made makeup a vital necessity in the selfie era, but Gen Z’s priorities on experiences and personalization are poised to reshape the beauty landscape.

“They’re very, very well-informed. So their lives are now, due to mobile proliferation, completely documented on things like Snapchat and Lively,” she said. “So, therefore, they’re placing a much higher value on experiences, that then they can turn around and share socially.”

Aziz channeled a few numbers from Poshly, a research firm focused on consumer goods, including beauty, wellness, personal care and other sectors:

  • 94 percent of this generation purchases makeup;
  • 65 percent have purchased makeup on their phones;
  • And yet, 72 percent still prefer to buy makeup from a physical store.

“Less than a third of Gen Z actually likes the whole buy-online-and-pick-up-in-store concept, versus about 40 percent or more of Millennials that like it,” she added. “Why is that? Because it’s less personal — and for them, a little more personalization equals luxury.”

For this group, their devices don’t distance them from human interaction. “Tech is more of the vehicle that allows them to connect in person.”

Success stories like Sephora and subscription models like Ipsy and Birchbox also point to Gen Z’s need for immediate gratification, and the “try before you buy” premise has been a big hit with this audience — possibly for a variety of reasons.

“For a group that places such a strong emphasis on individualism, they want to see it on themselves,” Aziz explained. For Generation Z, she said, “seeing from a distance is not necessarily believing. So to that end, 72 percent of them actually would like to be able to try makeup on via their phones before purchasing.”

So far, digital initiatives have primarily taken the form of mobile apps, which mimic the online experience. But in the age of augmented reality, deeper digital engagement needs to take a step beyond that. Tools such as augmented reality can go far in connecting with the new generation of consumers.

AR, which places a layer of visuals or data on top of a display, allows consumers to try on looks before they buy and brings a more personal experience into a digital format.

Aziz described a scenario: Imagine Lucy, a young woman, getting a text message with a picture of her wearing a new lip color. The accompanying text from Karen, a sales associate, explains that she remembers the customer commenting about how much she liked a similar shade, so she sent a preview of what an upcoming new lipstick would look like on Lucy. The would-be customer taps the image to see a live display of her wearing the virtual lipstick. She loves it and will pick it up next week. From there, Karen can recommend other colors, or even send a makeup tutorial to help educate her client.

AR’s unique ability to open up experiential shopping is active, not passive. “So this is what active digital engagement can really look like with new technology,” she said. “But this is not the future. This is actually now…this level of personalization and connection is indicative of the seamless digital engagement and buying experience that will truly become the future of retail.”

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