Benjamin Lord, Nars’ global executive director of direct-to-consumer and omnichannel marketing, speaks with WWD West Coast bureau chief Marcy Medina.

Nars Cosmetics may have a love affair with technology, but for the French beauty company, the human makeup artist will never really go away. The role can, however, evolve.

Benjamin Lord, Nars’ global executive director of direct-to-consumer and omnichannel marketing, explained the ongoing appeal and evolution of people-powered service to West Coast bureau chief Marcy Medina in a fireside chat.

“Some beauty consumers want self-service; they want DTC,” he said. “For them, luxury is time and convenience. For others, they want that human touch. They want to go to a store, spend time with the artist and talk to someone.…So the artist trapeze is critical to any makeup brand, and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful.”

The sentiment comes as no surprise, considering the company’s founding by makeup artist François Nars in 1994. But it’s not a quaint affair — the beauty brand sees these professionals as a valuable source of customer information.

“Because we’re able to leverage years and years of artistry and that expertise, we’re really able to power our channels with the right data,” said Lord, who started with the beauty brand eight months ago to help manage its digital efforts. “The data that we have is embedded by education, by artist.”

According to Lord, clienteling is a major focal point for the company. It wants to empower makeup artists and sales associates to capture customer information during their interactions, he said, and also equip them with more data, “so they can personalize the experience while people are in the store.”

That push toward data-driven personalization may be just the tip of the iceberg. Having recently launched on China’s Tmall marketplace, the brand now looks to a number of new tech introductions for 2019.

“Next year will be a very big tech year for Nars, with lots of launches,” Lord said. The company is exploring virtual try-ons — which, according to the beauty executive, are “the new norm” — and it’s also doubling down on artificial intelligence technology.

“For us, [AI’s] a way to capture a user’s skin-tone data,” he added. “So Nars is really all about color. And the brand’s always been very involved in diversity and catering to diverse consumers.”

Innovation seems baked in at the company, from top to bottom. In January, Shiseido, Nars’ parent company, picked up Second Skin, a technology developed by MIT researchers that aims to replace eye creams with a layer of silicon-based polymers that can reportedly banish under-eye puffiness.

For Lord, the resident technology proponent, such innovation “could change the beauty industry as we know it.”

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