As part of the latest wave of “technopreneurs” entering the fashion apparel, accessories and beauty markets, Eric and Cindy Engstrom developed the Solomomo Smart Mirror as a way for consumers to understand their skin conditions in an unobtrusive way.
Moreover, the cofounders and co-chief executive officers of Solomomo said they wanted “women to feel great about themselves and the investments they make in continuing to look great.” With their smart mirror, consumers engage with the technology in a physical store via a countertop, integrated wall mirror or a kiosk. The technology, which was recently showcased at the WWD Retail 20/20: The New Store Experience event, creates a 3-D model of the consumer’s face, which is used to help find “product-problem solutions.”
The technology also includes a mobile app that the consumer can use to virtually sample beauty products. Here, Cindy Engstrom discusses the importance of the in-store experience, the technology behind the Solomomo Smart Mirror and how social media is impacting the beauty industry, among other topics.
WWD: What exactly does the name “Solomomo” mean?
Cindy Engstrom: Solomomo. It is your “Solo Moment,” a moment that is for you, that you don’t have to share with your spouse, children, or coworkers. It is necessarily brief, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be intimate. Solomomo is all about a single “dote” on yourself. Solomomo is permission to indulge yourself for “just a moment.” Solomomo is an ally and a coach. We want Solomomo to be just like your trusted hairstylist.
WWD: How important is the in-store experience? And, in particular, for consumers of beauty products?
C.E.: Beauty-based experiences are growing significantly faster than the migration from brick-and-mortar to online retail. Apparently, beauty consumers are using the time and money they save from an overall migration to online retail to pamper themselves with more beauty experiences.
Oliver Chen, head of retail and luxury goods at Cowen & Co., said it is hard for beauty to be “Amazoned.” And he called Ulta one of a handful of “Un-Amazon-able” retailers in reports issued this year.
The “experience” is becoming everything. And the Solomomo Smart Mirror for retail is an experience that allows shoppers to explore options, discover new options, validate their choices and have fun while they are doing it. For consumers of beauty products, it appears that being able to touch a product and test it out is critical to both the shopper’s confidence and happiness.
Beauty products are also extremely personal, and no one is a one-size-fits-all woman. A beauty shopper knows her own face and skin, but she is also open to the suggestions of a knowledgeable sales associate [when] presented in the right way. This can only be achieved in-store. An online survey or predictive algorithm based on past purchase behavior will never replace a physical experience for beauty shoppers.
WWD: What do you think consumers really want in beauty and skin care, and how can technology meet these needs?
C.E.: Beauty shoppers are demanding a lot. And we have studied these demands very closely as we were defining our high-tech experience. We believe that there are three fundamental demands: performance, relevance and community, which really means “great selfies.”
Shoppers want to see instant results first, with the confidence that their future skin health is also being protected. The founders of GlamGlow have often spoken of this guiding principle with their product line: The product had to deliver instant results. Shoppers demand high performance of the products they’ve carefully selected. Part of the fun of the contouring trend has been to see such a dramatic impact in minutes. Where Solomomo’s technology meets this demand is, with its in-store instant skin analysis, color matching, and color cosmetic try-on.
WWD: What technology is involved in the smart mirror?
C.E.: Solomomo’s Smart Mirror uses 12 cameras, dozens of specialized light sources and two custom sensors to both harmlessly and painlessly collect more specific pieces of information about the woman’s skin than any previous device, medical or otherwise. For skin care, the first release is focused on fine lines and wrinkles, identifying effective treatment options, as well as marking areas where preventive treatments are the most needed and effective. We can also measure and report on exfoliation, sun damage and skin hydration.
The shopper can then come back to any Solomomo Smart Mirror, which will recognize her like her trusted hairdresser would, and show her how the regimen she has been using is working.
WWD: What role is social media playing in the beauty market?
C.E.: Shoppers of beauty and skin-care products want to be assured that they are on trend, that they aren’t missing something important or new. Products must be personally relevant in this era of fast-paced consumption and rapid churn. This is where relevance and social media intersect. The most common ignition point for a new look or product is, being seen on social media. Celebs post constantly with viewership outperforming old-school mediums such as TV. An Alessandra Ambrosio L’Oréal video on Instagram had 186,250 views in four hours, for example.
WWD: How does the technology your firm developed help meet the varying needs in the market?
C.E.: The Solomomo Smart Mirror creates a baseline analysis of a consumer’s skin health, and then compares that over time. Solomomo enables the retailer to offer an unmatched in-store experience that is fun and data driven. Solomomo listens. Our technology listens, learns and refines itself.
We combine the latest sensor technology with cutting-edge dermoscopy research and add the art required for a unique personal engagement. The personal skin measurements are used to improve personalized product recommendations. Solomomo pinpoints skin-care ingredients causing breakouts, and shows how treatments like Botox and fillers would appear if customers received them.
WWD: The technology you use is also creating a lot of data. Can this be used by retailers to better inform their merchandising strategies? If so, how?
C.E.: Solomomo can arm retailers with huge merchandising insights that can fuel personalized e-mails and can identify geographical trends impacting small regions. Solomomo will change the way people shop. Consumers have come to expect data about their bodies and skin has been basically excluded until now.
Retailers can see how often shoppers use products, which products truly perform best for different skin conditions and be a trusted guide for navigating skin health. The mobile app even provides visual directions on the user’s own face for morning and evening regimens.
For retailers, Solomomo gives them the most advanced arsenal to fend off online competitors like Amazon. People will never stop shopping in a physical store if there are a suite of experiences that they value and that require a physical location to provide.