Announced Wednesday, the relationship expands on efforts to tame the massive load of data the company’s Beauty Tech Data Platform fields from an array of sources and technologies, bringing tools that standardize and make sense of the information.
According to Antoine Castex, L’Oréal’s Google data platform architect and cloud evangelist, “We needed a solution that would help us to break down silos and complexity in our data and enable it to be actionable.” The company is relying on the Apigee API management platform for that, which is intriguing, given what APIs do.
Application programming interfaces essentially allow apps or platforms to connect and work together. In January, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs signed on with Google’s Apigee, so outside developers could build apps for veterans that hook into the VA’s system. That doesn’t mean L’Oréal will launch an entire beauty tech ecosystem, with third-party developers creating apps tied to its platform. But it could, and that possibility suddenly looks more feasible, especially for a beauty company that develops its own hardware and software. Its Americas division already worked out a unified e-commerce platform, thanks to Broadcom’s Layer 7 API Management platform, leaving one to wonder what new L’Oréal APIs could bring.
Castex told WWD that Apigee is helping to define a “communication standard in L’Oréal’s IT landscape,” which could cover a number of things, from streamlining internal processes to public-facing initiatives.
Other tools, such as Dataflow, BigQuery and Cloud SQL, bring more of the company into the cloud and allow for intelligent processing of large data sets nearly in real time, expanding the company’s machine learning muscle.
The numbers lay out the scope: With Google Cloud, L’Oréal’s Beauty Tech Data Platform stores 100 terabytes of production data in BigQuery and processes 20 terabytes of data each month, Castex explained. “We have more than 8,000 governed datasets, and 2 million of BigQuery tables coming from multiple data sources such as Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft and Google Ads.”
There’s also room to grow. As an analytics data warehouse, BigQuery can handle petabytes of data, or the equivalent of multiple L’Oréals.
Serverless compute features to make easier work of deploying or scaling cloud-based apps and services, whether for internal purposes — the company employs more than 85,000 people worldwide — or external, consumer-facing applications. There’s also a data visualization tool, so decision-makers and other key players can see and understand the insights all of this tech produces.
Ultimately, for the company, it’s about lightening the technical load, so it can focus on product innovation, not scrubbing or crunching data.
It’s a common refrain from large brands and retailers. Experts have sung the praises of data-driven strategies for years, but the reality of dealing with a vast and burgeoning trove of details and records can prove vexing. As recent pressures from shifting shopping behaviors and supply chain issues turn up the heat, more have been turning to cloud services such as Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, Google Cloud and others to address the challenges and help them stay competitive.
According to a recent report from Capco and Wipro FullStride Cloud Services, the retail industry is flocking to cloud platforms faster than anyone else. Its Big Shift report in February revealed that 78 percent of retailers and 71 percent of consumer packaged goods brands are either “mature” users of cloud platforms or plan to advance their cloud investments, versus 68 percent across other sectors.
But cloud adoption may make sense for beauty companies, in particular.
“Beauty was one of the first industries to embrace the power of data and in doing so we have been able to transform the way we respond to customer demand and shape product assortments. Today’s beauty products are much more responsive to customer expectations and inclusive for all,” said Castex, adding that L’Oréal’s position as an industry leader makes it critical for the company to set the pace for innovation.
That may be a bit easier since it has already seen what Google could do. Last year, its augmented reality group, ModiFace, used Google Cloud’s Vertex AI to train artificial intelligence models for all of its new services, including real-time virtual try-ons for hair color, makeup and nail color. The group’s skin diagnostic feature was trained on thousands of images from L’Oréal’s Research & Innovation division, blending the company’s research data with ModiFace’s AI capabilities to offer personalized precision skin care routines.
Of course, L’Oréal is not the only beauty-related company floating on the Google cloud. According to the tech giant, Ulta Beauty relies on its tools for predictions, analysis and data insights. More will likely come into the fold, given Google’s priority on retail, especially if Castex’s experience is typical. He has seen the tech whittle down what used to take weeks into a matter of hours.
The tech partnership also comes with other benefits — like the positive glow of sustainability messaging.
Although the server farms of cloud computing providers take a tremendous amount of energy to run, the rise of such platforms means fewer companies have to run their own data centers, making them a greener choice. Companies like Google and Microsoft even offer tools, so partners can measure the impact. That’s a welcome talking point for a sector filled with mission-driven brands and clean beauty products.
“The ability to measure and understand the environmental footprint of our public cloud is an essential piece of our broader sustainability tech roadmap,” Castex said. “With Google Cloud Carbon Footprint, we were able to easily see the impact of our sustainable infrastructure approach and architecture principles.
“Our Beauty Tech platform is a strategic ambition for L’Oréal and sustainability plays an essential role in the future that we want to build,” he added. “We all have a role to play in responsible beauty, and by joining forces, we can have a positive impact.”