The cosmetics industry is embracing new technologies, as it attempts to attract a new wave of digital natives
The rise of online shopping has transformed the way we buy everything from groceries to clothes, but when it comes to cosmetics online shopping has hit the buffers. This is because consumers still want the same ‘real-life’ experience online as they do in-store – they want to know what a product will look like, or smell like, in order to make a decision.
With 87 per cent of people expected to be shopping online and 45 per cent via mobile phones by 2020, cosmetics companies need to use the most advanced technology available to introduce products to digital consumers. Recent research from the Future Foundation found that “in-store experience needs to work ever harder to excite and ‘close the deal’ while the customer is on site”.
Now two L’Oréal brands have launched partnerships with technology companies to allow customers to use the latest technology to help the ‘trial’ cosmetics before they buy. YSL has partnered with Google to enable make-up artists to show customers how to apply their make-up via digital technology, while L’Oréal Paris has launched a ‘Make-up Genius App’ to allow customers to see how make-up will look on their face prior to them buying it.
Both of these initatives are designed to enhance the process of buying cosmetics, allowing customers to experience products in a way that previously wasn’t possible. Rather than attempting to replace the experience of trying on make-up in store, it adds a new dimension for people who want to try a new look.
Developed by L’Oréal in the US, Makeup Genius is a beauty app that uses facial mapping technology to transform your iPhone or iPad’s front-facing camera into a virtual mirror where you can ‘try on’ L’Oreal Paris products – including eyeliner and lipstick – in real time.
The app captures 64 data points on your face, making it intuitive enough to discern between the skin of the lips, eyes and other facial contours. This means the virtual makeup moves with you as you turn your head, change your facial expression and test out new looks at various angles and lighting conditions.
L’Oréal worked with the team of data scientists from Image Metrics – whose advanced facial mapping technology was used in the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – to incorporate a facial mapping algorithm, which up until this point has only been used in Hollywood and in the gaming industry.
The company’s research team tested 400 lighting conditions and captured 180,000 images of makeup application on an array of photography devices to make sure that ‘what you see is what you get’ for women of all skin tones, and for accuracy in both natural and artificial light and at any angle.
“We tested the algorithm on five different ethnic groups that we chose very strategically to go from very light to very dark skin, and that helped us adapt the algorithm not only to the lighting conditions but also to the tone of the skin of the person that’s using the phone,” said Guive Balooch, director of L’Oréal’s ‘Connected Beauty’ incubator in California and creator of the Makeup Genius app.
Makeup Genius also allows consumers to scan a L’Oréal Paris product to detect a colour match, virtually try on individual products or test out curated looks from L’Oréal Paris expert makeup artists, and share with friends and family on social media.
The app is currently only available on iOS in the US and France, but L’Oréal hopes to roll it out internationally over the coming months.
YSL (Yves Saint Laurent)
Another L’Oréal brand, YSL, has recently launched a partnership with Google Glass to allow makeup artists to capture makeup sessions on video from a subjective point of view and demonstrate application techniques.
The idea is that YSL makeup artists in department stores will use Google Glass to film makeover sessions with customers. At the end of the session, they can email the video to the customer’s personal account, along with ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots.
The customer can then replay the video at home and mimick the makeup artist’s techniques to recreate the makeover look. They can also view a list of the products that the makeup artist used, and order them online via YSL’s online store.
“We used to say that luxury is more than product, it’s service. But this is even beyond that – it’s personalised service. The video is a gift for the customer. It’s a very consumer-centric approach,” said Stephan Bezy, international general manager for YSL.
“Google Glass is such practical tool because it leaves the makeup artists’ hands free. It’s very comfortable and easy to wear; it looks cool because the design is great; and for the customer at the end, the video has a great quality too.”
YSL makeup artists will start using Google Glass in department stores around the world, including Selfridges in the UK, from mid-October. The company said that, as well as enriching the experience for existing customers, the personalised tutorials should help to attract a new generation of younger women to the brand.