Within the last decade, the advances of artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) have opened up the possibilities of how many industries will operate in the future. Within the retail sector, namely the beauty industry, we are starting to see these technologies become integrated into our customer service delivery.
For the Millennial and Gen-Z populations, which constitutes the majority of the target audience in the beauty industry, these advances in technology have been a welcomed change. But now with the world looking to be a very different place in this post-corona era, the general population will all need to get comfortable with becoming virtually connected with social distancing and isolation likely to be something we will be living with for the foreseeable future.
It is no surprise that personalisation within the beauty industry is the most emerging trend. And with a growing online marketplace, it is an industry giant, Sephora, who has spent far more time than many other retailers studying these digital customers to better understand what personalisation means to them.
Recognising their needs, their beauty aspirations and the most importantly acknowledging how they feel when they shop. Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora’s executive vice president of Omni retail explains how they have always focused on their customers “…and we know that her life is increasingly reliant on digital. So, we know to be successful as a retailer, we’ve got to be where our clients are, and give her the tools and experiences that meet her needs.”
Through this research, Sephora has developed some incredibly forward-thinking AR products well suited to their customers. It is through their mobile app, Sephora Virtual Artist, that puts an AR tool in the hands of their customers.
From this platform, customers can try thousands of shades of lipstick, eyeshadow, false lashes and other makeup products on their face, digitally. Then using their digital face and Sephora products they are taken through informative beauty tutorials and show how to best use these products. In doing this they have been able to ensure that their products are relevant to each shopper on a personalised level, which will likely increase their online conversions exponentially.
With in-store experiences set to look very different post-corona, with the likely elimination of product testers and social distancing regulations enforced, Sephora is well prepared. Already in selected stores, you can use their in-store AR systems to virtually try on makeup, match your skin tone to a foundation with AI, and sample a fragrance via a touchscreen and scented air.
L’Oréal Paris is another company who have followed the AR game closely and in June 2018 launched an AR tool on their website which has double website engagement time and tripled conversions (Glossy, 2020).
And it is MAC who is the most recent brand to step up their virtual shopping experience with a dedicated personalised website tab that uses similar technology to Sephora’s in-store AR system. Country specific sites such as the UK, Brazil, UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, Mexico, Australia, Germany and Italy will now be able to virtually connect in what was traditionally a very personal touch related exchange.
It is predicted that these AR tools will have the ability to link a customer’s online activity with their in-store activity, allowing the brand to get to know each customer’s personal preferences intimately. Not, only will this give the brand the knowledge to make a personalised recommendation and timely replenishment suggestions, but the customer will enjoy a far more efficient and educational service that is tailored to their unique desires.
In the past few months, the world has become more technologically dependant than ever before and the opportunity for AG and AI has opened up tenfold. With original predictions by Marketing Magazine (2018) the AG and virtual reality industry was projected to reach a market share value over US $200 billion by the year 2022, but given the current climate, we question whether this outcome might even be just around the corner?