Facemapping the future: Three ways tech is making over the beauty sector

Technology is helping to make the beauty industry more tangible.
Technology is helping to make the beauty industry more tangible.

Thanks to augmented reality, technology is already solving the tangibility problem in the beauty industry, says SapientNitro London's planner specializing in beauty and skincare brands.

Newly appointed CMO Hugh Pile recently announced that L’Oreal’s core focus is "data and e-commerce." L'Oreal aimes to increase e-commerce from 10% to 20% of total revenue while testing out a new instant-buy platform.

E-commerce has always been problematic for beauty brands. Unlike other consumer packaged goods, consumers prefer physically to go in store to purchase beauty products. After all, these products are very personal; each shade or texture will have a different effect from  person to person. So consumers have only ever really used e-commerce as a discount channel for repurchases, rather than a more lucrative discovery channel.

This however, may be changing very soon — but before it can, brands need to break the tangibility barrier. There are three ways technology can do this: trial, discovery and mass customization.

Trial. Facemapping is technology that can chart the many different contours of the face; it then uses that that data alongside designs and animations to map beauty products onto the face for a hyper-real illusion. Beauty brands like Max Factor have wanted to use this for years, but the technology is only just starting to reach maturity.

Last year, L’Oreal launched the revolutionary beauty tool Makeup Genius, which transforms smartphones into interactive mirrors. It’s an augmented-reality (AR) product catalogue that lets people try on different products in real time, reducing the need for physical interaction with beauty products.

The more facemapping and projection-mapping technology become accessible to brands, the more consumers will look to use this technology as an everyday alternative to physical shopping trips. It could completely alter the current experience for consumers. Imagine seeing yourself in the same makeup worn by Jenifer Lopez in a L’Oreal ad. It would make advertisements and promotion a much more personal experience.  

Discovery. Currently digital supplements the market instead of growing it. The purchases we make via digital are very considered, allowing for  little incremental growth. However, within the next year or so, we’ll see digital become a medium where we can discover products we’d not previously considered.

Augmented-reality nail models projectsdesigns and colors onto customers' nails, tempting them to buy more. Maybelline has already begun testing this  capability in the form of an app, and within the next year we’ll start to see more sophisticated AR from major nail retail chains.

For the beauty industry, this technology could signify the end of self-service in retail – where shoppers walk into a store and are faced with walls and walls of products but little guidance or assistance. Sophisticated AR has opened up opportunities to create service and discovery around products both on and offline, which will have huge implications for the industry.

Predictive technology will take the idea of service and discovery even further. It will be able to analyze our skin tone, type and texture, eye shape, hair type, and our preferences pulled in from Instagram and Facebook. Using these data points, we’ll be able to automate an experience that consumers could have only have received from a top makeup artist or stylist — democratizing beauty and empowering consumers.

Mass customization. There is a growing demand for cosmetics more customized to consumers’ needs. Products such as the new Cover FX Custom Cover Drops provide consumers with pure pigment to mix with other products to create their own bespoke bases. Eyeko has also produced a "bespoke mascara" that offers 23 different wand types.

Last year, Grace Choi took TechCrunch Disrupt by storm with the Mink printer, founded on the insight that consumers need to turn to high-end brands to get the best color selection. The printer lets users choose any color on the web or reality and, using simple pre-existing software, print that color into a blush, eye shadow, lip gloss or any other type of makeup. Choi is currently working on her prototype, which she said could take up to five years to perfect.

Tech specialists are finalizing plans to let you design, produce and wear your own custome makeup formulations using 3D printing. We will be the creative directors of our own makeup brands.

Although this technology is only a glimpse into what the future of the beauty industry holds, brands may choose to offer consumers special cosmetic inks and base products for them to mix themselves as opposed to presenting the consumer with a selection of finished products.

Tangibility is the biggest barrier to the beauty industry’s success at the moment, and is currently the bottleneck to digital transformation. Technology presents beauty brands with the opportunity to lead the category: not only allowing them to grow their e-commerce sales but to completely revolutionize the brand experience and the future of the beauty industry.

Adriana Coppola is SapientNitro London's planner specializing in beauty and skincare brands.

This article first appeared on marketingmagazine.co.uk.

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