Who says you can’t be pretty and smart at the same time? More and more beauty brands are turning to digital tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to smarten up the customer experience, both in-store and online.
French beauty brand L’Occitane en Provence is the latest to roll out new AI-powered digital experiences, but it’s far from alone. Saks Fifth Avenue, L’Oréal and NARS Cosmetics are other examples of major retailers that have recently introduced digital experiences to transform their cosmetics business.
The Omni Usage Index by PYMNTS and Worldpay (formerly Vantiv) shows that successful omnichannel health and beauty retailers do five key things for their customers: Know Me, Value Me, Have What I Want, Solve My Problems and Make It Easy For Me.
Digital tools and experiences like the latest from L’Occitane, L’Oréal, Saks and NARS will have to meet those needs in order to deliver the advantages that these brands are hoping to see. Here’s what each company is doing and how it serves consumers’ needs.
L’Occitane en Provence
Leveraging the personalization platform Qubit, L’Occitane on Wednesday, June 27, announced its discovery solution Quit Pro, which analyzes behavioral and intent data to deliver personalized campaigns – creating an online experience that’s more similar to what the brand offers in stores.
“Social proof” is a technique that informs shoppers about how other shoppers like them behaved in their shopping journeys: “People who bought this item also liked…”
Another technique changes the products a user sees in real time, based on the user’s behavior. L’Occitane is leveraging Qubit Aura to provide this smart function on its website, and Chain Store Age reports that the strategy has translated into a 159 percent uptick in U.K. mobile conversion rates.
Finally, automating customer behavior and intent analysis is helping the retailer reach larger populations with greater precision, scaling its personalized approach faster than would otherwise be possible.
How do these techniques line up with consumer demands in the cosmetics category? L’Occitane’s latest developments support the “Know Me” and “Value Me” categories by providing a highly personalized and targeted experience. “Value Me,” in particular, is all about generating engagement and loyalty to make the brand stickier with shoppers, which is exactly the focus of Quit Pro.
Saks Fifth Avenue
At its flagship store in Manhattan, Saks Fifth Avenue is migrating cosmetics to the second floor to create a more intentional beauty experience. Customers can get their nails or brows done, receive a facial in a private treatment room, or participate in facial exercise sessions.
The tech aspect is the advent of new “magic mirrors” that enable customers to try on products virtually. Shoppers can have their favorite looks captured and emailed to their inbox, or they can even experience an actual makeover with a brand artist – all through the mirror.
Like the wildly successful AR mobile app by Sephora, the magic mirrors at Saks enable customers to try on a much wider array of products, including colors and styles they may normally consider too bold.
With both technologies, there is no commitment if shoppers decide they don’t like how a product looks; they don’t even have to wash it off before trying another one. On the other hand, they may discover a new product they love just because they were able to virtualize the risk of trying it.
In terms of the pillars of omnichannel success, Saks’ magic mirrors tap into consumers’ demand that retailers “Have What I Want” and “Make It Easy For Me” to learn, discover and buy the products.
A similarly “magic” experience was announced on June 21 by L’Oréal. The company’s Live Makeup Consultation enables beauty advisers to virtually apply products to customers’ faces during video chat consultations.
Customers can ask for product recommendations, and expert consultants can hand-pick products that they believe will suit the shopper’s tastes and needs. From there, customers can use the app to buy the recommended product, and to request a follow-up consultation.
The company recently announced plans to acquire Canadian tech company ModiFace, which leverages AR and AI to make beauty products for the digital world. ModiFace uses proprietary technology to offer 3D virtual makeup, color and skin diagnoses, and other services, which L’Oreal noted are used by the majority of major beauty brands.
This fits nicely into the “Have What I Want,” “Make It Easy For Me” and “Solve My Problems” categories by focusing on recommendations and live help.
In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Benjamin Lord, NARS Cosmetics executive director of global eCommerce and omnichannel, said digital technologies like AR and AI have become crucial elements in the transformation of the beauty industry.
He said that’s why NARS is investing in data and personalization tools for both online and offline customers. The company acquired AI and AR developer Giran in 2017 to help it get ahead of tech trends and appeal to younger shoppers.
NARS has the unique advantage of being a subsidiary of Japanese luxury beauty conglomerate Shiseido. That gives it access to data produced by Shiseido’s AR cosmetic mirrors and apps, which NARS can then use to develop new, more personalized products.
“This data is helping us learn more about our customers’ skin tones to build new products, or about their preferences and behaviors to help give them a more personalized and seamless experience,” Lord explained. “I think it’s really about owning your tech so it can inform personalization going forward — not only online, but offline as well.”
This intimate knowledge around customer needs and likes represents a heavy investment in the “Know Me” category and efforts toward affirmatively answering the question, “Do You Have What I Want?”
The Pillars of Omnichannel
It’s clear that, in the cosmetics and beauty space, brands must tap into at least one of the five pillars of omnichannel success – again, those are Know Me, Value Me, Have What I Want, Solve My Problems and Make It Easy For Me. The more of these categories they satisfy, the greater success they’re likely to find going forward as retail in general and beauty in particular continue to evolve.