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Beauty Tech: Devices and Data Mark What’s Next

By: Toni V. Martin
Posted: August 26, 2014, from the September 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

While you can’t accuse the beauty industry of lagging behind others when it comes to innovations in products, it’s an often-cited fact that beauty brands and manufacturers have been slow to adopt emerging technologies. With the industry notoriously criticized for being slow to adopt mobile and integrate more technology as a driver for sales, opportunities abound for savvy brands willing to partner with third-party innovators of technology and to reimagine current technology with a beauty adaptation.

Two paths to innovation are emerging as the most opportune—and the most lucrative. Harnessing and presenting data in more sophisticated ways and tweaking digital technologies for the beauty sector represent what’s next in beauty tech.

Evolving Data

Gone are the days when the “numbers” referred strictly to sales. In this age of increasing data points and digital footprints, the numbers tracked to consumer actions across the digital landscape are being used to both retroactively measure consumer behavior and to predict and more strongly influence their purchasing behavior.

Marrying computer chips with in-person devices represents one of the most exciting and “futuristic” innovations with regard to today’s technology. Harnessing the repository of data collected and organized enables beauty brands to pinpoint consumer issues and share precise recommendations based on like profiles. Sephora and Pantone’s Color IQ uses a handheld spectrocolorimeter to record and pinpoint consumer skin tones. Matching a consumer’s “Color IQ” yields precise results from Sephora’s more than 1,000 foundation SKUs, eliminates consumers wading through a sea of trial and error, and allows employees to quickly provide quality service. And it is not only physical data that is pushing this trend. Tracking capabilities can be tweaked to drive e-commerce, as well. Services such as GumGum provide a more sophisticated level of retargeting ads, working backward from a trail of digital breadcrumbs to infer what an online consumer looks like and subtly adjusting advertising based on that digital footprint.

Enhanced Experience

Another tech tactic the beauty industry is taking on, augmented reality is becoming more widespread and accessible to allow consumers to experience beauty transformations virtually. Virtual makeovers have been in place for a number of years, but are now being paired with strategies such as Internet advertising retargeting for a more direct and experiential makeover offer.