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New Ways to Buy at the Beauty Counter and Beyond

By: Abby Penning
Posted: March 24, 2014, from the April 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

Technology is changing the landscape of the world—how we read books, spend time with friends and family, go to work, interact with other people—nearly everything in today’s world. But how much can technology be affecting the beauty industry, which is innately physical, from product development to user application? The biggest impact is likely in beauty retailing.

Retail is really the space where technology is likely bringing the most change to beauty And several recent innovations—such as displays that analyze skin for a perfect foundation match, virtual makeovers, beauty channels on demand and even a beauty vending machine—are shining examples of how technology is bringing a new level of innovation and, yes, interaction to beauty retailing.

Beauty On Demand

L’Oréal has been at the forefront of several recent innovations, including a Connected TV app partnership with Roku for content on beauty products and applications, and a beauty vending service called the L’Oréal Paris Intelligent Color Experience, which appeared in the Bryant Park station stop in the New York subway service during the 2013 holiday season. The Intelligent Color Experience was a machine that allowed users to be scanned for their clothing colors, skin tone, hair color and more and have the machine suggest products that would match their current look, which could be bought from the machine right there as well.

Lisa Capparelli, senior vice presdient of integrated marketing for L’Oéeal Paris, describes the development of the idea for the Intelligent Color Experience, saying, “The opportunity first came to us through our long-standing partner R/GA [a digital advertising agency]. They had been working with the [New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)] and Cisco on designing a digital retail experience for the MTA that would take advantage of the MTA footprint, speed of customers in that space and allow for a premium and quick purchase experience.”

Capparelli continues, “At L’Oréal Paris, we are committed to combining the latest in technology with the highest in quality to provide women with personalized beauty recommendations and help them become their own beauty expert. As part of this, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to engage women with the brand and thought this was the perfect opportunity to test out a new, interactive and customized shopping experience.”

The involvement in such efforts by L’Oréal shows not only the company’s belief in digital technology, but also its commitment to using it as a marketing tool that moves the brand forward. “The L’Oréal Paris Intelligent Color Experience is the next evolution of this commitment and further cements our digital leadership within the industry,” Capparelli says. “We are thrilled to be the first brand to bring women a highly customized and convenient way to experience the brand and shop beauty in a place she would least expect it—the New York City subway. Not only is the subway an unexpected venue for women to experience personalized beauty, but it also allows us to reach women where they already are.”

The experience offered users a unique and memorable way to engage with the L’Oréal Paris brand and its products. “In an age when beauty is increasingly about individuality, L’Oréal Paris was excited to bring women a fully customized experience. We worked with R/GA to develop a first-of-its kind, pairing algorithm technology that analyzes the colors a person is wearing and recommends products based on those colors that either ‘match’ or ‘clash’ their outfit,” explains Capparelli. “We believe the ‘match’ or ‘clash’ feature is an engaging and fun way to encourage women to experience with a variety of personalized looks. Women have the option of choosing product colors that complement their outfit or picking ones that give them a bold, new look.”

And although the Intelligent Color Experience was only in the subway stop for a two-month pilot program, L’Oréal is encouraged by the endeavor. “While we of course had high hopes the project would succeed, we did not set exact benchmarks as it is a truly experiential project and the first-time a brand has embarked on this type of program with the MTA. That said, we have been overwhelmed by the response from consumers so far. We have seen a high level of engagement with the machine, with women truly loving the interactive and personalized shopping experience it provides,” Capparelli shares.

She also notes the importance of this type of retail engagement and innovation moving forward. “The L’Oréal Paris Intelligent Color Experience was only stationed in the Bryant Park subway station as part of two-month pilot program with the MTA. While we do not have any confirmed plans to expand beyond that, we will continue to evaluate the best ways of engaging women with the brand and determine if expansion plans make sense.”

Scientific Selections

Another way technology is being utilized in beauty is to use science to help consumers be happier with their purchasing decisions. Diagnostic equipment is more and more prevalent in the beauty aisles and at beauty counters, and it is helping to not only personalize product selections for customers, but also aid them in being happier with the results those products provide.

Mojdeh Amirvand, director of business development for the skin care line Ioma Paris, says of her company’s work with diagnostic-enhanced skin care, “Ioma Paris founder Jean-Michel Karam, who has his PhD in microelectronics, envisioned a skin care line supported by science that could show and demonstrate the action of his products through advanced technology. The Ioma devices analyze the condition of a customer’s skin, make product recommendations and keeps record of the skin’s progress before and after treatment. As a result, the skin analysis allows the customers to make a better educated decision on their skin’s needs and provide a tracking record proving the skin care product’s effectiveness.”

Amirvand describes the Ioma products thusly: “Ioma is a breakthrough in technology that analyzes the skin below the surface, allowing for a personalized skin care regimen for each individual. Therefore, we are able to advise a unique recommendation for your skin’s needs in order to get optimum results. Ioma provides an unparalleled experience for each customer, including a personalized two-step process of Bespoke Youth Rituals, a day and night cream, which begins with an in-depth skin consultation at the Ioma counter and analysis performed by the patented devices. Best of all, we are able to measure and track the improvement of your skin throughout time and prove the effectiveness of its products on the skin every day.”