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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.

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She continues, “The devices are very user-friendly, and the customers are fascinated with the level of technology and all the details we can provide including a print-out report. The process takes less than three minutes and once finished with the analysis, you can even download your results onto the Ioma iPhone app, [called] Ioma a Moi, to keep track of your diagnoses.”

Ioma services are offered at retailers such as Harrods and Saks Fifth Avenue, giving them a prestige tilt. “Jean-Michel wanted to be able to provide the ultimate unparalleled experience in a luxury beauty environment for the customers; therefore the right partners were chosen by the ones who shared the same passion,” Amirvand explains.

She also notes, “The fact that customers are able to track their skin and measure the effectiveness of the products will provide valuable information in order to be proactive in enhancing the beauty of their skin.”

A Perfect (Color) Match

Such technology isn’t only being used in skin care though. Color cosmetics also are seeing the relevance of technologically advanced equipment in matching foundation colors, for instance. This is the key thrust of the Sephora + Pantone Color IQ program, which sees diagnostic technology in Sephora stores and online working to match skin tone colors in collaboration with Pantone in order to provide customers with a perfect foundation match.

Deborah Yeh, vice president of marketing at Sephora Americas, explains, “At Sephora, we are always working to guide our client in the right direction when they are looking for beauty products. Foundation is cited as one of the most challenging cosmetic purchases for women. On average, women purchase seven foundations before they find a perfect match. Twenty-two percent of Sephora clients consider changing their foundation at time of replenishment, and only 24% consider themselves loyal to their foundation. And at Sephora, we pride ourselves in offering amazing in-store services in addition to a fantastic roster of beauty products.”

“[The] Sephora + Pantone Color IQ uses powerful tri-directional image capture technology and a new (and exclusive to Sephora in beauty retail) method of color measurement, including texture and surface sample variables, allowing for the most accurate definition of color,” Yeh continues. “Color IQ illuminates skin surface from three different directions, and does not require ambient lighting for precision matching. Since shades do vary among brands, complexion becomes a very difficult area for clients to shop. Color IQ makes this process easier by matching every shade of every foundation across all brands available at Sephora to each of the Pantone SkinTone IDs we’ve created in the Universal SkinTone Library. We’re so proud of this technology because it streamlines and simplifies the complexion shopping process for our client, who can often get confused from brand to brand.”

Helping bring Sephora customers the satisfaction of not only finding the right product, but being ably to easily buy it is an ideal retail experience brought by this technology. “The most precise match is made when experiencing the service in-store. The consultation must be conducted by a cast member who is trained to use the device,” Yeh says. “In-store, the Color IQ System works by taking three images of the skin, since no one part of your skin is the same color as the other, analyzing them and assigning an official Pantone SkinTone number that is the median of all three. Once we have the number, we then reference Sephora’s Universal SkinTone Library on an iPad, which holds over 1,500 foundation SKUs to determine what products are a precise match for each skin tone. After locating the matches to your Pantone SkinTone number, we can sort by brand preference, formulation, coverage, finish, skin type, ingredients and SPF. This allows us to take the whole color matching service one step further to ensure that the product you are trying meets the needs of your skin and lifestyle.” All this, and “The service is completely complimentary, no appointment necessary,” Yeh says.

The Color IQ system also provides ongoing support. “After the consultation, clients have the ability to e-mail themselves all of their matches, as well as their Pantone SkinTone number. Using this number, clients can access the Color IQ iPad application at any time on to pull up all of their matches and also check for any new matches as products launch,” Yeh notes. “If clients aren’t able to get to a store to test out the service, they can still utilize the technology online. Some clients have a foundation that they feel matches their skin tone, but aren’t quite happy with. In this case, clients are able to access the Color IQ application online, and based off of the shade and brand of their current foundation, receive a recommendation for other products that would also match their skin tone.”

It brings the ability for consumers to find the perfect products just that much closer and easier. Yeh says, “Sephora clients are huge beauty junkies and extremely knowledgeable. They want the best of the best and to continuously learn more. The Color IQ program has certainly allowed this for our clients. It’s taken the guesswork out of foundation matching with an unprecedented level of precision, allowed them to explore new brands through their matches and achieve an even more flawless look than ever before. It’s an experience our clients have truly appreciated. As for the future, we plan to build upon these amazing interactions with our clients, reinforcing that Sephora is not only the place to purchase your must have beauty items, but also a place to learn about the basics and what’s next.”

Get on the Bus

Of course, not all innovations in beauty retailing are technology fueled. Taking a cue from the food truck craze, Southern California licensed esthetician Beth Ross debuted a beauty truck, dubbed Beth’s Beauty Bus, to take beauty retailing on the road.

“The inspiration for going with a mobile retails bus is a direct result of me teaching clients a solid home routine to maintain healthy skin,” Ross explains. “If you buy the ‘right’ products from a licensed esthetician, you will get fantastic results. Beth’s Beauty Bus cuts the clutter and confusion of going to the mall. I can see more clients going with mobile. On any given day, we park at usually two to three locations.”

Pulling up in a beauty truck is certainly a unique way to draw eyes, and Beth’s Beauty Bus also works parties and events, but customers also have grown to depend on her and her truck. “People love the natural light for buying makeup, and the complimentary skin analysis is really popular,” Ross says. “And they like the fact that I will come back to the same parking spot on a regular basis. The entire experience is refreshing, and it is an efficient way to shop.”