Beauty Tech: Devices and Data Mark What’s Next

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.

FaceCake Marketing Technology’s proprietary Visual Demonstration System allows users to select a variety of makeup looks that can be changed in an instant with its patented Mirror Image Marketing platform, which offers users the chance to view the transformations in real time as if looking in a mirror. With applications beyond color cosmetics, such as cosmetic surgery and enhancement, users can now experience a complete new look instantaneously. Using this technology at live events gives brands the ability to have a virtual pop-up shop without massive inventory and staff.

Device Driven

Utilizing technology from other industries without current direct applications in beauty represents one of the most exciting opportunities for change. Recently, visionary entrepreneurs have tapped the capacity of print technology to innovate new beauty applications. The Tat’z Nail Imager uses digital print technology with proprietary formulations of nail polish wraps to take any image and transform it into wearable nail art instantly. Consumers, no longer limited by nail polishes on hand, can match outfits with complex patterns.

And taking print capabilities even further, the Mink 3D printing device, which made a splash at the New York TechCrunch Disrupt event in May 2014, promises to allow consumers the ability to create eye shadow, blush, foundation and other beauty products right at home, integrating any color available as a hex code found online or in photos.

Looking ahead, investment in unproven technology and adapting it to use for beauty brands could be a key differentiator for driving recognition, buzz and market share.

Toni V. Martin is a consultant to beauty brands and the director of The International Association of Beauty Brands (IABB), a trade organization that provides sales, marketing, public relations and branding education and training to hair, body, skin care and color cosmetics companies. Her editorial contributions have appeared in magazines such as Allure and Spa, and she is a frequent speaker on brand building in the beauty industry. [email protected];

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