Beauty gets a makeover

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From make-up tutorials to personalized offers and connected accessories, the beauty and personal care sector is innovating at a rapid rate. Brands old and new are engaging with customers via Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram and creating what amounts to a connected beauty ecosystem.

For many young women, social networks are now a key part of the customer experience in the beauty industry. According to GfK (January 2017, France), 78 percent of them use social networks to find out about products either from their friends, celebrities or the brands themselves.

According to Instagram, young people involved in the beauty category are much more passionate than others: on average, they subscribe to and follow 486 accounts, four times more than the norm on the social network. They are also more engaged with an average of 245 followers, 2.5 times the norm.

Cosmetics brands are aware of the importance of social media and invest heavily in influencers which is driving consolidation in the market. Feelunique, a UK-based beauty e-commerce site, recently acquired French peer The Beautyst, which had 1,300 “influencers” and 600,000 followers signed up. The reason for this was that The Beautyst was the first site of its kind to integrate blogger-generated content in the purchasing path, including advice and tips on products that work. This user-generated social interaction has been central to driving the beauty ecosystem.

Direct digital contact proving popular

Trade magazine LSA (Libre Service Actualités) in May 2017 reported that “French people are more satisfied with their beauty purchases online than in supermarkets.” Similarly, a GFK study revealed that nearly one-third of women now buy more or as many beauty products online as they do in stores.

Increasingly, the physical and digital routes appear to be complementing one another, particularly as many new brands have used digital approaches to break through in an industry where competition is fierce.

Operating online allows new brands to avoid having to rollout large networks of stores. But there is a challenge to overcome in having a very specific audience: Omoye specializes in organic cosmetics using plants from Africa, while Baija in flower-based bath products and and Graine de Pastel in pastel products. Other brands target specific audiences such as women with a particular appearance or businesswomen.

Real and virtual in tandem

Another example of how fluidly the beauty ecosystem switches from real to virtual exists in famous name brands like L’Oréal and Clarins. These global players are now setting up direct online stores to complement their high street presence. Being able to interact with and sell to customers directly is attractive to L’Oréal, whose site has one billion unique visitors.

“The tip of the [digital] iceberg is the ramping-up of e-commerce, which was worth €60 million in 2010 and €1.3 billion in 2015. It is a priority channel for us. And it meets a very strong demand from consumers,” said Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal Chief Digital Officer.

In 2016, L’Oréal created its first physical store, bypassing traditional third-party routes thanks to the links forged between the brand and its customers online. This flagship, inspired by the Apple Stores, has a ‘look bar’ and is designed to target millennials. Digital technology is everywhere in the Paris store, with new versions of the brand’s apps like Make-up Genius, Nail Genius and others on show and master classes from expert make-up artist Karim Rahman live on social media.

Hyper-personalization

In 2017, Taiwanese startup Perfect Corp launched the app YouCam Makeup which uses face-mapping software to project different kinds of make-up onto selfies. “The success of this application, which was downloaded over 100 million times, shows the potential of connected beauty that is accessible to all budgets,” says Julien Romestant, economic intelligence director of Cosmetic Valley, which works to promote French SMEs and startups in the sector.

When it comes to apps and connected devices, the consumer beauty market is only just beginning. Key is not only integrating online beauty in this ecosystem, but also the personalization that digital transformation and the new customer experience have at its center. Individuals can now choose the products best suited to their personal characteristics as never before. Innovations vary, but good examples of digital “connected beauty” initiatives include Startup InsitU, for instance, which sells natural, customizable cosmetics online. Connected beauty mask Mapo, similar to a slumber mask, has sensors that analyze the exact level of hydration of the skin.

Samsung’s Lumini scientifically measures skin parameters via a camera that manages different light spectrums. This is directly linked to a dermatology adviser to help users select the best treatment for any problems detected. Another Samgung device, the S Skin analyzes your skin through a combination of cameras, photosensors, and conductivity sensors to measure factors like dryness and skin tone, then gives you advice on how to improve it. Another fun app is Nailbot by Preemadonna, grown out of the L’Oréal-Founders Factory incubator, which uses robots to painlessly prints patterns onto users’ nails – designs they can customize using a smartphone app.

What next for connected beauty?

Other disruptive technologies will gain footholds, such as augmented reality (AR), which can enable consumers to try out different looks and switch from one to another on their smartphone screens.

The “connected beauty” market, encompassing the fitness, well-being and lifestyle markets, is set to grow substantially between now and 2019, while connected beauty content online and on social media will continue to enable closer relationships between brands and young millennial women. Digital just got more beautiful.