Between 2020 and 2024, the global cosmetic skincare market size is projected to grow by $38.03 billion. Skincare and cosmetic use have been marketed to consumers as a necessity to their daily routines to the extent that they can be compared to the need for a cup of hot coffee in the morning. Marketers of the cosmetic industry have done a magnificent job ritualizing beauty through incredible strategies, attributing value to personal care and the artistry of colourful cosmetic products. Commonly seen are influencers featuring their skincare or makeup routines on YouTube through well-known channels such as Harper’s Bazaar. In addition to the growth and prominence of influencers to marketing beauty, the digital era we are currently in includes the rapid development of big data technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT), which have allowed beauty brands to develop tools that they never would have imagined to be possible in the past.
Beauty giants, such as L’Oréal, have adopted various technologies that can have a transformative effect on the success and growth of this industry. For example, La Roche-Posay, a L’Oréal brand, has been working on a personalized digital acne diagnosis tool, called Effaclar Spotscan, that is powered using artificial intelligence. This revolutionary tool exemplifies one of many ways that smart technologies are game changers in the context of hyper-personalization and customer experience within the beauty realm. Specifically, this article will communicate the way that hyper-personalization in the beauty industry has become amplified by the growth of technologies such as AR, AI, and ML. Furthermore, it will be explained how the future of the beauty industry will see a dramatic transformation with the introduction and development of smart mirrors.
Hyper-Personalization and CX
An article published in Forbes suggested that “80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalized experiences”. Prior to continuing, it is important to distinguish between personalization and hyper-personalization. Marketers use basic personalization tools to have tailored interactions with consumers such as incorporating their transactional information in communications. For example, using their names in direct emails. On the other hand, hyper-personalization is a one-to-one marketing tool that makes use of smart technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT to communicate individualized content in real-time with consumers, inferring key details about their wants and needs and making educated product/service recommendations accordingly. For instance, previously mentioned La Roche-Posay’s digital acne diagnosis tool will make individualized product recommendations to consumers based on analyses of their own faces. In the past, hyper-personalization was a strategy that marketers could employ to distinguish their brands from others. However, this is no longer the case. Instead, hyper-personalization is a requirement to the success of brands and their products. Consumers are unimpressed by mass marketing tools. Instead, they are becoming accustomed to experiences that incorporate hyper-personalization and are demanding that it is offered in increasingly innovative ways.
Hyper-personalization is essential to the success of the beauty industry in particular. The fact that all consumers are different, and have different skincare needs, has allowed the beauty industry to flourish. Because of this, brands have been able to expand, offering product lines that suit an endless list of consumer needs extending beyond clarifying acne treatments and serums that prevent or treat fine lines. Marketers specifically play an integral role in convincing consumers that they need a wide array of products to satisfy their skincare needs and wants.
Mini Case Study: Sephora
As a leading retailer in the beauty industry, Sephora stores are like the Land of Oz. Similar to Oz, Sephora’s have the potential to be filled with over-the-top magic and wonder as they offer consumers powerful products that can alter the way they look and feel. Yet, when Dorothy arrives in Oz, she experiences feelings of confusion and wonder. Shoppers entering a Sephora store may similarly experience these feelings as the wide array of products at their fingertips can be overwhelming. It is up to marketers to help consumers find what they do not know they want. Sephora has been selected for this case study since it is a brand that stands the test of time through constant innovation and enhanced customer experience.
Customers engage with beauty brands to help them solve, or address, problems with their skin that they are already experiencing or to act preventatively. Amazingly, with the power of big data and innovative technologies, brands such as Sephora and as previously mentioned, L’Oréal, have been able to develop tailored product recommendations for consumers leveraging the appeal of hyper-personalization.
Innovation is at the core of Sephora’s continuous success. The brand has introduced ground-breaking tools such as their Virtual Artist. The Virtual Artist “uses facial recognition technology to allow customers to try on products digitally”. In combination with Sephora’s Colour IQ tool, customers can match product colours to their specific skin tone in the form of foundations and more. Consumers can engage with all of these tools within the confines of the Sephora app, offering a seamless experience that is both convenient and highly personalized. For example, consumers can test a specific colour of lipstick or shade of foundation. That specific product will appear on screen and consumers can add it to their carts and make a purchase within moments. The introduction of their Virtual Artist has made the Sephora experience incredibly accessible to consumers as, if they choose, this experience can be had at home. Consumers are more motivated to make purchases when they try on products, engaging the notion of “try before you buy”, and with this tool they can confidently buy products knowing that they looked good on their virtual selves. Since mobile augmented reality is predicted to reach a $75 billion revenue by 2023, it makes sense that Sephora, and other beauty brands, would design a product that consumers can engage with directly on their smartphones.
In addition to their Virtual Artist, Sephora offers personalization through making custom recommendations to consumers based on products they have previously purchased. Although these tools have been revolutionary, the future will host even more opportunity for enhanced hyper-personalization and growth within the beauty industry. This is only the beginning of what is to come in terms of hyper-personalized experiences.
The Magic Mirror
The concept of the magic mirror, which used to be purely mystical, is coming to life in a more real way than consumers could have ever conceptualized. It can be suggested that the future of marketing within the beauty industry lies largely in the reflection of smart mirrors. Using AR technology brands such as Coty have introduced smart mirrors. In fact, the smart mirror market in retail is anticipated to experience significant future growth as it is anticipated to surpass $600.4 million in 2026. A revolutionary smart mirror, HiMirror, is an example of smart mirrors’ potential to dramatically transform the way that consumers interact not only with beauty brands but also with dermatologists. This mirror is considered “a high-tech mirror that’s basically a skincare expert”. This mirror can assess users’ skin spotting problem areas such as dark circles, enlarged pores, acne, and more. The mirror also offers product recommendations based on results and local weather conditions. Weather is considered since environmental conditions can have severe impacts on skin. For example, winter can enhance skin’s dryness requiring stronger moisturizers. Additionally, the product acts as a source of entertainment as it can play music and offer an environment for social calls. I have provided this mirror as example since it speaks to the potential for both consumers and marketers to enhance customer experience and hyper-personalization.
Although it may be inconceivable, as smart mirrors become increasingly knowledgeable, I could see them strongly enhancing the patient experience for dermatologists. To get an in-person appointment with a dermatologist, individuals first need to see their family physician to have them create a referral. Then, once a referral has been created, it can take months to schedule and receive an appointment with a dermatologist. Although I do believe that dermatologists will always be necessary, the introduction of smart mirrors can completely alter the patient journey, perhaps minimizing their need or quickening patient appointments.
Consider an ideological situation. You wake up and look in the mirror to see that you are struggling with severe acne. You have never experienced breakouts to this extent before and, for months, notice that your skin is struggling to clear up. Introducing the smart mirror into your routine could be a pivotal change. You can show your smart mirror the products you are currently using, and the mirror can analyze your face, in real-time, providing you real-time feedback regarding whether or not they are effective. For marketers, this presents an opportunity to make real-time, personalized recommendations of products that can more effectively target the acne that you are facing. The mirror can retain a log of your skin’s activities. For example, tracking how your skin is reacting to newly introduced products. Although you may still need to see a dermatologist, the mirror can try to provide you short term solutions to address the problems you are encountering. As time progresses, if you still feel you want your skin assessed by a dermatologist, these logs can be retrieved and presented during your appointment. Through doing this, it is likely that the dermatologist will be able to provide you with informed feedback based on the recorded activities you can present.
Accuracy of recommendations made by the mirror could be a potential concern. However, to address these concerns, it could be interesting to consider being able to send the data logs to a connected team of dermatologists who can provide accurate and real-time feedback regarding the recommendations being made by the mirror. By conceptualizing the mirror in this fashion, hyper-personalization becomes even more intensified, potentially humanizing this virtual experience.
Privacy is another potential concern. However, smart mirrors can be operated with consumer privacy in mind, modelling ethical procedures after established smart devices such as Amazon Alexa. Although consumer trust in companies has changed as they have become more aware of ethical discrepancies, they still engage with a plethora of products such as the Fitbit, which require consumers to share their data. The insight that can be derived from this knowledge is that consumers are willing to offer their data if it means that they can benefit from using the product.
The Next Phase of Makeup Artists
Expanding upon Sephora’s concept of the Virtual Artist, wouldn’t it be absolutely magnificent if we could recreate the makeup artist experience through the use of smart mirrors. The introduction of a smart mirror named Mirror, which was just recently acquired by Lululemon for $500 million, introduces a variety of revolutionary features that can be easily transferred to the cosmetic industry. For example, Mirror offers consumers the potential to select workouts from many fitness activity options where they can select from “one-on-one personal training sessions to weekly live classes”. In an article written about Mirror, published by Forbes, it was said that in these classes, there is the potential to offer “real-time feedback and personal shoutouts”. Wouldn’t it be incredible if these types of features could be applied to beauty mirrors?
I do not think it would be unimaginable to think that in the future, we will be able to look into a mirror and have a virtual makeup artist looking back, similar to Mirror’s personal trainers. Triumphing old school YouTube influencer tutorials, virtual makeup artists could have the potential to step-by-step train users on how to achieve certain makeup looks. They could provide real-time feedback based on users’ application skills. Although I am passionate about cosmetics, I am not incredibly skilled at makeup application. As someone who has looked at eyeshadow palates questioning how to beautifully blend the colours together, I would quickly become captivated by a mirror that could be in assistance. These virtual makeup artists could even suggest other products that consumers may want to incorporate into their routines to better their processes, offering a rich opportunity for marketers. For example, a virtual make-up artist explaining the benefit of an eyeshadow primer to the longevity of products. Consumers will be exhilarated by the potential of this on-demand commerce. According to the article in Forbes, Lululemon’s Mirror offers the brand a chance to practice its omnichannel muscle memory, and I strongly believe that cutting edge beauty brands could emulate this concept and do the same. Selling products through these platforms will be an incredibly powerful way to reach the future’s digitally savvy consumers.
Overall, the future of marketing within the beauty industry is strongly driven by consumers who crave hyper-personalization. Considering the dramatic advancements in technologies that surface daily, it will be mesmerizing to watch the industry evolve with marketing as a driving force towards growth and success. Although smart mirrors have been introduced to consumers, we have only scratched the surface. It is likely that we will see smart mirrors intensifying hyper-personalization keeping in mind innovations such as Lululemon’s Mirror. Looking forward, smart mirrors will dominate the beauty industry, growing in popularity and enchanting consumers in a way that will allow marketers to reach them like never before.
Account Manager |Bunzl Canada
Past Editor: Future of Marketing Magazine
Graduate: Schulich Master of Marketing Program