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How AI and AR are revolutionising the beauty industry

Sophie Smith
14 January 2022

The introduction of Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality technology to the beauty industry has modernised the capabilities of beauty brands and the experiences they can provide a consumer.

Augmented Reality (AR) is the modification of a real-life environment through digital features such as visual, audio or other sensory elements. Artificial Intelligence (AI) enhances this technology by offering a more in-depth and complex manipulation of an environment in this virtual space.

This technology is proving both popular and successful in the beauty industry because it can offer shoppers a personalised experience, which aims to make shopping much more targeted and easier for consumers.

Whether it’s through a skincare diagnostic selfie experience or a shade matching try-on, AI and AR provide a wide range of solutions to fit in with the needs of a beauty brand and its customers.

To provide these experiences, brands often work with technology companies specialising in AI and AR solutions.

With over 900 million downloads globally, Perfect Corp is a company dedicated to transforming how consumers, content creators and beauty brands interact together through AI and AR technologies.

Working with over 370 brands including Estée Lauder, No7, Barry M and MAC Cosmetics, Perfect Corp aims to use this technology to revolutionise beauty brands and the way they operate.

Alice Chang, CEO and Founder at Perfect Corp, explains: “Advanced technology such as AI and AR virtual try-on experiences are helping brands to create a seamless omnichannel strategy that provides customers with entertaining and personalised experiences that speak to the modern-day consumer.

“The implementation of this advanced technology also allows customers to spend more time connecting with a brand, either in-store or on the brand's website, through interactive virtual experiences that allow customers to try-on more products than ever before and in turn have more positive, personalised shopping experiences that drive impactful results.”

Perfect Corp

Like Perfect Corp, Revieve is another technology company delivering hyper-personalised beauty experiences for global brands and retailers, powered by AI and AR.

Launching platforms including an AI Skincare Advisor, AI Makeup Advisor and AI Suncare Advisor, Revieve offers a wide range of AI beauty solutions to brands around the world.

Sampo Parkkinen, CEO and Founder of Revieve, says: “AI-powered platforms provide engaging experiences and actual value in helping consumers find what they are looking for, providing education and guiding them throughout the shopping journey.

“The whole industry started with makeup apps with endless filters that would make people look less like their authentic selves. As a company, we've always been far from that. Our focus is on the user and providing actual value, not distorting beauty standards, because those should be personal to each individual.”

Both Perfect Corp and Revieve place personalisation at the heart of these virtual experiences.

Revieve AI Makeup Advisor

In the beauty industry, Estée Lauder has utilised AI and AR technology to launch personalised virtual try-on makeup solutions.  Powered by Perfect Corp, the beauty brand uses this technology to offer customers an AI driven, AR experience of trying on its makeup products in-store or online.

Data from Perfect Corp has now shown that Estée Lauder saw a 2.5 times higher conversion rate using its Lip Virtual Try-on and found that its iMatch Virtual Shade Expert increased the brand’s customer loyalty.

Similarly, e.l.f Cosmetics gained a 200% higher conversion rate from online consumers using its virtual try-on technology.

Estee Lauder

In November 2021, No7 introduced its new shade matching AI and AR experience. Working with Perfect Corp, the system helps to provide customers with a personalised range and shade match.

The experience launches with an algorithm-based questionnaire that diagnoses customer’s personal skin needs, foundation preferences and lifestyle concerns that could impact skin to provide a No7 foundation range match.

The AI Foundation Shade Finder then analyses skin tone in real-time against ten million samples across nearly 90,000 diverse skin tones, to provide customers with their No7 foundation shade.

Once customers are matched with their best foundation range and shade, they can instantly virtually try-on their match and experiment with shade options.

Kiran Sandhu, Global Skincare Innovation Manager at No7, explains: “Delivering truly personalised experiences is a key strategic focus area for the No7 brand. We recognise a growing demand for personalised, high-level online experiences and a need to serve our customers in any channel they prefer to shop.

“The expedited shift to digital beauty behaviours due to the global pandemic continues to prevail and so it’s imperative we offer our consumers the same high-level personalised experiences and service online as is offered in stores.

“Our ambition is to be recognised for hyper-personalised omnichannel experiences that are underpinned by our scientific credibility and skin expertise and enable every customer to shop how they want to.”

No7

So, this technology is becoming increasingly popular in the beauty industry. Why is this?

Simply put, it’s the consumer. These digital experiences are now becoming a standard that today’s shoppers are expecting and that brands need to keep up with.

Gen Z is a large driving force in this. Compared to Millennials and Baby Boomers, Gen Z is much more willing to use personalised digital brand experiences to understand their skin health and virtually try-on beauty products before purchase, according to data from Revieve.

Gen Z alone drives almost as many purchase actions in personalised skincare experiences as the other generations combined, with 68.3% of Gen Z in Europe keen to get personalised recommendations.

Cultural happenings have also had a big impact on the use of AI and AR technology by beauty brands.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for brands adopting these digital experiences.

Store closures due to COVID-19 meant that shoppers were unable to browse and purchase beauty items in physical stores. Ecommerce took priority and has encouraged brands to provide consumers with an easy way to have a personalised shopping experience online.

Better hygiene is another massive advantage of AI and AR experiences. While some brands removed their makeup testers during the pandemic, COVID-19 has definitely made us realise how unsanitary in-store makeup testers can be. Especially since makeup testers tend to be applied near the eye and mouth areas.

Commenting on this, Perfect Corp's Chang says: “By leaning into innovative beauty tech solutions, brands can rethink experiential shopping for the post-pandemic world through contactless, virtual try-ons that rival physical ones. Adopting AI-powered virtual try-on tools helped bring the in-store try-on experience online in an impactful, engaging and safe way to meet evolving customer expectations.”

In-store makeup testers

Another benefit of Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality is how it can offer a much more sustainable alternative to traditional product testers.

In-store testers result in a lot of product and package wastage. Creating the try-on experience online eliminates this issue. As this technology becomes more complex over time, it begs the question of whether the future of product testers will be solely digital.

Another way the personalisation of AI and AR technology helps to tackle wastage is through providing high-quality recommendations and try-on services that can improve a customers' accuracy when purchasing products. Consumers want to purchase items that they won't have to throw away because they know they are suited to them.

Discussing this, Revieve's Parkkinen says: " AI-powered personalisation can impact product return rates and consumer confidence in online and offline shopping. First-party data can bolster a brand or retailers' competitive advantage in the market because it is data unique to a company from its users. However, to gather first-party data transparently, brands and retailers must offer value in exchange for customers' data. That's why AI-powered personalisation is a must."

Perfect Corp's Chang adds: "AI beauty plays a significant role in supporting a brand and its sustainability initiatives. The traditionally wasteful consumer sampling practice can be replaced by a safe, convenient and effective virtual try-on experience that limits waste and delivers a satisfying consumer shopping experience.”

"Sustainability is quickly becoming a prime focus for brands and our AI and AR beauty tech solutions are helping brands reduce waste through virtual try-ons, limiting overconsumption through tailored beauty experiences and product recommendations. By thinking outside the box and using beauty tech to reimagine the consumer shopping journey, brands are finding new ways to connect with their consumers while also reducing their carbon footprint."

While the need for digital beauty has increased during the pandemic, it seems the role of AI and AR in the beauty industry is here to stay. With more and more brands getting involved, will these new digital beauty experiences champion over traditional ones? Well, we will just have to wait and see. 

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