A surge in new technology is transforming the personal care industry, allowing brands to stand out in a crowded marketplace with unique products that fulfil the changing needs of the consumer.
Although beauty tech has been around for decades, it is only in recent years that the sector has seen staggering market growth, with predictions suggesting it will surpass $34 billion by 2024. Consequently, big beauty brands have increased investment and are adopting technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), to deliver a high-quality, personalised experience.
Our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on technology, and skincare is just one of our routines that has been notably impacted by digitisation. The driver here has been AI, with a number of apps and devices now able to assess an individual’s skin, provide customised beauty treatments and recommend products.
A prime example of this is Olay’s Skin Advisor that utilises questionnaires and selfies submitted by users. Swedish beauty company FOREO has also built on this approach with its LUNA fofo, a facial massage and cleansing device that contains sensors which analyse the user’s skin to generate a skincare routine unique to the individual.
Other ways technology allows brands to connect with consumers is via AR. It is enabling customers to experiment virtually with a range of cosmetics, thus enhancing their shopping experience and facilitating purchasing decisions. ModiFace was one of the key pioneers of this movement, with several beauty apps which have been adopted by the likes of Sephora and Estée Lauder.
Among the brands working with ModiFace is L’Oréal for its Style My Hair mobile app, allowing users to ‘try on’ different cuts, styles and colours. The world-leading beauty brand saw the potential in this patented technology leading to its acquisition of ModiFace in 2018. Elsewhere, Benefit Cosmetics is ‘actively exploring’ new digital initiatives to reach consumers in new ways, following a significant surge of its Brow Try-On experience – which saw a 43% increase between April and May when many consumers were encouraged to stay at home.
Personalised beauty products & cosmetics
Technology is also driving personalisation in the beauty industry. According to Forrester, 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended or paid more for a brand that provides a personalised service or experience. This explosive growth has been fuelled by the development of innovative technologies such as AI, AR, DNA analysis and 3D-printing.
An example is the growing popularity of DNA-based skincare which in 2018 had a valued market size of $7.4 billion. Products, such as EpigenCare’s SKINTELLI, are allowing consumers to test the current quality of their skin before generating a personalised skincare routine based on genetic activity. This ‘hyper-personalised’ approach is particularly appealing to consumers as it helps reduce trial-and-error purchasing.
Further customisation is also being achieved through the use of 3D printing technology. Procter & Gamble’s brand Opté launched its Precision Skincare System that uses blue light to scan and detect the colour and pigmentation of the skin. It uses a facial-recognition algorithm to detect the colour and pigmentation of a user’s skin and spot blemishes before precisely applying tiny jets of the exact right colour make-up to those blemishes.
This technology is constantly evolving and brands are utilising it in new ways to offer customers a truly innovative product with a personalised experience. The world’s first 3D make-up printer is set to be released in Autumn 2020. The Mink printer (a portmanteau for “make-up” and “ink”) transforms any image into wearable make-up via its smartphone app, which is printed on a ready to use ‘make-up sheet’ in just 15 seconds.
Another way to enhance customer experience using technology is through smart mirrors, which use AI and AR to adjust an individual’s image. The technology enables consumers to virtually try different make-up looks, hairstyles and accessories, and removes the time-consuming task of removing and adding different make-up products.
Coty has executed this technology perfectly with its Wella Professionals Smart Mirror, which it unveiled at CES 2019 and was recognised as an Innovation Awards Honoree at the event. The mirror was created in partnership with CareOS and offers a live AR hair colour try on, a 360° video capture of the hair at every angle, and uses facial recognition technology to retrieve previous styles ‘tried on’ by the user.
While technology is breaking down barriers and enabling the development of bespoke product formulations for consumers, it is also facilitating a growing examination of beauty brands and the ingredients used in their products.
Almost three-quarters (72%) of consumers want brands to explain what an ingredient does and 42% believe they do not get enough information on ingredient safety, while more than 60% want brands to identify the sources for ingredients used. Responding to the growing need for transparency, online beauty retailer Feelunique has partnered with EVRELAB to launch Europe’s first transparency technology platform in skincare and cosmetics ingredients. It aims to make complex personal care ingredient information more accessible, so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions, based on health, lifestyle or ethical concerns, at the point of sale, in-store or online.
In addition, a range of apps are now available to help consumers decode the terminology used by beauty brands and to understand the toxicity (or lack thereof) of commonly-used ingredients. For example, Think Dirty® offers an easy way to learn about ingredients used in beauty, personal care and household products. Users can scan a product barcode and receive information on the product, its ingredients and alternative cleaner options. Similar approaches can be found in the GoodGuide app and website, CosmEthics App and EWG’s Skin Deep database.
How data is driving new opportunities
While the use of technology is expanding product opportunities for consumers, it is also empowering brands in multiple ways. It gives them access to information about what consumers want, allowing cosmetic suppliers to tap into consumer trends and demand. For example, Charlotte Tilbury’s US expansion was based on e-commerce data that revealed a large demand for its products over the Atlantic.
The personal care industry was quick to realise the potential of gathering large scale data and analytics to drive the creation of innovative products. For example, L’Oréal paired up with cloud data integration and data integrity company Talend to power its R&D department’s data lake.
The partnership has enabled L’Oréal to connect all its databases and incorporate intelligent algorithms directly into data integration flows. This provides the company access to high-quality, consolidated data to analyse, helping it innovate and create new products that are safe, efficient, effective, and most importantly, in demand.
Technology and the future of personal care
The cosmetics and personal care industry continues to turn to technology, as brands look to deliver a hyper-personalised experience for consumers. While the future of beauty tech is difficult to predict, the shift in digital beauty behaviours has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And, with notable increases in the collaboration between beauty brand and technology companies, the growing use of AI, AR, 3D printing data will continue to transform the consumer experience, creating new opportunities for greater personalisation and tailor-made formulations.
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