This is a copy of the guest article published at Beauty Business Journal:
During 2018 beautytech slowly and steadily established itself as a term widely used across various beauty-related hardware and software innovations. 2019 has also started with a bang with CES revealing new beautytech innovations and NRF showcasing the latest retail innovations for the upcoming year. But what did we learn from 2018 and what’s really ahead for 2019?
We saw plenty of beauty gadgets popping up during 2018 and now CES 2019 has showcased some upcoming innovations in this field too. Could this is be the year for beauty gadgets? And will these gadgets change how consumer buy products and use cosmetics?
Neutrogena is offering skin scanners that you can attach to your phone camera, P&G is building wands that can treat your pigment spots, L’Oreal is offering wearable skin censors that track your skin pH levels etc. But are these all just gimmicks or actually something that masses of people will adopt?
There is certainly an audience for these beauty gadgets but, even with all the buzz and PR, it’s as well to remember that the majority of “traditional” customers are generally not interested in paying $50 extra for devices nor do they have the time in today’s hectic lifestyle to pay attention to their skin this closely. These solutions are great innovations and, probably, some of them will find their way to being commercial success stories. However, the cruel fact is that many beauty gadgets are, and will remain, niche products within the market. So, how well all these new gadgets will do remains to be seen; but the buzz and PR makes the brand marketing people smile at least!
A key factor is that we shop more and more online and although, according to some statistics, the figure for beauty products is still less than 10% – this figure is increasing. What is pretty striking is that not many brands or retailers offer much more than the traditional product catalog experience online – not really the personalization that we get by walking into a physical store.
When it comes to taking e-commerce shopping experience to the next level, a big challenge for many retailers and brands is, obviously, resources. There is a lot of focus on performance, SEO, updating platforms, offering new payment methods etc. which take a lot of time – leaving more advanced options – such as customer experience/personalization improvements around skin analysis, AR or AI pushed out for development at some time in the future.
Of course, these more general improvements are essential in improving sales and customer satisfaction. But today’s consumer is becoming more and more demanding and simply offering a sleek and well performing web shop won’t be enough to hold consumer interest for long.
My (yes, maybe slightly biased) prediction is that within the next five years consumers will prefer shopping online with retailers and brands that offer skin analysis, virtual try-on and/or AI-driven product recommendations and that offer personalised services online.
During 2018 one of the few good news stories in the general declining retail scene has been an increase in beauty retail. More and more traditional fashion retailers like H&M and Zalando have expanded their beauty sales while departments stores like Macy’s are becoming more experimental in the beauty customer experiences, even challenging the traditional brand-centric approach with multi-brand beautytech solutions.
Furthermore, it is interesting to see that some retailers, like Sephora, have been adopting new innovative beautytech in a scalable way much faster than most brands. It is most likely that other brands will catch up but many organizations struggle with becoming more digital rather than purely product-lead companies.
AR (virtual try-on makeup) has become more commonplace in the market and during 2019 consumers will expect brands and retailers to provide the opportunity to try the products virtually before buying. So, what more will your digital beauty advisor offer in 2019?
Consumers accustomed to shopping with a traditional beauty consultant in-store, expect individual recommendations that match their unique characteristics. These recommendations can come in many forms, whether it is product recommendations, tutorials or other content. In the future, we can expect to see much more personalisation done online.
I personally dislike the term ‘personalisation’ as it is currently being used in a really general sense to mean “others bought this so you should too”. Fortunately a new term – “individualisation” is finding its way into the industry vocabulary. Customers expect to be treated as individuals when it comes to recommending beauty products, related content or even AR (virtual try-on) -experiences. You most likely do not wear the same make-up products as your neighbour nor do you apply them in a same manner.
More advanced beautytech solutions like face-and-skin analysis combined with personal data, will mean that online recommendations will become more and more relevant and individualized just specially for you.
2018 has seen a lot of experimentation in beautytech and 2019 looks promising. We are still taking baby steps in leveraging technology to provide delightful experiences for our customers but among us vendors the market seems to be booming now more than ever.
A major hurdle for most brands and retailers in 2019 will be scaling-up these solutions. Too many pilot-products/initial solutions have been built with just one-use case or channel in mind and scaling the solutions across channels and regions will be a huge headache for many. This is the reality with many upcoming areas of technology. However, thinking long-term will be the key to overcoming these problems.
With these words, I’m wishing everyone working within beautytech all the best for 2019 for and looking forward to connecting with all the bright minds of the industry!
Miikka Mäkiö is a VP of Strategic Partnerships at Revieve, one of the leading beautytech companies offering advanced skin analysis, AR and AI -based white label solutions for brands & retailers – helping them to bring the beauty consultant to the consumer through digital technology. You can connect with Miikka at –https://www.linkedin.com/in/miikkamakio/