As someone who once planned to build a career focused on lotions, potions and color, then discovered her career in technology, I find myself particularly intrigued when the cosmetic world incorporates tech into their customer experience – especially when it’s in the form of augmented reality.
For those who aren’t very familiar with the cosmetic space, it can be overwhelming and expensive. Finding colors that work for you, and applying them in a fashion that doesn’t leave you looking like a clown, can be a daunting task. The behind-the-counter consultants made up like peacocks can be frightful or, at the very least, intimidating. A typical cosmetic buying experience often involves standing in front of a make-up display picking up product testers, swiping them across the back of your hand to try finding the perfect shade (despite the back of your hand not being the same color and texture as the skin on your face), and taking a leap of faith that they will look good when you get them home. Likewise, for those who decide they need a little more guidance, consultants at make-up counters are more than happy to provide complimentary make-overs with the hope that you’ll buy everything they use. Following a consultation, consultants generally mark-up a universal face chart on paper with the colors and products they used, as well as how and where to apply them. This is intended to help you recreate the same look at home. The face on the face chart never looks like your face and instead looks like a work of art rather than an instructional guide on how to apply the mound of products you purchased.
Two major retailers have recently introduced technology to help tackle these problems, while also trying to drive sales and store traffic. Sephora introduced their Virtual Artist app powered by ModiFace earlier this year as part of their existing iOS and Android mobile applications. Visual Artist allows customers to use the camera on their smartphones to try colors and looks on their own face, or watch custom tutorials virtually without ever setting foot in the store. The app then has the capability to view, select and buy products and even shows the potential Beauty Insider (Sephora loyalty program) points members will earn based on the products in their shopping cart. ModiFace estimates the integration of this enhanced customer experience technology will increase sales by 30%. Additionally, the app’s integration with the Beauty Insider program has provided Sephora with data and permission to contact members when they might be running low on product. In fact, Sephora claims that 40% of their sales are now from replenishment.
Texas-based luxury department store, Neiman Marcus, also decided to integrate technology to drive more traffic into their brick and mortar stores – showing their innovative side and enhancing their customer experience. The Neiman Marcus Magic Mirror created by MemoMi, released late last year, has rolled out at a number of Le Metier de Beaute counters at select stores across the country. Unlike the Sephora Virtual Artist application, the Neiman Marcus Magic Mirror is designed to create a personal in-store experience where the customer’s make-up application and tutorial is recorded and sent by text to the customer who can share it via social media. The Magic Mirror creates the perfect opportunity to “get customers in the chair” (and in the store – something brick and mortar retailers are finding increasingly challenging with the huge uptake in online shopping), which is the theory that once you get a customer in the make-up chair and apply product, they’ll buy everything. Neiman Marcus hopes this will address the problem noted above (regarding how to use and get value out of products at home) and give shoppers a reason to come into Neiman Marcus stores. Neiman Marcus has not yet integrated the experience into their InCircle loyalty program but doing so could leverage opportunities for personalized recognition, targeted purchase incentives, follow up on satisfaction after the experience, and re-stocking reminders.
Whether you’re a consumer who likes to get the pampered royal treatment, having someone paint and polish your face, or if you’re a trendy technology gadget buff, both companies are really onto something. Using augmented reality to sell typically tactile products offers a way to promote brand awareness and innovation, enhance customer experience, encourage engagement instore and digitally, drive sales, and capture relevant data to generate an ongoing dialog and relationship with shoppers. Seems like a winning combination.
Looking for an integrated innovation for your brand and its loyalty program? Look no further. Kobie consultants, like myself, are ready to offer strategic advice and connect you with the technology team to bring your ideas to life. Contact us for a free consultation today.