The Tech Revolution in the Beauty Industry

The beauty industry covers a wide range of submarkets – skincare, spas, fragrance, haircare, cosmetics, and makeup. For over two decades, the beauty industry has noted a drastic change in the way things run and how users get the products they want.

As technology evolves, beauty brands carry the burden of developing and fitting in products that are very tangible yet psychological to users. They adjust to users” personal preferences as commodities become more customized, and they move with tech trends to stay relevant.
You could wonder, how can the beauty industry use tech to their advantage? Beauty products are physical, sold in retail stores, and people physically apply them to their bodies. As the world leaped into new technological grounds, the beauty industry adapted gracefully. From eCommerce to AI, outstanding innovations and entrepreneurship have swept across this industry during the last couple of decades. In this article, we would look at what in that period revolutionized the beauty industry.

1

Social media

We can’t talk about the revolution of the beauty industry without talking about social media. The penetration of social media into the daily lives of people is one of the major catalysts to the online boom of beauty products and lifestyle.
Social media brought the “influencer” and “following” culture, paving the way for a new form of brand marketing and beauty entrepreneurs. Social media platforms like Instagram helped brands cultivate a strong visual online presence to promote their products. The rise of influencers, who have turned into full-fledged entrepreneurs, has changed the way users engage with brands and discover new products. With YouTube, influencers showed consumers how to apply makeup, use each product, and recommend the best ones.
Some brands focus solely on online marketing, brand ambassadorship, and influencer power, shunning traditional marketing to push products that sell in hours. One such internetpreneur is one of the world’s most famous influencers and former youngest billionaire, Kylie Jenner. By focusing on her online power, Kylie Jenner created an extensively successful lipstick brand named after her – Kylie Cosmetics. A brand she built into a billion-dollar business and which earned her “the youngest billionaire” status.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are tapping into the consumer culture trajectory, making influencers’ provisions to get consumers to their page and sell to them immediately. Instagram came up with the addition of Instagram Shopping, an option that provides a storefront for consumers to explore ‘best’ and ‘featured’ products. The option also allows consumers to make purchases directly from the Instagram platform. This opportunity means that everyone, including visual artists of all kinds, can quickly turn all their photos into product images.
Another interesting approach is the Pinterest’s Shoppable Pin, an option that lets consumers find a product pin and then tap it to visit the retailer"s website.
Social media platforms allow consumers to do reviews and add comments. Talking about their personal experiences on a particular feature or product provides an easy source of feedback for brands that need to connect to their consumers. Users could also rate a product, which is exceptionally important since most potential buyers actively seek it before making a significant and long-term investment in a purchase.

2

E-Commerce

COVID pandemic and lockdown issues immensely affected the beauty industry since the world couldn’t focus on beauty while people are more concerned with survival matters. But somehow, the industry pulled through and still clocks good revenue.
One of the beauty industry"s biggest strengths is using strong visuals to create digital experiences for users. Leveraging on this and great UX (user experience), they create smooth digital experiences for users by making products available on online stores.
These online stores showcase as many products as possible for consumers to choose from. Customers can compare, analyze, and pay for the product right on the spot. Filters allow users to compare products based on price, ingredients, core technology, delivery time, and brand.
Detailed product descriptions allow users to read in-depth about a brand product and transparent customer reviews could be the push a consumer needs to lock on a product. With e-commerce, consumers have all the information they need to buy a product from the comfort of their homes.
Ecommerce platforms like Alibaba are tapping into the beauty industry by collaborating with big brands to create digital apps inclined towards beauty and skincare. In 2019, the collaboration between L’Oreal China and Alibaba led to the launch of the first AI mobile-based application for acne diagnosis. They also created Midnight Cream, the first consumer-to-business reverse innovation product. 

3

Augmented Reality (AR)

Consumers are usually unsure about which products to try. They might also be worried if a particular product fits their skin tone and how it will look on them. Augmented reality is mostly seen as a technology for gamers, but beauty brands have incorporated this technology into mobile apps and e-commerce.
This technology allows users to see how products would look like on them. There is an entire collection of clothes, jewelry, eyewear, and makeup that users can try on without even leaving the screen.
Applications like Cosmia Makeup, developed by Skywell Software and Modiface owned by L’Oreal, Sephora Virtual Artists, are popular apps that use AR. They are a perfect blend of AI, and virtual assistance, tailored to meet users’ preferred tastes. They work in real-time, taking accurate face measurements so cosmetics can fit in the right spots.
AR isn’t just a cool technology. Driven by current digital styles, it works well with e-commerce and online engagement. It is an excellent way for brands to engage their users, letting them try out products before purchase. It boosts the buyers’ confidence to make purchases and reduces the possibility they experience remorse.

4

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

One of the issues consumers of beauty products have is finding the right fit. Skin tone, color, texture, age, and type are crucial factors when selecting the perfect match. Some brands like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty have capitalized on the lack of skin color diversity inclusion to create and sell products with shades for all skin colors.
AI technology in the beauty industry has opened doors to more consumer personalization. This technology promises to find the ‘exact match’ to users. AI-powered beauty apps scan the skin and recommend the perfect beauty formula using powerful algorithms. Skincare routine, makeup combination, and other beauty routines can be set for particular consumers, using information from the person’s image.
Modiface Skin AI, an app owned by Modiface, detects skin changes such as dryness, dark spots, and discoloration.
L’Oreal and Alibaba’s Effaclar Spotscan is an AI-powered app that scans the face for acne. The application uses thousands of images of people with different skin types and acne issues. Thanks to the extensive database, the AI can effectively narrow down to the exact problem a person is experiencing. They also provide professional advice from an expert dermatologist on how best to treat that type of acne.
AI personalization isn’t just limited to skincare. There are smart mirrors like HiMirror, a skin detector, and a skin tracking mirror. A perfect blend of AR and AI stimulates up to five different lighting scenarios for various settings – office, mall, party, etc. These settings allow you to apply the right makeup for each occasion. You could also use AR to stimulate what your makeup would look like before you apply it.
Tmall Genie Queen is also an AI-powered mirror from Alibaba that auto-adjusts it’s lighting, recreating different makeup application modes. These smart mirrors also have a 3D effect, allowing you to see your makeup from different angles or a 360 rotation.
Haircare is not falling behind when it comes to AI tech. Choicify is an app from Henkel Beauty Care in Germany that allows users to choose the right hair color. The app is personalized to each consumer and provides the right solutions for hair affairs, recommending suitable products and customizations.

5

Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants for beauty brands can come in different forms, but notable are voice assistants who help users find the perfect product. They could also work through an entire makeup or skin routine with consumers, acting as guides.
Virtual assistants are AI-powered, allowing them to store personalized information about a user and using that information when needed. Because of their wide range of expert knowledge, they are quick resources for users who have challenges or need some questions answered immediately. They are a perfect way for brands to provide instant, around-the-clock customer solutions for their users.
Coty, a global beauty brand, worked with Google Assistant to launch a Clairol Color Expert. Clairol Color Expert is a hands-free, voice-activated guide at home for the hair color process. It helps users find the right hair shade product and care. Like all voice assistants, it activates when just saying ‘Hey Google, talk to Clairol.’
By creating this technology, Coty has provided a resource for consumers on all google enabled devices, speakers, and smartphones, thereby widening the reach of technology and innovation in the beauty industry.

Conclusion

The beauty industry has catered to the needs of women for a very long time. They will also be catering to the needs of people for a long time to come. We must note that big beauty brands are not interested in diving into tech; neither do they see themselves as tech companies. But an industry or brand that is to stay relevant must work with current trends and technology, and the beauty industry is no different.
By incorporating technologies into the beauty lifestyle, the beauty industry gradually reshapes the way we see cosmetics, fashion, and style. They are also providing seamless, unique experiences so every man or woman can have access to the right products, at the right time, and in comfort.
Analysts have proposed that future trends in beauty products could include robots for makeup and skincare.

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Author

David Dorr, Head of eCommerce

David is the Head of e-Commerce at CodeCoda where he is responsible to lead several teams of eCommerce specialists. In his previous role as a data scientist for London Metropolitan Police, he was developing deep learning NLP algorithms as part of the Crime Prediction initiative. He then switched over to combine AI with e-Commerce.
He received a B.Sc in Physics from the University of Surrey, Guildford in 1996. With this scientific background, he switched relatively early in his life towards Neural Networks and e-Commerce and has ever since been fascinated with what AI and Machine Learning can do for Online Commerce.