Buying makeup is a challenging experience at times.
There is no shortage of options: lots of colors, lots of presentations, lots of looks. And knowing what it will look like on a person isn’t easy, particularly in the era of COVID-19, when going into a store and trying on a free sample is unfeasible and largely undesirable. Who wants to use public makeup during a pandemic?
But that problem has been around longer than the pandemic, Perfect Corp. CEO Alice Chang told PYMNTS, as anyone who has ever tried to buy makeup online or in a store knows. Samples aren’t always available, which means consumers base their choices on promotional pictures in displays, which often show the products on a chosen model or celebrity. It’s not too helpful for the customer who is trying to figure out what a product will look on their own face, Chang noted. It’s a challenge that seemed like the perfect use case for augmented reality (AR) technology.
“AR is not a new technology — it has been in the market for over 20 years — but the essential or must-have application hadn’t yet emerged,” Chang said. “And so, we started with makeup and found that it’s the perfect scenario for AR technology. I believe beauty and wellness are the fundamental demands of every human being. And I think AR and [artificial intelligence (AI)] is the game-changer.”
The Touch-Free Future
Fundamentally, AR allows consumers a completely touch-free way to try on makeup and get a realistic idea of how a particular color or product will look on them, she said. That ability to buy with confidence makes the makeup shopping experience inherently more pleasant for the consumer, which often gives customers the comfort and confidence they need to buy more.
In addition, Chang said the digital try-on feature also enables the customer to have that same experience whether they’re online, on an app or in a store. They can try on as many products as they want until they find the ones that work best for them.
Moreover, the embrace of digital and AI means the merchants and brands bringing cosmetic products to the consumer now have a better, richer way to connect directly to those consumers and make product recommendations to them.
“We need to connect the beauty lovers and the beauty buyers with the brands. Previously, that was always done through the store. Now it is digital, and we can give the users more power to try before they buy, give feedback and interact directly with the brand on the products,” said Chang.
A Better Customer Portrait
When used in combination, AR and AI tech can begin to “know” customers and see them better than they might see themselves, Chang said. For example, the technology can simultaneously process skin shade, skin color, eye color, hair color, facial attributes, face shape and eye shape to better recommend what kind of product a customer might want or need.
“Everybody has different skin conditions, and the breadth of their knowledge is usually limited to a product or two,” Chang said. “With data, brands can recommend the best skincare routine and product lineup for their users. I think this is a win-win for the brand and for the customers.”
She said she believes that capability will continue to develop and deepen, even as the pandemic passes into the footnotes of history, if only for the fact that more people will go back to wearing full-face makeup again, while likely still remaining hesitant to use public makeup samples or have strangers at a store counter touching their faces, especially when there is a better, safer, proven way to do it with much lower contact.
AR, for the brands that have rolled it out, is that better, safer option because, as Chang said, buying makeup shouldn’t have to be an act of faith.