How L’Oréal's customer experience tech transformed its brand
Research by the beauty products giant shows that in-store experiences have a bigger influence on customer journeys than any media - so it has updated them with state-of-the-art tech
L’Oréal has been outlining an ambitious digital transformation that has seen the beauty brand invest in several consumer-facing technologies including a smartphone and website app that allows people to test hair colours, nail polish and foundation against their virtual-self before buying.
Speaking at Future of Brands in Sydney last week, Lyndall Campher, media director, L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand, declared: “We are not just a beauty company but now a beauty, health and technology company. We have digitally transformed, and achieved that through technology.”
Faced with potential disruption from start-up beauty brands, including those promoted by YouTube bloggers, L’Oréal focused on the consumer and made serious investments in global and local research about customer touchpoints. This included a look at the media channels that most influenced the customer journey and ultimately purchase decisions.
Campher expected the research to show that it was “the usual suspects” like television, Facebook and YouTube that had the biggest influence on consumer choices.
In fact, it was the in-store experience including displays, beauty advisers and product testers. “This is the most important part of the customer journey,” she concluded.
Knowing that women are reticent to switch hair colours and make-up shades they know work for them, L’Oréal acquired a Canadian company called ModiFace in March 2018 to draw upon its expertise in beauty-related augmented reality and AI.
These core skills have been applied to facial feature and colour tracking for virtual product testing. Via a smartphone app, you can use the phone camera to show what you look like in different make-up products, in real-time.
“ModiFace makes it easier to decide which product to buy. It will show you foundations that match your skin tone,” Campher pointed out.
“This ‘try before you buy’ technology empowers consumers; the technology gives them confidence. Retailers are getting really excited by what it can do.”
L’Oréal is currently rolling out a point-of-sale ModiFace ‘mirror’ in flagship ‘My Chemist’ stores in Australia and the technology has been installed into a hairdressing salon chain in the U.S.
“You can tell the hairdresser the shade of hair you want,” Campher confirmed.
There is also a big online push for the ‘try before you buy’ concept. L’Oréal has set itself the goal of “democratising beauty” by 2021 and in practice this means reaching one billion new consumers globally (and a million new customers in Australia and New Zealand). This will be achieved by ramping up e-commerce and tapping into the growing global shopper market.
ModiFace is already embedded into the L’Oréal Paris website in Australia with a ‘try it on’ button and can also be found within Vogue in South America. Next up is Facebook: the try-it application is being embedded into news feeds and accompanied by a click-to-buy option, Campher revealed.
Justifying the claim that it is now more than a beauty products company, L’Oréal has also developed a pH sensor solution (launched at CES in January, and called ‘My Skin Track pH by La Roche-Posay’) that can check the pH balance of your skin. If compromised, skin pH balances can trigger inflammation that causes or worsens common skin conditions like dryness, eczema and atopic dermatitis.
‘My Skin Track pH’ comprises a wearable sensor and a companion smartphone app that uses algorithms to provide a personalised skin care regime. The product received a CES 2019 Innovation Award.
Guive Balooch, global vice president of the L'Oréal Technology Incubator, an arm of L'Oréal's Research & Innovation Division, said in January that the advanced technology will empower consumers with meaningful information about their skin.
“We know that health is the future of beauty and we are committed to leveraging technology to bring powerful insights and solutions to our consumers."
L’Oréal has also been developing wearable sensors that can be attached to sunglasses or a shoulder bag and which will monitor UV exposure, pollen count and pollution levels. A connected smartphone app will calculate your sun exposure, for example, and tell you if you need to apply more sunscreen.
L’Oréal owns 43 brands globally (26 off which are present in Australia), catering for a wide spectrum from mass-market (e.g. Maybelline and Garnier) to luxury (like Yves Saint Laurent) to specialised (e.g. SkinCeuticals). Supermarkets and pharmacy chains account for much of the bricks-and-mortar sales for the mass-market lines.
Campher confirmed that the digital brand transformation is being driven from the top down at L’Oréal, with full CEO support, turbo-charged by the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer. It coincides with efforts to reduce time-to-market for launch products, with the aim of cutting at least six months off the typical two-year cycle.
“ModiFace has given us the ability to bring beauty and technology together and helps make the experience, and the decision about which product to buy, easier,” Campher told Future of Brands Sydney. She said the new digital tech solutions will help improve the bottom line at L’Oréal.
“They will help us to transform today and into the future, and will make us a better company.”
John Moulding is the editor-in-chief of Videonet