The pandemic may have reduced our need for cosmetics, but as we adjust to our new normal, we’ll need foundation and eyeliner again. Finally, it’s important to perform at your best on Zoom calls to get back to feeling normal. Also, some people find it just right to apply lipstick under their face mask.
But when it comes to beauty products and cosmetics, choosing among millions of online products without trying and getting help can be difficult, to say the least. That’s where technology can help, and inevitably it did. Virtual try-on and product catalogs made just for you are provided by many major beauty and cosmetics companies and have been well received. These innovations in the world of cosmetics are being driven by new technologies such as AI and AR.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days, and for good reason. AI and related technologies (machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc.) are permeating the world around us more than we realize.
Even if you’re not familiar with these technologies, you’ve probably encountered them before. AI is everywhere, in the design of the advertisements we see, the videos we watch every day, and even behind the clothes we wear. Although this technology entered the beauty and cosmetics industry late, it will surely bring about a revolution.
How COVID-19 Affected the Cosmetic Industry
Despite the growing popularity of online shopping in the beauty and cosmetics industry, online shopping has always remained a secondary and inferior alternative.
Selling beauty products and cosmetics relies heavily on in-store experience. That means experimenting with different shades before finding the right shade of foundation, lipstick, and eyeshadow that works best for you.
I needed the support of a trusted and experienced business professional. They need to observe your skin and use all their wits to suggest the best toner or cream for you that will actually reduce your acne problem rather than make it worse.
Note that “you” is the most important here. What was right for one was not right for the other. With millions of variations and combinations of skin tones, textures, types and preferences, choosing the right product for each individual has required meticulous attention to detail.
The beauty industry struggled when the pandemic hit and e-commerce surged for months, with customers shifting primarily to online shopping. The total revenue of the beauty industry in 2020 is estimated at $483.338 billion compared with 2019, which was $504.501 billion.
Even after brick-and-mortar stores reopened, customers couldn’t try the products due to COVID-19 guidelines. It was no longer a reality that everyone could always have the same lipstick, and not every store could offer individual free samples to customers, but it was still possible to try gloves and face masks. It was unwise to remove the mask. something is coming
Rapid progress was made, often because there was an urgent need. Craving a way to emulate the in-store experience, brands turned to artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
The beauty and cosmetics industry has been experimenting with AI for some time. However, it was only after the pandemic that such technology began to be widely developed and adopted.
Applications of AI in the Cosmetic Industry
So how exactly are artificial intelligence and related technologies integrated into the beauty and cosmetic industry? Here are a few of the major applications –
- Virtual Product Trials
A lot of people may not have heard of Augmented Reality, even while using it every day. The Snapchat and Instagram filters you use are all powered by AR. With it, virtual images can be laid over actual images in real-time.
AR-powered ‘virtual mirrors’ lets you try on cosmetic products in real-time. These solutions have been around for a while. One of the first to put this technology to use was Perfect Corp, which has been offering beauty SaaS solutions since 2014.
On the consumer side, their mobile apps YouCam Perfect and YouCam Makeup have been one of the first and most popular photo editors to make makeup editing and overlay capabilities available to the common smartphone user. Modiface is another major player, owned by L’Oréal.
Their solution most recently is powering a venture by Facebook and L’Oréal to bring AR-powered makeup try-ons to Instagram shopping.
In recent times, virtual try-ons have gained widespread popularity. In an earlier interview with the co-founder of Fynd, we covered GlamAR, the virtual try-on platform offered by Fynd for beauty brands.
How do these solutions work? Simply put, AI algorithms detect the face through a camera by focal points and map the face. Then using AR, images of makeup are adjusted according to the specifications obtained, and overlaid over the features on the face.
In addition to helping improve the online shopping experience through apps, the AR experience is also made available at physical retail stores through smart mirrors.
In 2019, Coty in collaboration with Wella Professionals launched an AR-enabled Smart Mirror, enabling customers to visualize their desired colour before application.
In India, custom lipstick studio Lip Hue partnered with Morph Digital Solutions to create a smart mirror that allows customers to watch their reflection, try on different shades, and customize those shades according to their preferences.
As mentioned before, beauty and cosmetics is one area where individual customer preferences are varied and significant. Everyone has their own unique combinations of needs.
Without helpful store assistants and the luxury of actually trying out products on their own bodies, customers end up having to spend a lot of time on research. AI can help shorten that research time, recommending relevant products based on customer information and existing trends. Capturing, organizing, and utilizing customer data is no small feat and would be next to impossible without AI.
For instance, if you’re searching for a product on a website, a popup asks you a few questions about things like your skin type and preferences. Based on your answers and also based on what other customers like you have liked, the algorithm recommends a product most suited to your specific needs.
Coty partnered with Amazon Echo Show in 2018 to launch ‘Let’s Get Ready,’ combining the NLP capabilities of Alexa voice assistant with offering personalized looks to users. The looks were selected from over 2,000 unique combinations of makeovers in the Coty database and suggested to users based on their preferences.
Apps that recommend personalized skin and hair care regimes are also popular these days. Proven Skincare uses an AI-powered database, the Skin Genome Project, to analyze different factors and to give customers personalized recommendations.
Skin Genome Project analyzes the effectiveness of over 20,238 skincare ingredients, information about over 100,000 individual products, over 8 million customer testimonials, over 4,000 scientific publications, and the water hardness, humidity level, and the UV index of a customer’s locality. The technology won MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Award in 2018.
AI algorithms help in automating the development of customized products, which are becoming more and more in demand. Customers can create their own type of shampoo, toner, lip balm, and so on. Closer to home, Forest Essentials, Emcee Beauty, and Bare Anatomy are some of the brands offering customized beauty products in India.
- Product Development
There are a million customer reviews, opinions and feedback that the development team has to listen to when trying to develop a product that would do well in the market.
With the current applications of Natural Language Processing, it becomes simpler to sift through huge amounts of data on social media and websites and analyze current trends and customer preferences. This helps companies to develop products as per consumer demand.
Avon’s True 5-in-1 Lash Genius Mascara was developed by analyzing the top needs that customers expressed through social media. Their ML and AI-powered Genius Algorithm was used to “read, filter, process and rank thousands of online consumer comments, to determine the top features they crave in a mascara.”
ML algorithms are also used for analyzing trends and supply and demand forecasting. The algorithms in predictive analytics help businesses to adapt to shifting market conditions, by analyzing a number of factors, including sales, holidays, economic conditions, and even the weather.
Trends in the Cosmetic Industry
The beauty industry went from being valued at 483 billion US dollars in 2020 to 511 billion in 2021. With an annual compounded growth rate of 4.75% worldwide, projections say it will exceed 784.6 billion US dollars by 2027.
Back in 2019, despite there being a 30.5% growth of online cosmetics sales, there was only a 9.3% e-commerce penetration, which is typically low for a product category. But cut to the present day, online sales are projected to make up 48% of the total sales of cosmetic and beauty products by 2023.
This growth in online sales can be attributed in part to necessity and changing circumstances, but is supported greatly by the advancements in technology that is helping smooth the transition into a new way of buying and selling products.
It doesn’t seem likely that cosmetics sales will go completely online anytime soon since even the best AR experiences can’t completely match the retail experience. But in these times when there is little choice but to turn to online shopping, technological advancements go a long way towards making things better, for both consumers and companies.