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Application of New Tech in China’s Cosmetic Sector: AR to enhance shopping experience

  •   9 Sep 2019
  •    Ye Chen
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    The application of cutting-edge technologies is a major trend in the cosmetic sector. AR (Augmented Reality) is no doubt one of the hottest of these technologies. Augmented reality is a technology that expands the physical world, adding layers of digital information onto it. Cosmetic companies can make use of this technology to bring a virtual make-up experience to their customers. Many cosmetic companies have started to explore in this area.

    Acquisition of technology companies

    In June 2019, the L'Oréal Group announced that it would offer lipstick virtual color test technology to US e-commerce giant Amazon through its augmented reality (AR) and artificial company Modiface, which was launched in the US and Japan in mid-2019. Amazon users can use this technology to try out brands in the L'Oréal Group, such as L'Oréal, Maybelline and Lancome.  L’Oreal and Amazon have already been testing this technology for several months. L'Oréal’s chief digital officer Lubomira Rochet tells media (Allure): “We have clear analytics that show the time spent on the website is doubled on sites with the try-on experience. It triples the conversion rate.”

    In China, the L'Oréal Group cooperates with Tencent Wechat. On Armani’s (also belongs to the L'Oréal Group) official Wechat online shopping store, consumers can also use this virtual makeup instrument to experience , choose, make an order, share and recommend products. 

    Armani: AR makeup on Wechat

    Modiface was acquired by the L'Oréal Group in March 2018. In addition to lipstick color-testing technology, ModiFace has developed a “smart sensory brush” technology that teaches people how to care for their hair and provides a virtual trial of other beauty products for the younger generation of consumers who are obsessed with selfies. By acquiring this company, the L'Oréal Group wants to change and enhance the beauty experience and help their consumers to explore more brands and shopping methods. The technology is already being offered to other retailers such as as Watsons and DM-Drogerie Markt.

    L'Oréal Group is not the only one to acquire an AI company. In 2017, Shiseido also acquired artificial intelligence startup Giaran. Giaran has a number of technologies including virtual makeup and color matching to help improve customer engagement. Digital development has been included in Shiseido’s new three-year (2018-2020) strategic plan.  Shiseido also established a new global digital excellence innovation center and plans to use this technology in 2019.

    Other kinds of cooperation

    Besides acquiring technology companies, many companies are now cooperating with AI companies. One large AI company that offers the cosmetic sector services is Perfect Corp., a Taiwan-based company, which have cooperated with a bunch of cosmetic companies. On its official website, it says:

    Perfect Corp. aims to transform the beauty industry by marrying the highest level of augmented reality (“AR”) and artificial intelligence (“AI”) technology with the ultimate shopping experience, completely reinventing consumer beauty journey. From small and medium businesses to enterprises, Perfect Corp offers Beauty SaaS for every business size. Leap into the future with beauty AI and AR technology to make the best shopping experience possible for your customers.

    Our cutting-edge makeup technology puts you ahead of the game with virtual makeup trials, hair color and accessory try-ons, and skincare diagnostics. Enhance your business with Perfect Corp’s range of Beauty SaaS - in-store consultation, a mobile SDK, WeChat mini-program, and listing your products in our award-winning app, YouCam Makeup.

    From this self-introduction, we can see that this company’s technology can be applied to multiple channels. This company also has launched YouCam, which allows beauty companies to integrate their AI and AR makeup services onto Perfect Corp’s website. They offer a self-service subscription solution allowing companies to avail of their virtual makeup service. By subscribing to YouCam for Web, businesses can access the technology console Perfect Console, which allows them to set up and manage virtual makeup services on the e-commerce platform. Companies can also track user usage analysis reports through the console. It is reported that this new service is powered by Perfect Corp's facial recognition engine, which is used by more than 200 brands worldwide.

    Perfect Corp.: Youcam

    Similar technology companies also include Voir Inc and Meitu. Voir Inc provides Guerlain with AR technical support while Meitu is a Chinese company who owns a series of beauty Apps to help users take beautiful selfies and edit their pictures. It even launched a selfie-phone whose main function is to take selfies. Recently, it has expanded its business to virtual makeup by launching its own smart mirror, MeituGenius. MeituGenius leverages the face recognition technology of Meitu Imaging Laboratory MTlab. The mirror can detect 180 kinds of facial features and can offer customized makeup recommendations. Meitu is already cooperating with international cosmetics retail brand DFS Group. MirrorGenius will provide consumers with AR virtual makeup experience in 25 DFS stores in 13 countries and regions including America, Italy, Japan and etc.

    According to incomplete statistics, here is a table that shows big companies which have set up in AR makeup field:

    Note: This is the first article in a series of articles entitled, Application of New Tech in China’s Cosmetic Sector. The next one, AI skin diagnosis to attract consumers’ attention, is coming soon.

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