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I recently wrote about how consumers are increasingly turning to their smartphones to search, browse and buy beauty products. 

One thing I failed to mention, however, is the fact that many are testing beauty products via their mobiles, too.

How exactly? Well it’s all down to augmented reality

Sephora is the latest brand to introduce AR into its app, with its ‘Virtual Artist’ feature allowing users to ‘try on’ different looks by overlaying make-up onto photos. A tutorials feature also demonstrates exactly how to achieve specific looks.

With brands like L’Oréal and OPI also offering users the chance to virtually experiment with beauty products, it’s becoming par for the course for big brands. Here’s just three reasons why.

Personalising beauty content

There’s certainly no shortage of beauty-related content online, with brands and influencers posting a constant stream of blogs, tutorials, hauls and ‘how-to’s. 

This means that consumers can find information about pretty much any product out there. However, what they can’t do is determine how it will look on their own face. 

Augmented reality introduces this concept, and along with it - real personalisation. Instead of watching an influencer demonstrate how to apply eyeliner, an AR feature like Sephora’s ‘Virtual Tutorial’ will tailor it to the user’s unique and individual features. 

Not only does this fulfil the learning aspect, but it makes the experience far more personal, which in turn, is also more memorable. 

Adding an interactive element

While beauty content serves a functional purpose, it is mostly passive, with consumers merely watching videos or reading blogs to learn and discover. 

In contrast, there’s a gaming element to AR which elevates it to something that can be purely entertaining. It also means that users can experiment with it in their own time, whether they want to use it to discover new products, learn techniques or just have fun. 

After all, there’s an experimental and nostalgic aspect to beauty that is really rather relatable. From trying your mum’s lipstick as a child to outlandish trends as teenagers – AR brings back the opportunity for self-expression and creativity, allowing make-up to become something fun and artistic again rather than a daily chore.

It’s also time saving, of course, with technology allowing users to experiment without physically lifting a finger. 

Bridging the online and offline gap

According to Sephora, women buy the wrong colour foundation around seven times before finding the right shade. Of course, this tends to be the problem with buying anything online, with the absence of in-store help and advice resulting in poorly-judged purchases. 

AR solves this issue, allowing users to make smarter and better-informed decisions without the need to physically visit a store. 

Even better, AR also allows consumers to find products they would otherwise ignore or fail to notice.

For instance, Iman Cosmetics has developed an app that helps users find their ‘colour signature’. As well as helping to find the right shade of foundation, this also means that it will recommend products to help match and complement unique skin tones and complexion types.

So, will augmented reality lead to fewer beauty retail stores as a result? 

Not necessarily, because while AR certainly takes away the need for a physical shopping experience, it doesn’t remove the consumer’s desire for it. Yet with a multitude of brands demonstrating that AR technology can complement both online and offline shopping – we’re likely to see even more examples in future. 

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 25 April, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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