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How beauty industry is using tech to transform experience

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How beauty and personal care biggies are turning to technology to offer delightful, personalised and sustainable solutions and experiences and what’s driving this shift

Bengaluru: Flipkart is launching a virtual try-on feature for beauty products. The Tata Group is planning to open 20 beauty tech stores where it will use virtual makeup kiosks and digital skin tests. Sugar Cosmetics is investing in customer analytics technology and enhancing customer experience by using augmented reality (AR). Myntra Beauty is planning to introduce product finder, skin analyzer and virtual try-on and while Nykaa is launching Al-powered virtual try-on technology ModiFace. These are just a few examples of how the country’s beauty industry is aggressively embracing technology to not just improve operations but also engage customers.

“Over the past few years, the beauty and personal care industry has undergone a significant transformation, driven by rapid advancements in technology,” said Nitin Passi, managing director of Lotus Herbals, a natural cosmetic company that sells over 500 skincare, haircare, suncare, and make-up products.

Passi cited a report that found the global natural and organic beauty market size is expected to reach $22.9 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 8.9% between 2020 to 2027.

What’s giving beauty a boost

“The last few years have seen a revolution in the beauty and personal care category, with increased demand, consumption and spending. Digital transformation and a plethora of options across segments have resulted in a booming demand for cosmetics in India, which is no longer restricted to urban centers, but equally powerful in rural areas,” said Jasmin Gohil, chief technology officer of Sugar Cosmetics.

The onset of the pandemic accelerated the technology-driven transformation. Also, the rapid proliferation of e-commerce and multi-channel sale platforms has fundamentally altered the way cosmetic products are marketed to customers.

“Retail has expanded dramatically in the online space, a lot of new and innovative businesses have mushroomed to fill the gap in the market. Regardless of the setback people faced due to the pandemic, the beauty industry, albeit at a slightly slower pace, showcased resilience,” added Gohil.

Another factor that caused the upgradation of technology is the change in customer behavior.

The consumer angle

“Consumers are more informed about the latest products and trends, and they have higher expectations for the products they buy. Technology has also allowed for more personalized products and marketing strategies, which has created more opportunities for brands to connect with their customers,” said Sudeep Bansal, vice president- growth at Wow Skin Science, a beauty and wellness brand based in Karnataka.

According to Prakash Gurumoorthy, general manager of EMEA and APAC at SaaS (software-as-a-service) digital commerce platform VTEX, “Consumers want to spend more time with brands they trust and they are much more demanding and are searching for additional information on the website, product pages, and at checkouts.”

According to him, brands and retailers are investing in providing customers with more transparency to build trust and boost customer loyalty. “The leading brands are aligning people, processes, and technology to proactively provide customers with more information about their brand and products pre- and post-purchase,” Gurumoorthy added.

Consumers embracing the trend of personalisation has also contributed to the increasing technological adoption by players in the beauty and personal care space.

“There has been a rise in demand for personalized beauty products and services, as consumers seek products that cater to their unique needs and preferences,” said Aanchal Malhotra Gupta, co-founder of amág Beauty.

“Consumers are increasingly seeking convenience, personalisation, and innovation of new beauty products and services. The advent of social media and digital influencers has also played a significant role in shaping consumer expectations and driving demand for new beauty trends and technologies,” added Gupta.

Some popular beauty tech trends

Virtual try-on: This feature allows users to explore or try on products digitally. Founded by Alice Chang, it uses an advanced face tracker algorithm through augmented reality that detects facial features and applies virtual cosmetics. Brands including Sephora, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Chanel and Revlon are some of the international pioneers who introduced virtual try-on to consumers.

Smart mirror: Smart mirrors include a high-resolution camera that analyzes skin to provide skincare product recommendations. This voice-enabled intelligent beauty mirror is a brainchild of Taiwan’s New Kinpo Group. Cosmetic brands like Mac, Yves Saint Laurent, Sephora and other giants used smart makeup mirrors to reach a wider audience and now this technology can also be seen in Indian beauty retail stores such as Reliance Retail’s recently launched Tira.

Virtual artist visualization:  Introduced in 2016 by Modiface, an organization known for making virtual reality beauty apps, the virtual artist is a digital makeup guidebook that helps consumers learn the best way to do makeup.

Printed makeup: A 3D make-up printer allows users to produce and customize products at home, by adjusting printer-compatible pigments and substrates. Mink, (a portmanteau for ‘makeup’ and ‘ink’) launched in 2014 by Harvard Business School graduate Grace Choi, lays claim to the title of world’s first portable makeup-producing printer.

Automatic hair and skin analyser: This tech involves a hyper-customized arrangement of associated gadgets that provides information about the client’s hair and skin with concrete logical solutions. This year, Myntra Beauty became the first e-commerce player to introduce hair and skin analyzer, according to Anmol Sikka, director – BPC at Myntra.

 Smart sensors and IOT devices: These sensors record real-time data like UV exposure, skin hydration and skin health levels and then come up with customized products.

A look into the future

“The future of the beauty industry is likely to be characterized by continued innovation and a focus on providing personalized, data-driven solutions to consumers’ beauty and personal care needs,” said Passi from Lotus Herbals.

With the masses demanding newer and better beauty services, personalisation to cater to individual needs is basic and this will compel beauty brands to adopt AI services.

“The beauty industry has seen an increase in the use of AI and machine learning, leading to the development of innovative products and services. The global AI in the beauty market size is expected to reach $14.8 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 24.6% from 2021 to 2028,” added Passi

In the coming years, consumers can expect to see brands shifting to a sustainable approach toward manufacturing and delivering products through technology, effectively making the process clean and safe as per experts.

“Consumers are more aware of the impact of their choices on the environment, and they want to make choices that align with their values. This will lead to an increase in demand for products that are made using sustainable ingredients, are cruelty-free, and have environmentally friendly packaging with the help of technology,” said Bansal from Wow Skin Science.

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