Who are you?
— My name is Kim Oguilve, and I currently lead communications at Revieve, a Finnish beauty tech company with customers spread across five continents, such as Shiseido, KICKS, and JCPenney. We’re working at the intersection of beauty, commerce, and ever-evolving consumer behaviour, with HQs in Helsinki, Chicago, and Valencia, and our platform, that delivers personalized digital brand experience solutions cross-category, cross-channel, and throughout the customer journey.
How are new technologies taking over the beauty industry and beauty retail? What are the clearest signs?
— New technologies are taking over beauty today in product formulation, packaging, cosmetic ingredients, and customer experience innovation. That’s precisely what we call ’beauty tech’ today — software or hardware devices developed to enhance the beauty experience and make it more relevant, sustainable, inclusive, and engaging. This is happening because consumer behaviour in beauty has shifted so rapidly within the past years, and there’s a massive fragmentation in audiences. This has forced, for example, new beauty brands to come to market with value propositions for customers with unique needs. But also, as more players come to market, how you differentiate makes a monumental difference, so investing in a seamless and personalized customer experience is a must to remain competitive because customers buy more than just products, says Oguilve. She continues:
— You can see how companies like L’Oréal have been early adopters of beauty innovation. They started investing in AR several years ago and recently launched the first computerized makeup applicator designed for users with limited hand and arm mobility. This launch mainly made me think deeply about why beauty innovation is so important — it’s such a personal category that it feels unfair not everyone gets to experience it to the fullest. So, I am pleased to see the big players betting on beauty innovation that benefits everyone. Purposeful innovation in beauty is the only way forward.
Which new technologies would you say are mature enough to make a mark already this and next year? And how can these benefit retailers and the industry?
— AI and AR have proven their value to a business’s bottom line. Many beauty companies use them together or individually. For example, AR-powered makeup Virtual Try On can work as a standalone if you integrate it into a product detail page. But as consumers have more significant needs for personalization, beauty companies are using AI to also recommend a makeup routine according to customers’ needs and preferences.
— Another technology that is growing in prominence and critical for the skincare and beauty retail business, Oguilve continues, is ’AI Skin Analysis’ technologies. Usually, these are built upon computer vision, machine and deep learning algorithms trained to recognize skin-related concerns from mobile selfie-quality images. Combined with AI product recommendations, this can deliver personalized routines to consumers and allow beauty brands and retailers to offer in-depth skincare advice to customers online and in-store.
And which ones do you see coming further on in, say, three or five years?
— We have now started to see the use of 3D printing in beauty more. For example, Neutrogena and Nourished recently launched 3D-printed personalized skincare supplements. The service combines an AI Skin Analysis to identify nutrient needs and product recommendations. The output is personalized 3D-printed supplements.
— In addition, we will start to see more use of at-home hardware devices like smart mirrors combined with AI and AR technologies and standalone devices that mix specific skincare formulations for customers. For example, Amorepacific launched Cosmeship, an at-home device that creates skincare on demand. Duolab, a L’Occitane company, has a similar countertop device that blends ingredients at home for a personalized skincare formulation. Beauty is moving towards hyper-personalization, so we’ll see more companies use these technologies and devices when creating new products and services for their customers.
— Another technology that will support the development of beauty technology is GAN (Generative AI) because it will allow technology companies to better train their algorithms by creating endless user portraits to increase the diversity within image datasets. This is already in use today, and it will be interesting to see how the space grows in the next three years.
— Same as everything Metaverse and NFTs related… We saw plenty of conversation around Metaverse in beauty last year — it has now calmed down because ChatGPT suddenly took over. Yet, the underlying trend for beauty in the Metaverse is that companies are simply experimenting with early versions of the Metaverse, such as building interactive virtual 3D stores, to create new avenues for customers to experience their brand online and forge a deeper connection with their customers.
Is beauty retail, in general, good enough to catch up with these new technologies or is there room for improvement?
— The beauty industry is the best example globally for innovation because of its different fronts: packaging, ingredients, business models, and customer experience. If anything, beauty does not lack innovation but I understand for some companies, it’s hard to decide where to invest next, Oguilve states.
And, for a retailer, where to start with these new technologies?
— Do speak with beauty technology companies to evaluate your needs. Many companies are not even trying and thus lose market share because other companies are innovating faster and prioritizing their customer experience. All companies should be talking with beauty technology players to evaluate their offerings and find out what technologies can solve a specific problem in their customer journey. Since beauty is a very nuanced industry, retailers and brands should look for industry-specific players to help them solve those challenges. But don’t invest in beauty tech thinking it will solve all your business problems. Like any transformational project, companies must invest in beauty tech solutions for the right reasons. It’s a hefty investment, and it’s frustrating to see companies come to us wanting to deploy a personalized beauty experience, yet they have yet to think of the nourishment it requires. So don’t think about beauty tech solutions in silos and golden bullets but rather as ’saliencies’ that will support the goals of different departments internally and that you can measure.
And for you, what are you up to this coming year?
— We just announced a partnership with Google Cloud to accelerate omnichannel transformation in the industry. This is big because this will act as the one-stop shop for the beauty industry to bring personalized beauty experiences at scale and faster like ever before.
— A development that has us super excited about the future of beauty is our ’Coach’ product suite. The idea here is that we want to help the industry deliver loyalty-building experiences and we want to help beauty brands and retailers guide their customers on their beauty and wellness journey. For example, last December, we launched Skin Coach with BABOR, allowing its customers to set skincare goals, personalize their routines, track their progress, and access routine and guidance information.
Which other startups do you think are the most relevant to follow, from the Nordics and elsewhere?
— The Nordics are lucky to have many innovators doing wonders in beauty. Companies I am a tad obsessed about:
– Innomost is an ingredient company only a few know about. They produce and sell biodegradable and renewable cosmetics ingredients derived from Finnish birch. And what they do is so vital because customers today care a lot about the ingredients cosmetics companies use — this is what the ’clean beauty’ movement is all about. Using cosmetics products that are free from harmful chemicals. And there’s a Finnish company using their ingredients rising to prominence called Luonkos.
– Another company that I love is Ellure from Sweden. They are offering affordable lipstick customization with 3D printing. According to them, 14% of lipsticks are unsold at retail levels because customers’ demand cannot be 100% accurately estimated. So, by producing custom-made products on demand, unsold products can be reduced to 0% while all colours can still be provided.
– Another one that I discovered recently and became obsessed with is LastObject from Denmark. They produce eco-friendly reusable alternatives to single-use items such as cotton swabs, tissues, and cotton rounds. Their reusable cotton rounds last for 250 uses and are 100% compostable.
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