Beauty Store Business magazine - January, 2020

Top 4 Technology Innovations in Beauty

Meet the founders of four beauty tech companies that use augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the way beauty consumers shop.

Beauty is constantly evolving to meet consumers right where convenience, personalized solutions and enhanced experiences intersect. Here, you’ll find four top beauty tech innovations that are transforming the beauty-buying experience for our generation.

MATCHCo Custom Foundation

MATCHCo, creator of a digitally integrated, custom-blended foundation and a forerunner in the beauty-meets-tech space, was founded in 2013 by two visionaries with, ironically, no experience in beauty or mobile app development. However, Dave Gross and Andy Howell did have experience building custom product programs as well as brands and limited-edition programs, respectively, in other industries (but never a beauty app). They also had a hunch (“a hunch that a completely personalized mobile and product experience could disrupt, if not change, the industry,” Howell says).

As they researched their new idea–MATCHCo–Gross engaged in the creation of fizzy bath bombs in his garage with his daughter. Producing fizzy bath bombs proved uncomplicated; so Gross and Howell imagined a similar experience in the production of custom beauty products. “We couldn’t have been more naïve,” Howell admits. They later would find that venture capitalists weren’t sold on their lack of experience or their multifaceted endeavor. As it turns out, their proposal was a bit of an anomaly. Most startups present a singular area of focus and execution. Their venture would require a three-pronged execution: “We needed to develop a vertical system that wrapped homegrown mobile diagnostics, custom formulation and individual product manufacturing into an app experience,” Howell explains.

Howell and Gross began to bring together all the right players and pieces to bring MATCHCo to life. They drew in Young Harvill, a prized engineer and artist with substantial experience in virtual reality and product personalization, to help merge “objective diagnostic technology with subjective makeup artistry.” Harvill also assisted in the creation of the team that would produce the scanning technology and custom- formulation algorithm. Next, Howell and Gross partnered with a high-end lab and chemist to create a formula that could be custom blended to order. Last, they brought on Joel Stewart, an engineer with a background in chemistry, who began testing ways of blending the formulas: first by hand, then via handmade machines and, finally, through their proprietary custom-manufacturing system. Nearly two years later, the business was ready and they got their funding.

Today, beauty users can download the bareMinerals Made-To-Fit mobile app, scan their skin and order their very own personalized makeup foundation. With MATCHCo, customers don’t need to choose from a range of preexisting varieties; they can have a shade custom-made to fit their skin tone. The customer’s information is stored for future orders and no two shades are ever the same, says the company.

Howell says that MATCHCo’s technology is useful for all types of beauty customization. “With all the advancements in the industry over recent years, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible,” he says. “Beauty is still wide open to technology for enhanced experiences. We’re just getting started!”

Shiseido Americas Corp. announced its acquisition of MATCHCo in early 2017. Howell and Gross remain with MATCHCo as strategy officer/ cofounder and general manager/cofounder, respectively.

Perfect Corp. YouCam Makeup App
Alice Chang’s personal frustrations with the makeup sampling process led to the creation of Perfect Corp.’s extensive suite of augmented reality apps. Chang, CEO of Perfect Corp., paired her experience in technology with her beauty frustrations to reinvent the way beauty consumers experience beauty and beauty shopping. “Perfect Corp. was founded with an aim to provide a complete and integrated beauty experience to consumers, cosmetic brands and retailers by combining the personal touch of in-store shopping with the convenience of web,” says Chang.

Today, Perfect Corp. provides consumers, brands and retailers with a host of apps and other beauty technology. It offers six different YouCam apps, including YouCam Makeup and YouCam Nail. Its offerings feature a host of technologies, including Face Detection & Tracking, Face AI and Skincare AR. Its services for brands and retailers run the gamut of brand analytics, live AR training, and web and in-store consultation, to name a few.

Chang says that these beauty-tech innovations weren’t birthed without challenges, as inaccuracies within the augmented reality experience can increase customer returns. But Perfect Corp. has worked to overcome them by using more than 100 points of facial recognition, skin tone matching and first-rate AI technology to help ensure the most true-to-life try-on experience possible, she explains.

“The use of augmented reality helps to increase sales. ... Impressively accurate product and look try-ons have given consumers utmost confidence in basing purchase decisions off digital try-ons, as they once did physical ones,” explains Chang. “We have reinvented the way consumers shop for cosmetics by providing a fun, easy-to-use, mobile solution that instantly solves past consumer pain points, while also providing brands and retailers with an interactive new medium to capture customers and sales.” Chang explains that AR solutions also eliminate what consumers can view as unhygienic, messy beauty counter visits and simultaneously provides an immersive, personalized customer journey–“one that’s resulted in nearly 10 percent increase in basket size,” she adds.

Perfect Corp.’s AR solutions are used by a number of retailers to enhance their customers’ beauty experience, including both Target Beauty Studio and Estée Lauder beauty counters, which use YouCam kiosks for in-store virtual try-ons.

As for the future, Perfect Corp. envisions a beauty experience in which AI and facial recognition technology will be so advanced that it will be able to identify similar products that consumers can shop through one-tap purchase to bring the look to life at home, says Chang. “Perfect Corp. plans to move with this trend and bring on-demand virtual reality beauty consultations to mainstream and be a common beauty shopping practice that shoppers look to anywhere, anytime.”

Neutrogena MaskiD
Personalization in skin care has evolved from a trend to one of the most important differentiators for a brand. “We have data that shows 6 in 10 women are looking for personalized beauty products to meet their skin’s unique needs,” says Karen Brown, Neutrogena’s senior marketing manager, who notes that parent company Johnson & Johnson prioritizes customization when formulating new products.

In early 2018, Neutrogena launched the Skin360 app and paired it with a high-tech skin scanner by FitSkin that attaches to a camera phone. The scanner utilizes a 30x zoom lens to magnify, measure and analyze one’s pores and fine lines, showing consumers what’s beneath the skin’s surface and providing feedback about their specific needs through the app. Brown says that once consumers began scanning their skin and receiving product recommendations, people started requesting made-to-order products tailored to the information gleaned via Skin360. As a result, MaskiD–the data-powered, 3D-printed hydrogel mask–was born, unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas.

“The Skin360 tool helps her analyze her skin, and takes those results and recommends specific ingredients in specific zones of the face,” Brown says. “The mask is split into six zones [forehead, eye orbital, nose, cheeks, chin and nasolabial folds]. If we’re measuring some dryness on her cheek area and fine lines and wrinkles on her forehead, there are specific ingredients placed in those zones to treat the issue that was identified on her skin.”

MaskiD is personalized in several ways. It’s custom-made to the exact shape and size of one’s face (goodbye, ill-fitted sheet masks!). “Between that and all the ingredient combinations, each mask is really personalized to that consumer, so no two masks are the same,” she says. Unique ingredient combinations (of things like purified hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, feverfew, glucosamine and vitamin C, to name a few) penetrate the skin precisely where they’re needed.

Three recent advancements have made MaskiD possible. The first is the infrared camera seen on the latest generation of the iPhone, which uses facial recognition to create a 3D scan of the face to unlock one’s phone without the need for a password or thumbprint. “We’re using that technology to get the 3D measurements for that really precise fit,” Brown explains. The second is the Skin360 app itself, which provides in-depth information about what ingredients are needed where. Finally, advancements in 3D printing technology have paved the way for this on-demand sheet mask, which arrives directly at your door.

“[This] wouldn’t have been possible 5 years or even 2 years ago,” Brown says. “The ability to create something that’s unique to each individual is really an exciting part of technology.”

SK-II Future X Smart Store
As beauty products evolve due to advances in technology, beauty stores are similarly following suit. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, global prestige skincare brand SK-II showcased its Future X Smart Store, which launched its first location in Tokyo, Japan, in May 2018, followed by two more in Shanghai and Singapore. A new “phygital” (the merger of physical and digital) retail experience, the store provides an immersive environment that allows shoppers to learn about their skin while scoping out products.

SK-II has sustained double-digit growth on a global scale over the past two years, with the Facial Treatment Essence as its best-seller. This new “smart” store utilizes 43 cameras and three dozen computers throughout. Customers can also take home a Smart Bottle, which uses sensors to track daily usage via a companion app, which also provides tips so that customers get the most out of each product.

Harnessing the latest technologies like artificial intelligence, state-of-the-art smart sensors, facial recognition and computer vision, there are several unique characteristics about the Future X Smart Store. “The Art of You” is a digital wall that analyzes facial expressions and movements while providing an Instagrammable backdrop; there are individual booths where SK-II’s Magic Ring skin analysis tool generates a scan of a customer’s face, providing an in-depth look into the skin’s individual needs; there is also a Smart Beauty Bar, where customers can get personalized product recommendations with the help of a responsive digital interface; and, on large screens, shoppers can add products to a digital shopping cart in real time with a simple wave of the hand.

The Future X Smart Store seamlessly blends the online and offline shopping experiences with personalized mixed media. This “phygital” environment makes it easy to find the right skincare products, and shoppers can go at their own pace to gain real-time insights about their skin.

“Emerging technologies such as AI and facial recognition allow us to challenge existing retail norms and share our brand experience in the way that is the most meaningful to our consumer,” says Sandeep Seth, vice president of global for SK-II. “She can experience our products and learn about her skin at her own pace without being watched, judged or pressured. Our journey with the Future X Smart Store is not about replacing humans with tech, but supplementing to create a better and more meaning- ful shopping experience for our consumers.” SK-II is pushing the limits of innovation to improve the customer experience–and this “smart” store is the next generation of beauty retailing.