With easy access to shopping options on social media platforms like Instagram, brands are able to integrate their shopping experiences with technology in even greater ways than ever before. Whether through augmented reality, social media strategy, or smart devices, beauty brands are flocking toward technology in ways they never have to help create a better customer experience—both in-store and at-home.
That being said, don’t expect it to slow down. Consumers love the convenience of being able to use technologies like shopping via Instagram and interacting with brands on social media to feel more connected to the products they use every day. Even if it simply means a brand is using technologies like Twitter to create a better customer service experience (remember Kylie Cosmetics?), brands that implement these technologies are being remembered—and praised—for the efforts they put in. If you are a direct to consumer brand, our advice is that technology can make or break your success in this industry. Here are the top six ways we’ve noticed technology being used in the beauty industry—and sorry for including ourselves, but we think we’re doing a pretty good job.
Although more consumers are shopping online, major cosmeceutical companies are having to jump through additional barriers to appeal to clients that prefer to get their products through their smartphones. Companies like Harley, a personalized skin-care platform that connects consumers to dermatologists that can prescribe them real products—are innovating in ways that use the internet to give cosmeceuticals an advantage, rather than a barrier.
The company lets users find and connect with dermatologists that can take virtual appointments. Clients never have to leave their home, if they don’t want to, and are then sent a prescribed skin care regimen catered exactly to their needs. Consumers love the personalization and effortless access to dermatologist-recommended products—plus each regimen comes with personalized recommendations for how to use the products. Since everything is done under one company, the consumer simply has to sign up and connect with a dermatologist to get started—making it easier for the company to retain its clientele month after month.
But companies like Harley are not the only ones using the internet to let their consumers customize products to meet their own needs. Function of Beauty, a popular hair care brand that creates products like shampoo, conditioner, serums, and leave-in products, uses an online quizzing system to personalize each product to its buyer. Every bottle comes with the consumers’ name printed on it, which gives an added level of intimacy between the brand and the consumer.
Consumers even get to pick what color and scent profile they want their products to have, giving them the freedom to feel as if they’ve created their own line of hair care products. Or, consumers with sensitive skin can opt out of fragrance and dye altogether. Products are created based on profiles of hair type, hair structure, scalp moisture, and what the consumer hopes to achieve with the product—whether its length, moisture, or overall hair and scalp health.
Augmented reality product try-ons
Brands like Sephora and IKEA have implemented Augmented Reality (AR) for quite some time now. Sephora’s AR try-on feature, called the Virtual Artist platform, lets consumers try on various products digitally. One major barrier that brands like Sephora face when shifting to online shopping is that consumers like to try on different products—like lipstick, for example—to see whether or not colors fit with their skin tone. With products like foundations, which are intended to match your skin tone perfectly, a match can mean the difference between whether or not the consumer is likely to return the product.
Search platforms for specific products
Google is a fantastic way for consumers to search for exact products that meet their needs, but the search algorithm prevents certain industries from being able to connect with only their desired products. At Chemberry, for example, product manufacturers and beauty brands looking for an ingredient supplier can search for an ingredient and be given a list of suppliers automatically. On Google, a search for something like “hyaluronic acid” might warrant more results intended to inform consumers about the benefits of this ingredient rather than suppliers that brands can connect with, meaning more work for both the brand searching for the ingredient and for the supplier advertising to the brand.
Not only does Chemberry let beauty brands connect with suppliers quickly and easily, but it allows searchers to toggle different filters to differentiate between things like vegan and cruelty-free certifications, chemical group, company name, and application. Most ingredients, such as this lavender water from Ecoarts in Shanghai, China, provide information on the product, its INCI name, and how to get in touch with the supplier.
Social media strategy
We’ve covered how social media marketing can make or break the success of your direct-to consumer brand extensively in the past before, but that’s only because we truly recognize the impact that a successful social media strategy has on a brand’s ability to succeed. Brands like Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie Skin, and Glossier were born online before they headed to retailers around the world. Glossier and Milk Makeup, specifically, are known for their online presence that frequently interacts with its customers on social media and gives them the aesthetically pleasing, body positive content that they want to invite into their personal feeds.
In Glossier’s case, the brand transferred its attention to detail in its social media and online presence into its real-life presence by opening a series of interactive and Instagram-friendly pop-ups around the world. In this scenario, the customer's experience while interacting with the brand is just as important as the product itself. Every element of the shopping experience is social media-friendly, and encourages shoppers to share their experiences online by creating photo-ready design elements that are as irresistible to the eye as they are to the wallet.
By prioritizing social media, Glossier and Milk Makeup were able to leverage their ideal consumer and become must-have brands in the beauty industry in just a few short years. Glossier, for example, passed its billion-dollar valuation in 2019, making it one of the few beauty startups in the world to reach unicorn status through its use of technology.
Both Glossier and Kylie Cosmetics have a similar strategy in their social media approach as they were some of the first brands to be granted the ability to sell their products from directly within Instagram. Not only does this help potential customers shop for products, but it meets them where they already are—social media.
While social media might be a more subtle way to use technology to your advantage, other companies are investing in technology in more up-front ways than ever before. Brands like Foreo have created smart-devices that let consumers do things like clean their skin, check their skin hydration levels, and get personalized recommendations sent to their smartphones from their device. The cleansing brush lets users clean their skin with sanitary silicone bristles, which vibrate to both deep-clean and let users know how long they’re supposed to clean each section of their face for.
Meanwhile, products like La Roche-Posay’s My Skin Track lets consumers do things like track the UV exposure their skin is subject to throughout the day as well as updates on their skin’s hydration. The device sends real-time updates to its users’ smartphone to remind them to do things like apply sunscreen or hydrate.
The bottom line is that technology is a broad term that refers to tons of different industries. You don’t have to be a major corporation investing in robotics and augmented reality to integrate technology into your brand and customer experience, you just have to learn how to think creatively in ways that allow you to use simple technologies like social media to your advantage.
On that note, big brands can and should invest in technology if they are not already. In a rapidly shifting consumer landscape—specifically as young people that grew up with technology grow up and start buying their own products—meeting the consumer where they already are is the only way to assure that your brand stands the test of time. Invest in a social media presence that your consumer wants to interact with, create content that your demographic wants to look at, and think about ways that technology can help your customer access your product easily or get them excited about the services you offer.