Once upon a time, the idea of augmented reality was reserved for video games, sports, and space. Nowadays, it’s closely entwined with the beauty sphere.
And due largely in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, augmented reality entered the world of skincare, makeup, and haircare in an attempt to make shopping amidst a global outbreak safer.
Of course, the inclusion of virtual try-ons turned out to be beneficial far beyond their ability to help shoppers maintain social distance — they make online shopping easier than ever, in general. As such, what started as a temporary solution for an unprecedented worldwide event, has now established itself as a mainstay of beauty shopping.
Learn more about the new phenomenon, ahead.
The Rise of AR in Beauty
Perfect Corp — a Taiwan-based artificial intelligence company that’s at the forefront of fashion and beauty AR — is to thank for the current technology-driven beauty industry. According to the company’s website, its goal is to democratize “access to enriching Metaverse-ready shopping experiences with AI and AR-powered solutions.” And since launching in the early 2010s, it has done just that.
Most markedly, the beauty tech company developed the YouCam Makeup app, which has been downloaded over a billion times to date. If you’re unfamiliar with the app, it’s a user-friendly interface that allows smartphone owners to access virtual makeup and hair color try-ons from hundreds of brands worldwide, including Smashbox, Charlotte Tilbury, MAC, Maybelline, and more. Additionally, it provides users with a skin analysis to deliver tailored skincare and makeup product recommendations. Needless to say, the app — and the brand behind it — has completely changed the way people shop.
The State of Beauty AR Today
While the YouCam Makeup app came out in 2014, it wasn’t until 2020 that many, many brands began hopping on to the digital shopping trend — and reaching beyond the app itself. Take Snapchat, for example. The popular social media platform harnessed the power of AR to allow users to virtually test product shades from MAC and Essie, as well as an even larger brand variety from Ulta.
While being able to try products without leaving your home might not seem like the biggest deal, considering the interests of Gen Z shoppers, Snapchat found that incorporating technology into the beauty shopping experience is game-changing. The proof? Snapchat’s 2022 Generation Report analyzed Gen Z’s core values, shopping habits, and outlook on community connection post-pandemic, all while keeping eco-friendly practices top of mind.
“92% of Gen Zers are interested in using AR for shopping,” the report reveals. More specifically, the findings show that 88% of Gen Z shoppers are interested in using AR to try on makeup or clothes. Furthermore, 55% of Gen Z shoppers think that AR is going to make life easier when it comes to shopping, and 43% of Gen Z shoppers are likely to experiment with new looks, which they’re two times more likely to do with beauty products they’ve virtually tried on.
Of course, Snapchat isn’t the only company taking advantage of beauty AR. Social media platforms like Pinterest and brands like Vanity Planet, CHI, Tarte, YSL, and Aveda, are also honing in on technologically-advanced shopping experiences.
Where Vanity Planet launched its Skin Reporter AI Skin Analyzer in 2021 to help users shop for devices tailored to their complexion concerns and needs, CHI released the LG CHI Color Master Factory, a machine that analyzes a client’s photo and creates custom color blends, to make color-matching clients a no-brainer. Meanwhile, Tarte makes trying on different makeup looks and determining the perfect foundation shade a breeze, while YSL gives lipstick lovers the ability to blend their own lippie by determining the perfect color within their app and creating it IRL with a pricey lipstick printer, and Aveda provides customers the virtual tools to test out new hair colors before actually booking an appointment. But keep in mind, this is just a handful of the many brands taking AR technology under their wings.
What’s the AR Difference?
While just about every brand — whether it’s beauty or not — will say its top priority is catering to the client, it’s the brands that implement AR-boosted practices that actually put their money where their mouth is.
“Customers are at the center of all of what we do,” Alex Dastmalchi, Founder and CEO of Vanity Planet, said in the press release for the Skin Reporter launch. “As a continued effort to help our customers understand their skin concerns, we challenge ourselves to deploy technologies that are best serving our valued customers. With that in mind, we invested in a cutting edge AI-powered skin analyzer ‘Skin Reporter’ to deliver state-of-the-art results identifying key areas of skin concerns.”
“The clinical nature of skin care requires a diagnostic approach that is personalized for every face,” Alice Chang, Perfect Corp. Founder and CEO, added in the release. “Vanity Planet’s Skin Reporter provides individualized, knowledge-based beauty devices that cater to consumers’ specific and unique needs. By offering a preliminary assessment of skin health through a smartphone, beauty shoppers can be more conscious and confident in their skincare choices, finding the products that work best for them, saving time and money.”
What Does the Future of AR in Beauty Hold?
While those insights pertain specifically to the Vanity Planet AR launch, the concept can really be applied across the board — in that beauty is personal and, as such, should be accompanied by a personalized shopping experience.
“Augmented reality enriches the customer experience with customization and professional beauty advice,” says CHI’s President of Innovation, Lisa Marie Garcia. “AR is increasing brand engagement and keeping consumers engaged longer with brands. It’s all about the experience, and if the client enjoys the experience, they stay engaged longer and purchase more.”
Which is all to say, the future of shopping in beauty is less about heading to a retailer and more about getting an in-person-quality experience from the comfort of your own home.