The beauty and cosmetics industry is among the oldest in the world. For over a century, consumers have been buying products that align with the latest skincare and beauty trends, generating $500 billion in annual sales. Prior to the last year, innovation and the digital transformation of beauty had remained primarily stagnant, but with the outbreak of the pandemic, the industry had to move quickly to salvage business among the widespread store closures. While many industries struggled to take the leap into the digital space, beauty and cosmetics were able to transition quickly and adopt new, innovative technologies that would succeed in-person shopping experiences.
This evolving climate presented exciting, engaging, and cutting-edge commerce technologies for beauty brands. At this time, businesses could directly reach their customers, bypassing traditional sales channels to enter new markets and increase sales opportunities exponentially. There is now a new age of consumers who have been the most prominent drivers of the digital acceleration of the beauty industry. According to Deloitte, Millennials now account for a large percentage of consumers and their digitally-savvy attitude is a major driving force for companies to invest in creative and immersive shopping experiences. Utilizing outlets including social media, online shopping, and virtual reality programs, consumers can receive a personalized experience that creates long-lasting relationships and increases brand loyalty.
Before the pandemic, many beauty brands were in the experiential stages with AR and VR technologies that enabled customers to virtually try on beauty products. Although these programs were a step in the right direction for beauty’s digital transformation, it wasn’t until COVID-19 swept the globe that they became game-changers in beauty and cosmetics. Companies including Estée Lauder began experimenting with augmented reality through a lipstick try-on service that reimagined shopping and allowed customers to experience, purchase, and virtually test products. The virtual reality programs are an innovative and practical replacement for in-store samples for makeup and skincare, which have since become obsolete due to pandemic health and safety guidelines. Through the technology, customers can make purchases with complete confidence in the product and shade, having virtually tried out as many as they please.
However, it is not just virtual try-on programs that have amplified the intertwining of digital and beauty. McKinsey insights reported that forced closures at essential retailers meant that beauty product sales were significantly down, while online revenue for beauty companies increased by 20 to 30 percent during the pandemic. Major players in the industry began turning to mesmerizing consumer experiences to capitalize upon this growth and propel their digital footprint to new heights. French luxury cosmetics house Lancôme adopted immersive VR programs created by virtual store startup, ByondXR, to replicate their flagship store and enable customers to browse virtually, as if they were walking through it in person.
ByondXR’s 3D shoppable environments lead customers on an interactive and imaginative journey where they can shop, browse and engage with virtual assistants before making any purchases directly on the platform. Through partnering with ByondXR, the beauty and cosmetics house was able to scale up their digital efforts and delight customers through online skin consultations, live beauty panels with experts, and a chance to browse a 360 rendering of the store and check out their products in one place. The response to Lancôme’s virtual environments was overwhelmingly positive as their engagement rates soared and sessions in specific hotspots were significantly greater than the average shopping time. Accessible through any device, ByondXR made a full-scale, compelling 3D experience available wherever, whenever, giving the new age of consumer an alternative to outdated methods of e-commerce.
Due to the realities of the pandemic forcing people to work from home, wear a mask, and social distance, makeup sales unsurprisingly took a nosedive, but at the same time, skincare and self-care beauty products began seeing soaring sales figures. DIY beauty care became the focus of many brands looking to capitalize upon salon closures and honing in on providing customers with a professional opinion from the safety of their homes. VR programs like ByondXR’s virtual stores include interactive elements for beauty brands, going direct to consumers and curating a tailored experience and full consultation to achieve their aesthetic goals. The ability to conduct this service through an online platform is increasingly cost-effective for brands and convenient for consumers. Retailers no longer need to employ a large workforce in-store, sample production is decreased, and brands can better maintain connections with consumers.
Beauty has undergone a rapid digital makeover in the last year and this trend is likely to accelerate. E-commerce, VR programs, and shoppable social media platforms have become the preferred way to shop, leading more brands and retailers to invest in this new technology and prioritize digital channels to advance their online presence and keep consumers interested and engaged with the brand. As technology becomes the way forward for beauty, brands must offer elevated levels of product expertise and curated recommendations that alleviate feelings of absence for the consumer and ensure the online experience is superior to the in-person one. As Millennials and Gen Z become the dominant consumer, beauty brands must accommodate their Internet-savvy nature and ensure their digital touchpoints are seamless, informative, and effective in increasing conversion and moving with the current digital revolution.
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