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At the start of 2018, and particularly around CES, it seemed like you couldn’t move for all the beauty tech that was being launched. In the last six months, many of the big brands have announced acquisition of, or partnership with, start-ups (particularly in the AI space), the most recent being L’Oreal’s acquisition of Modiface. Or brands are developing their own hardware for sensing and delivering personalised products for skin and hair.
But for all this talk, I think we are still in the very early days of this type of technology being embraced by the industry. At the recent Cosmoprof show in Bologna, one of the largest cosmetics and personal care shows in the world, there really wasn’t that much in the way of what I would call beauty tech. There were a couple of panels in the Cosmotalks line up (one of which featured my colleague Jiahui and our Skintuition concept). Also, the Beauty & Spa pavilions were packed with professional equipment that looked like it had come straight out of a hospital operating theatre for teeth whitening, and fat reduction amongst other therapies. However, the only examples of sensing technology that can advise consumers on the type of product they should be using came in the South Korean country pavilions, where I saw there were in fact a few stands.
South Korea is considered to be one of the leaders in the cosmetics and personal care industry, with many global trends starting here. And so it comes as no surprise that all the examples I could find came from here.
A luxurious and indulgent experience
However, these all had the same problem that I think many of the other examples we have seen recently have – and that is a user experience that is more like something you’d experience in a doctor’s surgery than as an enhancement to a luxurious and indulgent experience when selecting beauty products.
I believe the key challenge here is that the beauty industry is not used to engaging in this kind of technology, and so there is a lack of understanding about what is and what is not possible. And on the flip side, those familiar with the technology and who are driving its uptake into the industry don’t really appreciate the expectations of the consumer in these experiences. This, of course, is a sweeping generalisation but from what I’ve seen so far there needs to be greater alignment between the experience owners and the technology leaders to really make the most of what is an exciting opportunity.
Collaborative working is key
That said, it's not easy – even with an appreciation from all sides, there are engineering challenges to embody technologies that are available in a way that is aligned with a desirable experience. However, having a team of brand, UX, design, digital and technology experts working together can bring this to life.
Sensing technology and artificial intelligence can definitely take beauty personalisation to a new level. But collaborative working (which is at the heart of all our most successful projects) will be key to making it happen.