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Beauty Brands Love Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is having a makeover moment, with more and more beauty brands turning to the tech to engage young consumers, show off their products—and reportedly boost sales as well…


This year, augmented reality is continuing to outshine virtual reality—between the face filters adopted by Instagram (clearly “inspired” by Snapchat), magic-sounding AR sans-goggles from Disney, and viral dancing hotdogs, it’s clear that brands and consumers alike are embracing the AR future wholeheartedly. But perhaps no industry is showing their love for augmented reality as much as the beauty business. Brand after brand are implementing AR apps and tools to engage young consumers, show off their products—and reportedly boost sales as well.

Snapchat has acted as a stepping stone for many, thanks to their lenses and many brand partnerships. Last June, L’Oreal launched their first makeup lens, which added cat-eye eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush, and lip color to selfies. When a user raised their eyebrows, camera lights flashed around them, and the L’Oreal logo popped up. Urban Decay’s Lens, which allowed users to “try on” multiple colors of lipstick, reportedly boosted engagement and sales for the brand. Both brands have since pushed further into AR territory with their own apps. Urban Decay’s Vice Lipstick app allows fans to try on any color they wish before buying.

Sephora is especially betting big on AR to sell beauty products online. The retailer recently launched new augmented reality features to its mobile app which allow users to virtually try on products while learning the steps to perfecting looks. Meanwhile, their new concept store is putting a digital spin on makeup shopping for the Customization Nation with AI assistants to show before-and-after looks and provide digital skin care guides. The strategy is “built around the idea that when people know how to use a beauty product, and what tools are needed to complete a look, they’ll be more likely to buy it.” According to Glossy, CoverGirl, Rimmel London, Shiseido, and OPI, have taken similar approaches to overcome the challenge of “creating a connection between physical products and customers.”

Makeover apps like Urban Decay’s are the most popular method being employed. Many of these, including Sephora’s, L’Oreal’s, Covergirl’s, and Estée Lauder’s upcoming effort,  are powered by Modiface. The AR tool is reportedly working with almost 70 brands currently, leading to its technology being downloaded over 60 million times. The brand’s own site advertises their SDK as “the most widely used AR technology in the beauty industry,” touting real time video and photo makeup, hair, and skin simulation, 3D facial feature tracking, customized mobile AR experiences, in store AR mirrors, and more. Their own MakeUp app features products from multiple brands. Their partnership with Smashbox used eye-tracking to boost sales conversions by a reported 27%.

While some brands are launching their own makeover apps, others are partnering with already existing AR “try and buy” platforms, like YouCam and GlamScout. The latter allows users to try out your favorite celebrity’s latest makeup. The app picks up facial features the way Snapchat (and now Instagram) filters do, letting them try on specific celebrity looks. Post-Oscars, users could virtually swipe on Emma Stone’s bright red lipstick, and, if they liked the look, could buy her exact product or some popular alternatives at lower price points. Users typically spend four minutes on the app per session with an average of 20 actions, but the app’s not just driving engagement. With a 7% click through to purchase rate, it’s powering sales. L’Oreal is reportedly pairing up with YouCam to expand their reach and bolster their e-commerce efforts—which reportedly grew in sales by 27% year over year.

So, is the industry’s love affair with AR working? According to Modiface, the tech is helping to drive sales in a big way. Their CEO tells Racked, “Overall, the average figure we see across apps is an 80 percent increase in conversions (a.k.a. product purchases) and 120 percent increase in time spent browsing the app.” Seems like more than enough incentive for more beauty brands to get on board—and push AR tech further in-store and in their marketing efforts.