L’Oréal is launching one project every day with augmented reality (AR) beauty company Modiface – and it’s seeing the returns just as quickly.
L’Oréal acquired ModiFace last March after working with it on a project basis for seven years. The buyout gave it access to the patented technology that allows users visualize products on their own faces using the camera on their phones.
The Modiface team is now based in a hybrid environment called the Digital Services Factory in Toronto where it's working with L’Oréal’s 36 brands in 65 countries to help them experiment with the tech.
“We're been developing one project per day,” Lubomira Rochet, the company’s global chief digital officer, recently told The Drum.
“We've deployed 120 of those projects. We now consider virtual make-up try on to be the base of any experience. At the end of the day the only barrier to buying [a product] is wondering what it will look like.”
Though hesitant to reveal the early results, Rochet did say that when its marketers have put the AR feature on a website or app the brand will see engagement time on that site double while conversion rates will triple.
“People are trying 42 looks because it's fun and entertaining and the experience is easy and the colour rendering is precise,” she said. “People are really playing with it and are really starting to spend time with the brand.”
But these results are not just positive news for L’Oréal. It has begun to allow third-party platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and Tmall to also use the technology, not only to promote L’Oréal products but those of rivals brands.
Open sourcing might be a surprise given L’Oréal invested heavily to own the tech but Rochet said scale is the aim of that game, the more people use it the better its capability will be, though it also earns a small return from those looking to pay to license it.
“We have 1.3 billion visitors to our website - but the more scale ModiFace achieves the better the technology will become. It's a win-win for us and consumers,” she said.
In a rare move, Amazon became the latest retailer to embrace it. L’Oréal spent a month with the e-commerce giant in something called a ‘Web Lab’ where they learnt about each other’s offerings before commencing on a small trial shortly after.
Rochet said that the results have been impressive and now Amazon has opted to scale it across other brands and L’Oréal product pages.
“There is an increasingly blurring line between transactional platforms and brand building platforms. And Amazon started as a transactional platform but today 50% of any search will start on Amazon. So, it means it's not only an e-commerce play, it's a brand building and awareness play,” continued Rochet.
L’Oréal is now planning to expand beyond virtual make-up to other product areas. It will soon roll out a virtual hair colour try on, which is exactly the same principle as the make-up tool, and has ambitions to “crack” the foundation category in the coming months.
“50% of women still can't find the right shade of foundation. So, we're working on a scientific Foundation Finder," she said. "It's very hard to take into consideration things like lighting conditions and camera phone technology. But we're using super advanced machine learning techniques to crack the problem.”
Away from virtual try-ons, L’Oréal also believes the technology can be used to diagnose skin and hair conditions.
It recently launched a project for skincare, which aims to allow people to use the AR technology to help with product recommendations. It’s graded 10,000 images of people’s skin in terms of severity of concerns – from acne to psoriasis – and deployed what Rochet claims as a first-ever AI-powered skincare diagnostic tool available on a smartphone app.
“We’re now doing the same for hair diagnostic. We have more women suffering hair loss, especially in China, so we're using AI to be able to diagnose your hair. The idea of making [professional advice] available for billions of people, not just the few who can go to a salon."