Makeup brand CoverGirl’s new Times Square store in New York is encouraging shoppers to immerse themselves in an experiential playground with tech-enabled experiences that include a virtual greeter and AR glam stations.
The store, which is the first under the brand’s new “I am what I make up” philosophy, is designed to be a shared beauty experience, where consumers are encouraged to discover, try on and express themselves through makeup in several different ways.
“We can’t wait to open our doors to the public and let our fellow CoverGirls in to play and to ‘make up’ what CoverGirl means to them,” says Coty’s Consumer Beauty CMO Ukonwa Ojo. “The CoverGirl flagship represents this incredible moment in beauty – where rich experiences matter most and where true self-expression and experimentation are the only beauty standards.”
Upon entering the store, customers are greeted by Olivia, an AI virtual greeter powered by Google’s Dialogflow that can answer questions, share beauty trends or simply direct customers to their desired products. A try-on station allows shoppers to pick up a lipstick or eyeshadow from a tray and have it automatically overlaid onto their faces via augmented reality mirrors, similar to Coty’s Bourjois boutique that opened in Paris earlier this year; to provide the personalization that consumers crave, another station allows them to customize a lipstick and/or makeup bag; lastly, in-store staff, or CoverGirl BFFs, will be on hand to provide advice, tricks and recommendations.
The store’s design has also been developed with the young beauty consumer in mind, with every corner providing a selfie-ready backdrop that allows shoppers to share their looks and shopping experiences.
Being that the new flagship is at one of the world’s busiest areas for footfall, it will be open daily from 10am until midnight.
Increasingly, beauty brands are deploying augmented reality to further engage with a consumer who is prone for interaction. Beyond Coty’s new Bourjois and CoverGirl stores, this year L’Oréal also announced the introduction of digital beauty assistants that use AR to show consumers looks via video on the NYX app.
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CoverGirl has launched an online video that celebrates the women who have inspired its new TrueBlend foundation, which boasts over 40 shades.
To truly do so, the brand has created a credits section to the spot that rolls for a full 13 minutes and 40 seconds, thanking all of the 1,000 women involved.
Alongside those featured in the spot, the brand has also enlisted brand ambassadors such as HBO series Insecure’s star, Issa Rae, 70-year-old model Maye Musk, and motorcycle racer Shelina Moreda, further emphasizing the diversity of both the shades of foundation and the women who will wear it.
The short film was directed by Australian director Kim Gehrig and features an array of beautiful women of all ethnicities and skin colors dancing on and off the screen in a whirlwind, with the last few seconds bringing all of them together in a staircase frame.
Written over this powerful image are the words “A foundation inspired by the infinite, made for you.”
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna arguably kickstarted the 40-shade foundation hype and led beauty giants such as L’Oreal, Coverfix, and MakeUpForever to launch or expand into new shades. CoverGirl emphasizes however that its TrueBlend foundation was not created as a reaction to a trend, but rather inspired by listening to the needs of its consumers and developing the shades and formula through their feedback.
The spot is part of CoverGirl’s overarching new approach titled “I Am What I Make Up”, which officially substituted its famous “Easy, Breezy, Beautiful” tagline in 2017. The brand has since invested in a series of campaigns where it hopes to show a more mature and inclusive identity.
Highlights of this new approach include enlisting Amy Deanna as a spokesperson, who became the brand’s first model with vitiligo. In May this year, fitness trainer and influencer Massy Arias also showcased the brand’s mascara while doing a workout, in a message of the importance of making time for one’s self.
Amazon, Google and Snapchat are the three top tech companies to look at for key stories over the past couple of weeks (and potentially the whole of 2016 in fact). From the launch of Amazon Go, which enables shoppers to just walk out of a shop while their phone handles payment, to the virtual reality “Window Wonderland” holiday tour Google has organised from a bevy of US stores – it’s all about more convenient as well as heightened experiential retail. Meanwhile, lots of brands are starting to experiment with Snapchat’s Spectacles too.
Also worth checking out from this past fortnight are a double-whammy of reports on free shipping and free returns, lots more about the uptake of chatbots, and a deep-dive on what the fashion world faces against the rise of extremism, populism and protectionism.
Thanks to Google, you can now take a VR tour of New York’s holiday window displays [Ad Week]
What Amazon Go means for the future of retail [AdAge]
From a branding perspective, what also works is engagement – the typical sponsored lens (the augmented reality filters Snapchat has become increasingly known for), are used on average for 20 seconds.
All of that combined, and beauty brands have particularly been taking note. Looking to raise awareness and build new audiences, companies such as Urban Decay, Benefit and L’Oréal have recently launched their own lenses on the social app and, for 24 hours, reached a potential public of up to 100 million.
For Benefit, the biggest ROI in numbers wasn’t sales conversion, but rather usage and shares. As Nicole Frusci, vice president and digital marketing at the brand, told WWD: “We noticed there was a huge amount of usage from consumers to beauty influencers to other partners of ours. We saw a huge spike in the cross-sharing on other channels that was greater than we expected.”
In another creative application, beauty subscription retailer Birchbox recently invited followers to use Snapchat’s call feature to speak to its customer service agents.
The way these companies are using Snapchat is indicative of how beauty brands are putting their customers’ digital behaviours at the core of education, product discovery and experimentation. As digital has evolved, the always-on millennial beauty audience has grown accustomed to responding to visual, engaging digital content. This has been driven by the popularity of beauty vloggers, from grassroots names like Zoella to professional make-up artists including Lisa Eldridge and Charlotte Tilbury.
In 2015, leveraging the popularity of the contouring trend, partly thanks to the Kardashian clan, Sephora teamed up with beauty firm Map My Beauty to launch Pocket Contour, a mobile app that teaches customers how to master the sculpting look. Explaining the approach of hand-holding customers once they leave the store, Bridget Dolan, Sephora’s Innovation Lab VP, told USA Today: “We don’t want them to go home and throw the product in a drawer because the consumer can’t remember how the beauty adviser applied it.”
She added that women can buy the wrong foundation up to seven times before finding the correct shade for their skin. Teaching them how to buy and use the correct product first time around, helps avoid customer dissatisfaction, she explained.
Sephora’s strategy in the digital space is clearly rooted in insight about how its customers behave and what barriers might be stopping them from experimenting with new make-up. The brand has also recently launched the Beauty Uncomplicator online, which helps narrow down its extensive merchandise using a Mad Libs-style questionnaire, where users have to fill in blanks. By promoting interactivity, Sephora is trying to create “really fun, addictive shopping experiences”, according to Deborah Yeh, SVP of marketing and brand.
Being fun is also key to how the beauty industry is approaching digital. This is particularly important for luxury beauty brands, who are notoriously less adventurous in the physical sphere in order to protect brand equity. Digital gives them room to play and to be experimental, which is perfectly exemplified by Burberry bringing its beauty license back in-house in 2012. When luring the millennial customer into buying an affordable piece from the label, quirky campaigns like Burberry Kisses from 2013, show flexible brand image, with a digital sensibility that matches its younger target audience.
And as brands play with digital platforms, from established social media apps, like John Frieda’s recent Instagram campaign, to the sci-fi world of bots (another Sephora initiative), there is one clear go-to tech when it comes to getting the best of both work and play: augmented reality. Spearheaded by industry leaders such as Modiface and Holition, AR bridges the gap between the experience of trialling a physical product in-store and doing so on your smartphone.
Brands ranging as far and wide as L’Oréal, Lancôme and Covergirl have taken on the technology to help customers virtually try on make-up (mimicking that Snapchat user behaviour), while Rimmel has employed it to allow users to ‘nab’ the look of others. Modiface even has a new chatbot that brings virtual lipstick try-ons to Facebook Messenger.
Max Factor meanwhile is using it to enhance access to content in-store; recently announcing a partnership with augmented reality app Blippar that allows customers to scan more than 500 of its individual products to see additional information, from peer reviews to before-and-after pictures.
Digital and tech are most successful when they enhance – and not replace – the shopping experience. Customers will only interact when they are willing, so getting the basics right first, such as customer-focused product categories, is essential. And the message from the beauty industry is clear: use digital as a tool to help customers navigate choice and facilitate trial and error. Make it ‘sticky’ and you will become their brand of choice.