Will technology enable a broader range of looks for beauty shoppers?
Xavier Vey // WTF BEAUTY
Xavier Vey has led beauty giant L’Oréal’s Luxe division for the U.S. as president and chief operating officer since 2016. He oversees a brand portfolio that includes Lancôme, Kiehl’s, Urban Decay, IT Cosmetics, YSL, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Viktor & Rolf.
As part of the company’s digital transformation, L’Oréal has invested heavily in technology. In 2018, it acquired the ModiFace augmented reality application for virtual trial of cosmetics and hair and nail colors. When Vey asks What the Future, he wants to know if people will embrace virtual and digital interfaces as part of their beauty-buying routine. He spoke with WTF before he moved back to France to run L’Oréal’s Luxe division in Western Europe.
WTF: What did you learn from the consumer survey?
Xavier Vey: Two things. It confirms that we’re on the right strategy with the ModiFace acquisition because it shows that on products like lip color and nail polish there’s definitely interest. There’s something powerful in being able to try it online. What’s also interesting is we see this increased connection and engagement of the consumer offline. The second thing that we learn is what holds people back.
WTF: Yes, you see in the data that most people are still skeptical, especially with foundation.
Vey: When you’re talking about trying a foundation, and you know foundation is a very important part of the makeup business because it’s less linked to the precise effect that it gives to your look and rather to the actual, exact color match with your skin. My hypothesis is that the technology is not yet at that level of preciseness on foundation.
WTF: How are you improving it?
Vey: Smartphones are getting better in photography. What is holding us back is the capacity to record the right color at a distance. What we have that is super-precise today is in the source, a color matcher you apply directly on the skin. It’s a measure from three or four points on the skin. What is difficult is to go from directly touching the skin with a tool that measures the color to doing it on an iPhone through a camera lens. The big next step is the capacity to do that. The future is the capacity to go further in customized, personalized service for the consumer.
WTF: What does that mean for the future?
Vey: We have two projects that we are finalizing. One is called the Shade Finder. We’ve got in the point of sale a machine that measures your shade and tells you the shade that you need because women are very afraid of not choosing the right shade. The second is called Le Teint Particulier, which is about how we want to be totally inclusive and diverse. We started it a few years ago. It’s a custom-made foundation we produce in the store to the exact shade corresponding to your skin, up to 20,000 shades. It’s a very good insight for marketing in the future that after years of work on foundation we are still at the beginning of what technology is going to allow us to do for women in color matching.
Will people buy a product they've only tested virtually? It depends...
Assuming you liked it and it was an acceptable price, do you think you would purchase a new grooming/makeup product that you had ONLY tried virtually? By “virtually” we mean by using a computer or phone app either at home or in-store, with software that shows you how the product looks on your face.
Foundation or tinted moisturizer
Blush and/or bronzer
Lip color (tinted balm, lipstick, gloss, etc.)
Hair dye (tint, color, etc.)
Eyeliner and/or eye shadow
(Source: Ipsos survey conducted between June 12 and 13, 2019 among 1,005 adults in the U.S.who indicated they had purchased/used each product within the past 12 months.)
WTF: How does having AR like ModiFace give people more confidence to try bolder options or a much broader spectrum of colors and looks?
Vey: In lipstick, we offer a range of 100 lipsticks, but in a given brand there are always 10 shades that are the best sellers. It’s not even the 20/80 rule. It goes even smaller in lipstick and one of the reasons is that women are worried about making a mistake in buying it. When women try lipstick when they are in the point of sale, most of the time they don’t try them on their lips. They try them on their hand or their arm. With this AR you really can experience it on your lips without having to take it off and on. You can really experience 100 shades. So, yeah, it’s increasing the willingness to try different things and not buy the same look.
What the Future is a quarterly deep dive into different aspects of consumer and social thought and behavior. Each edition features exclusive new data from world-leading research firm Ipsos. WTF explores how a single industry or behavior fits into the broader culture now and in the coming decades. Read Previous WTF Issues »