News & Views

Opinion / Beauty and the Beast

by Kate Hollowood

By making premium experiences more accessible, tech is giving even the most unlikely players a chance to get in our makeup bags 

‘I’ve just had so many ideas for your hair!’ is a sentence that sadly I don’t hear very often at work. But one day last week was different. In the name of research, I snuck into the privacy of our founder’s office (he was away) for a beauty consultation with renowned celebrity stylist Laurie Hadleigh. What struck me most about my chat with Laurie was not the flaming coral she prescribed for my nails, nor the lob (long bob) that she advised for my hair, but the fact that the conversation was happening courtesy of Tesco. To promote the Beauty at Tesco range, the supermarket had partnered with Google Hangouts and nine beauty experts to offer customers one-on-one cyber styling sessions

We all know that technology is enabling plenty of unique experiences in beauty and fashion: from the explosion of beauty bloggers testing and reviewing products, to the rise of m-commerce (75% of beauty sites are now mobile optimised, according to New York-based think tank L2) to Yves Saint-Laurent’s recent experiment with Google Glass. Among my favourite examples of beauty brands using tech is last year’s Make Up Genius app by L'Oréal. The mobile app maps different makeup looks onto your face by turning your smartphone screen into a mirror. With a swipe of your finger, you can see yourself with smokey eyes or a hot pink pout (even the men in the office can’t get enough).

Then, just this week, beauty retailer Sephora released a mobile tool that teaches the industry’s latest Kardashian-inspired fad: contouring. What’s special about the how-to advice is that it is personalised. The tool scans a selfie to analyse face shape and then pin-points the exact areas to apply light and dark tones.

Technology is enabling brands lower down the beauty chain to offer personalised advice and tutorials that used to only be associated with designer brands in department stores. Whether it's facial mapping technology, photo scanning on smartphones or Google Hangouts, technology is having a levelling affect across different beauty brands, and this is no better emphasised than with Tesco’s beauty consultations. The campaign shows that a memorable and personalised experience can give even the most unlikely players a luxurious appeal. If you’d told me before that Tesco would orchestrate my 2015 beauty look I would have fallen off my chair in shame. And I would have NEVER considered buying cosmetics at Tesco – but the experience with Laurie was so good that I’ve already bought three nail varnishes. Years of brand building that got me sucked into glamorous department stores has been usurped by a unique experience. This presents brands with an incredible opportunity. It’s not about putting your products on the consideration list anymore. It’s about promoting your products by putting your experience on the consideration list. Now if you need anything from Tesco’s let me know, I’m just popping out to buy some milk