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​L'Oréal: how technology reshapes the beauty experience


An app analyzes your skin and gives recommendations. The app works with a base of 15.000 skin images across different skin types. Thanks to artificial intelligence, beauty companies like L'Oréal are able to offer consumers a personal approach. The French giant is also exploring the metaverse: from sponsoring e-sports teams to virtual pop-up stores.

"Our goal is to do the best marketing in the digital age. Technology trends like augmented reality and artificial intelligence are coming into marketing and making sure that our consumer experiences are more enhanced. We need to embrace that we are moving from digitalization to virtualization, and from digital transformation to data transformation," says Asmita Dubey, Chief Digital & Marketing Officer at L'Oréal in a video interview to Insider Intelligence.

She loves to combine creative and technological approaches. With a background in economics and statistics, Dubey began her career in the advertising industry in Asia. She joined L'Oréal in 2013 as Chief Marketing Officer for L'Oréal China, where she was responsible for laying the foundations for the Group's e-commerce acceleration in China. She feels privileged to have a workplace with a diverse group of 'women in digital'. "More than half of our digital experts are women, shaping the future of digital beauty every day."

Metaverse-based store fronts
L'Oréal's brands include Lancôme, Kiehl's, Garnier, Redken, Maybelline New York and NYX Professional Makeup. The French cosmetics and personal care company is now preparing to bring its cosmetics to the metaverse and has submitted 17 trademark applications relating to NFTs and the metaverse, according to NFT Plazas. Each is featuring a different kind of cosmetic, with virtual perfumery, haircare products and skincare items. The applications will cover both avatars and virtual environments relating to metaverse-based store fronts in virtual worlds such as Decentraland.

Sponsoring a women e-sports team
Dubey is convinced that the metaverse and games are important ways to reach target groups of young women. "There are a lot of gamers in the world and 45% of gamers are women. So, for sure our brands are very involved with gaming. One of our brands, NYX Professional Makeup, has sponsored a women e-sports team. That allows them to have self-expression and makeup, and engage with the brand as well as with the gaming community." NYX Professional Makeup was the first global cosmetics brand to partner with an e-sports team. Content was centered around self-expression, empowerment and furthering opportunities for underrepresented groups in gaming.

NYX Professional Makeup moreover served as the beauty partner of the NFT fashion and beauty event Crypto Fashion Week. The event concluded with its own 'Meta Gala', a virtual fashion show livestreamed on Twitch and YouTube. During the event NYX Professional Makeup unveiled its first NFT. "For us, this is another way of connecting with our digitally native consumer base," General Manager USA Yasmin Dastmalchi said to magazine Glossy. "It is a space we are looking at and we know the web 3 is going to evolve. It is here, it is inevitable," Dubey adds.

Self-care rituals give players confidence
Not only women, also men e-sports teams are part of the target group. The London-based e-sports organization Fnatic has started a partnership with L'Oréal Men Expert. Fnatic is known for its League of Legends team. L'Oréal Men Expert will be involved in the teams' social media content and products will be available for Fnatic players. "Our players know that to be the best in-game we have to prepare the best outside of it and it is those self-care rituals that give us the confidence to play better," Fnatic CEO Sam Mathews states.

ModiFace: technology reshaping the beauty experience
All L'Oréal brands aim for a personal approach and it is here that artificial intelligence (AI) plays an increasing role. During a video presentation at La Chaîne du Marketing Mobile, Asmita Dubey shows a L'Oréal Paris commercial. "Look, you just need a smartphone to take a picture of your skin. Once we analyze it, we start understanding that person's skin whether it is dry or sensitive, what skin care routines that should be there and which products are going to work or not."

To further develop these kinds of services L'Oréal acquired artificial intelligence company ModiFace. "In this particular skin diagnosis, there is a base of 15.000 different skin images across different skin types which are provided by our research. We focus on 16 different skin concerns that are mapped through AI to make sure what the recommendations are going to be." When there is a digital touchpoint with consumers, ModiFace is there. The tech company also offers virtual makeup and hair color try-ons and augmented reality shopping. "With that acquisition we created loads of services for our consumers," Dubey says.

Lancôme virtual pop-up stores
To reach young consumers Lancôme has launched virtual pop-up stores in several countries, such as Australia and the UK. Unlike traditional online shops, visitors can take part in games to unlock promotional offers. In one-to-one sessions they can get skin care and other advices. The virtual stores use extended reality (XR) technology provided by platform ByondXR that specializes in 3D stores for brands.

Making beauty inclusive
In the overall approach of the company, technology and purpose come together. "We believe that the future of beauty is diverse, inclusive and sustainable. It is nourished by green science and powered by technology," Dubey elaborates. In the past, however, there have been several controversies surrounding L'Oréal. In 2020 the company decided to stop using words like 'whitening' in describing its products. The announcement came amid calls against racial inequality. The company states it stands in solidarity with the black community. Dubey is an Indian national and emphasizes the importance of inclusion. "We create beauty, not just beauty, but beauty that stands for all people around the world. Beauty as a powerful voice that moves us. Beauty that builds technology to make people's lives easier."

When Dubey was growing up in India, the prime minister was a woman. "She was a great role model for me. I hoped once to reach such a position," she says during a talk to Inspiring Girls International. She ended up in the marketing world. "Talking about skills: my background is in mathematics and computer science, but then I became interested in advertising because it is such a creative profession. So, there is this balance of left-brain and right-brain skills. Now, years later, when you look at the digitalization, there are so many interesting platforms, so much creativity and innovation that technology brings to you. This mix of skills makes it very interesting."

Bring relevance and let consumers in control
The paradox is that technology and digitalization may create distance and an impersonal world. Dubey advocates a different approach. "We have a philosophy that is to humanize as we digitize, because we have to understand that there is so much discussion about data. But people are not data points, they are people, and therefore we are committed to safeguarding the privacy of our consumers. We bring personalization and relevance to them, because a lot of them seek personalization and relevance. We always believe that the consumer should remain in control."

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