Is ‘virtual try on’ the AR alternative to in-store cosmetics tests?

3 May 2021

An employee of Japan’s cosmetics giant Shiseido demonstrates the company’s new virtual make-up system.How do you test cosmetics without contact, and ideally from the comfort of home? Meet the virtual try on. AFP PHOTO/Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo by AFP)

After the COVID-19 lockdown confined the public to their homes for months on end, shops are now starting to fully reopen – albeit to significantly decreased footfall and a slump in sales, with many beauty brands being amongst those suffering.

Despite this, the demand for beauty products is certainly not going anywhere; Google Trends reveals, during the heart of the lockdown period in mid-2020, online searches for terms such as ‘makeup online store’ and ‘makeup try on’ were the highest since 2019. It’s clear consumers want to keep buying makeup – they just don’t, currently, want to go into stores.

Anyone who uses makeup will value the opportunity going into stores offers them, to test and try on different products, ensuring they pick the right shades to suit their skin tone. With anxiety or, for some, an inability to step back into shops post-COVID, it is easy to see how consumers, despite wanting to buy these products, might feel more hesitant about actually going through with the purchase online. Online shopping does not offer them the ability to test shades, to tell if they have picked the right color or even, once they receive the product and the shade is wrong, the certainty that they will be able to return it.

Augmented reality (AR) holds the perfect solution to this problem: virtual makeup ‘try ons’.

AR uses mobile camera technology to blend the user’s real-time video with interactive virtual objects or overlays, such as eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick, creating different effects and experiences for the consumer. For this reason, AR perfectly fills the bill as a solution to the issues the beauty industry is currently facing.

Brands can now create an experience where the consumer can virtually ‘try on’ a wide range of products through AR, a highly effective and innovative means to reach and involve consumers like never before.

AR could, therefore, be the saving grace for a lot of beauty brands during a time where consumer behavior is radically changing. For products worn daily, such as makeup, it’s also important to be able to visualize them worn on before purchase, and so AR could be a great asset to any brand, at any point in the year, let alone post-COVID.

Beyond COVID-19, try ons can continue to have a huge impact on retail and consumer trends, as reports already show an 11 times higher likelihood for customers to buy a product when AR try-on is available, while 75% of people already expect retailers to offer an AR experience.

Our creative platform has certainly seen more interest in brands wanting to experiment with AR and virtual try ons since COVID-19 came to light. Blending beauty campaigns with AR technology, over the lockdown period and beyond, has proven beneficial in extending consumers’ access to their product catalogs whilst simultaneously promoting their marketing campaigns, reaching more people, and increasing sales over this difficult period.

AR is also not just limited to the virtual try on, and has been utilized by many brands in advertising, social media and packaging to engage consumers in the brand’s story. This includes providing consumers with additional information about their products and direct links to their website, so they can immediately purchase the items shown through the effects.

Despite the recent misfortunes which have fallen upon brands, there is much to be excited about in the future of beauty, with AR remaining one of the top opportunities for brands to increase their sales and engage with their audiences from a distance.

In a market where most consumers remain loyal, specifically to their favorite beauty brands, offering these types of experiences can be crucial in maintaining that relationship and loyalty with the consumer. By offering new, interesting opportunities for them to be more involved with the brand story, brands can keep consumers engaged with company news and products, even when they cannot come into the store to view and test out what’s available, as they usually would. It is also, of course, a great asset in increasing sales and market shares.

With 700 million consumers already making use of virtual try-on experiences, and COVID-19 having a radical hit on company sales, now is the time for beauty brands to utilize AR technology.