Augmented-reality lipstick shopping. Online skin diagnostics. Smart hairbrushes. The beauty business has become one of the most tech-dominated industries, and cosmetics giant L’Oréal Paris is looking to sharpen its digital edge, recently announcing a partnership with Station F, a Parisian accelerator, and plans to welcome up to 20 new startups into the program. And for the first time, it’s looking to include indie beauty brands. Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal’s chief digital officer, tells Marketing Daily what the cosmetics giant hopes to get out of the deal.
Q. Why is beauty such a fertile area for tech right now?
A. We’ve been working on open innovation for the last five years, starting in San Francisco, then with Founder’s Factory in London, through an investment fund, and now Station F. What we’ve seen is that digital and beauty is a perfect match right now. For one thing, there’s the intense use of video. Beauty is engaging, with something like 45 billion video views each year, between hair and makeup tutorials. It’s among the most searched on Google, and growing super-fast on e-commerce.
And the beauty experience is being reinvented through digital technologies–virtual makeup and hair color try-ons, skin diagnostics, online consultations—these are becoming the new normal. There is heavy tech behind all this—machine learning, AI, social commerce. But there’s also a fantastic consumer experience on the front end.
Q. What are some of the areas that you think will be hottest?
A. We’re looking across all our categories–makeup, skincare, hair and fragrance, especially for shade finders, virtual try-ons, and very personalized recommendations. That’s not just about products, but also routines, and ways to have personal conversations about skincare regimes. We’re also looking at devices and tools that can help consumers, like our connected hairbrush, which we introduced last year. It has sensors that give people constant updates on the health of their hair.
Q. Besides L’Oreal’s digital breakthroughs, like Makeup Genius and the smart hairbrush, you’ve also expanded offerings with platforms like Perfect’s YouCam. Why?
A. Yes, we want our brands to be there, and we want our consumers to be able to find us on many platforms. We were the first to partner with SnapChat on beauty, for example. But we also want them to experience our brands directly, in a very personalized way, either on our websites or in our stores. We want them to have an intimate relationship on our brand touchpoints.
Q. What’s the target market for these new technologies?
A. We are building beauty for all. We don’t design with a specific market in mind, but rather by focusing on the big barriers. With makeup, it’s people wondering, “What will that look like on me?” Foundation is one of the most complicated categories. So we start with the problems and the unmet needs, then design services around this—that’s how Makeup Genius was born, which we are generalizing for all our sites and brands. Skincare is a big area—three-D skin diagnostics will be a fantastic experience for our customers. For brands like Kiehl’s, it will be super-powerful.
Q. What areas are hardest? Fragrances?
A. For fragrances and services, we know that sampling at scale is very effective. We’re working with Founder’s Factory, another accelerator in London, and through them with found a great Canadian startup called Sampler, which is helping our brands manage and measure sampling strategy.
Q. How will you know when the Station F partnership has been a success?
A. It’s about spotting the right startups and technologies, which is obviously the most complicated thing to do, and then making sure they are scaled across all our brands.