Augmented reality (AR) is impacting industries all around us. Apple’s new ARKit, bringing advanced AR capabilities to iOS, only further underscores its rapid pace in reaching the mainstream.
Historically, AR has been connected to the gaming world, like Pokémon Go. In the beauty industry, Sephora’s app, Revieve’s beauty advisor and makeup apps like Perfect365, of which I’m president, have been using face detection and AR to analyze the skin and/or superimpose makeup on the face.
Retail industries have started to take notice. While brick-and-mortar businesses fight a losing battle with online competition, smart retailers are looking for ways to create a seamless omnichannel shopping experience that keeps buyers engaged even after leaving the store.
Here are three reasons why AR will become integral to the retail beauty industry:
1. There’s a new generation of buyers.
Countless research has focused on the millennial buyer. Never before have beauty retailers seen a power shift like the one driven by this generation. This generation comes to the store already armed with information about their purchase. In fact, according to research we conducted with Poshly, 65% of millennials would rather listen to their favorite YouTuber than an in-store beauty advisor.
For a group that practically lives on a cell phone, most information comes in digital form. It’s clear that online is influencing millennial buying decisions, but the reverse is also true: 46% of Gen Z will actually check in a store first to get information for an online purchase.
For beauty retailers, AR can attract these buyers through digital engagement both in-store and online. For a generation that is Instagraming everything, the experience is just as important as the product itself.
Here are some steps beauty brands can take to incorporate AR into their own offerings to reach the younger, tech-savvy generations:
• Consider implementing AR into your digital marketing strategy. By making products available in a digital environment, shoppers are able to try on, engage and experiment with more products faster using their smartphone. Imagine trying on 30 eyeshadows in 30 seconds without ever applying anything to your face.
• Work with beauty influencers and allow users to try on looks virtually. Research shows that millennials and Gen Zers trust recommendations from their favorite social media influencers. While many brands have tried and failed at using influencers to promote products, AR can encourage a deeper level of engagement by allowing influencers to develop looks with your products that can then be tried on virtually by their followers.
• Educate your buyers. Going beyond the virtual try-on to include video tutorials on how to recreate a look in real life and linking to products to buy can bring the AR experience full circle and drive more traffic to your brand, both in-store and online.
2. Brick-and-mortar is dying, but not for beauty.
For most industries, online accounts for the majority of sales. The beauty industry is the exception. Currently, online beauty sales in the U.S. makes up only 8% of total online sales for the entire industry. What makes the beauty industry different? The nature of cosmetics makes it impossible to know what makeup or hair color will look like without a firsthand, try-on experience.
“Try before you buy” has become the mantra of the millennial and Gen Z beauty buyer and has spawned a new genre of marketing via subscriptions such as ipsy, GLOSSYBOX and Sephora and Ulta’s playful, exploratory merchandising.
Here are some ways to incorporate AR to drive traffic into your brick-and-mortar store:
• Bring digital engagement into the store. Imagine if these buyers could try on a new shade of lipstick using AR on an iPad at the beauty counter and then make an online or in-store purchase. Not only do you allow the customer to try on more products faster, but they can also explore colors and complete makeup looks they might not have imagined looking good on them. Additionally, with virtual try-on, customers can still experience colors that aren’t in stock but can be ordered.
• Empower in-store beauty advisors to encourage virtual try-on at home. Instead of a cold call to a customer, imagine beauty advisors that can actually send a customer a picture of them wearing a new lipstick, eyeshadow or blush that has just come in? Imagine this customer being able to try on the look virtually using a live augmented reality mirror at home and coming into the store for purchase. These are just a few examples of bringing digital engagement into the store and evolving the retail experience.
3. The technology has reached its maturity.
Everywhere we look, technological innovations are changing the way we live. Self-driving cars, which were once science fiction, have surpassed luxury status and are being considered for utilitarian purposes such as package delivery.
Clearly, technology is moving at a rapid pace. The rate of advancement in the AR beauty industry has also been fueled by rapid improvements in facial recognition technology. Augmented reality and face technologies are now mature enough for the integrity of a beauty brand to be represented in a virtual environment.
In addition, color technologies and color matching have emerged to allow any color of any product to be replicated in the virtual environment. Makeup artists can sample makeup colors, for example, by using their camera phone to capture the color and then apply it to a customer photo. The ability to accurately place makeup on the face virtually now looks so realistic that when you compare it to a photo of someone with actual makeup on, you can hardly distinguish the difference between the two.
Augmented reality will be at the forefront of change in the beauty industry. Previously, we could have only imagined getting a text message from a beauty advisor sending us a new lipstick or blush to try on virtually — now it’s possible. Brand engagement that includes this type of experimentation and customization will ultimately win the loyalty of buyers who have grown up with technology.
Article and image originally appeared on Forbes.