The luxury beauty industry has thrived for many years on the concept of the human touch being essential to not only sell its products but also to form strong relationships with customers. Being a source of trust and knowledge, the human connection has long been synonymous with luxury beauty retail, known for its personalized experiences and high standards of customer service.
The process in which brands create connections with its customers is complex and involves many factors, however it is emotions, feeling and moods, that has the greatest influence. Emotions are crucial in the buying-decision making process, therefore stimulating emotional engagement in the digital age is incredibly complex, customers need to engage all their senses to connect emotionally. When managing these relationships, it is valuable for the long-term success of premium beauty brands that they learn how to evaluate and best use technology together with human interactions.
With the advent of digital shopping and its further acceleration through the pandemic, how can beauty brands like Shiseido look at solutions to mitigate the anti-social trends in retail. Angelica Munson the Global Chief Digital Officer at Shiseido has this to say,
“COVID-19 gave rise to this very digitally powered stay-at-home economy. It has hyper-accelerated all the consumer behaviors… In retail, we call it the new retail world order… And it forces us to rethink how we sell and how we service. AI and AR were just amongst the few digital technologies in our category that essentially kept the economy going.”
An inspired solution
Shiseido is embracing beauty tech, like AI and AR, to elevate the luxury beauty shopping experience to elevate all touch points to the level of what was previously presented solely with the human touch aspect. They don’t see it as a replacement but an expansion to their customer service offering. Ensuring that staff are not alienated from tech developments, Shiseido now has implemented a digital academy with over 7000 students, learning to use tools like AI and AR. Shiseido has emphasized that using tech is not a replacement of human capital but a way to enhance their connection between the brand and the customer.
“In the beginning, (beauty tech was used to) service the consumer who could not be in store. But now it is becoming clearer that it is really table stakes for our make-up artists and beauty consultants. It has to be in their toolkit ongoing to empower them to help guide them and service clients, which otherwise wouldn’t be as fruitful or effective.”
It seems that Shiseido’s perspective and it’s holistic attitude of merging both the digital and physical space is leading the pack, we now see an evolution, within beauty retail amongst many other industries, that is now to apply the concept of ‘phygital’, retail spaces that are being enhanced by the use of technology to elevate the customer experience in store and offer a point of differentiation from just the at-home digital experience to bring customers back to the store.
What is exactly is ‘phygital’?
Phygital is a marriage of the online and offline environment, this is done by taking the best aspects from each space to create a 360 degree brand experience for the customer that is much more satisfying than each space alone, this movement in retail is different from other marketing as it focuses on many channels and on keeping the purchasing process fluid.
Phygital experiences connect the online and offline worlds to bring the customer closer to the brand and creates more efficient human-customer experiences. An example of which is the implementation of a variety of digital touch points at the famous department store in Paris, Le Bon Marche. Under the concept of ‘Geek Mais Chic’ customers could use a swing set that takes the customer on an adventure through an AR world of fashion and beauty, a mirror that suggests different looks for make-up including colours and textures in various lighting and a shoe fitting service that uses AI to model the perfect shoe for the customer. These tech enhanced experiences or sometimes loosely called ‘shoppertainment’ is showing a growing demand from customers and brands would do well to leverage this to their advantage.
Shiseido’s Take on Tech
Shiseido is driving customer engagement using cutting-edge solutions to leverage across all customer touch points, gathering data online to create personalized makeup services is only just the beginning. Developing simulation AI technology that helps customers in the physical retail space ‘remove’ their makeup using their mobile device, so they can see how they appear before trying on the product. Shiseido also uses technology like Optune, an Internet of Things smart appliance system, which is not only developed to do the initial diagnosis of the user’s skin condition and make recommendations but also tracks the condition of the skin while using the products and optimizing the recommendation with regards to the results.
Although Optune is a take-home solution, it is an extension of Shiseido’s willingness to embrace AI technology, connecting customers to a skin-intelligence database that would be out of reach just by purchasing a standard product alone. In the store customers are taken through the experience with AR mirrors, and an extensive database assists the brand’s make-up artists to make better product recommendations in store.
Munson says that, 55% of consumers have bought something after discovering it via social media that was spurred on by technology like AR or AI, and she expects the importance of beauty tech to rise. This is evidence that the optimum brand experience is one that merges both worlds and does not adopt an attitude that one is more effective than the other. It also recognizes the importance of the human connection in retail, and that technology is not existent purely to replace people but to be a tool that reconnects us.