Prose, the AI-fueled custom hair-care brand that launched nine months ago with shampoos, conditioners and hair masks, is now releasing a customized hair oil.
Prose works much like other custom hair-care startups, like Function of Beauty, by offering customers the ability to create products suited to their needs. It asks customers to answer a 25-question online quiz around diet, lifestyle and environmental factors or directs them to salons in New York City or San Francisco to help them answer with more informed guidance. Stylists earn a 50 percent commission on a customer’s initial purchase, and 20 percent on repurchases, made on or offline. From there, artificial intelligence algorithms help distill 85 data points to create a custom formula from 76 possible ingredients, allowing for more than 50 billion formula combinations, for Prose’s current lineup of products.
The new hair oil builds on this existing concept: the oil consists of five to seven oils out of 30 available options, allowing for 35,000 possible combinations.
The hair-care brand is built to offer suggestions to customers versus relying on a customer-knows-best policy, according to Arnaud Plas, CEO of Prose. “Our main difference is that we don’t ask you what you need. The consultation is not just a hair quiz about [what you want] — we tell you what you need,” he said.
Other high-end hair-care brands, like Playa and Virtue, are also offering smaller product assortments instead of sprawling options, as seen in beauty aisles. While Prose wants to grow, it is doing so slowly and strategically.
For now, the oil will only be offered to purchase (for $48 for a 1.7-ounce size) to current Prose customers; the company declined to specify how many customers it has but did say it expects to reach $1 million in monthly revenue by the end of 2018. The slow rollout is due to the fact that some ingredients are harder to source in large quantities than others, and since the blends are created on demand, it’s not efficient to stockpile, Plas said. This strategy also provides the chance for Prose to gather data on what customers are responding to — such as the most popular ingredient blends or most requested desired results — to use when the oil becomes available to the masses in early 2019.
“From a commercial point of view, we want to see if there’s an appetite for [these] innovations, and then we can scale them,” he said.
Moving forward, Prose is considering how it can use its AI-technology to turn the company away from a brand that just sells products into a one that provides valuable services to customers. For example, it launched a content blog within its own site in July, and there are plans to use AI to also customize what content someone sees, saids Paul Michaux, co-founder and vp of product. Additionally, Prose is looking at offering its shampoos, conditioners and masks as a subscription in early 2019, since its products are currently sold a la carte.
While a subscription option would allow the startup to create a recurring revenue stream, that isn’t the goal behind it, said Plas. “It is a great way to grow, but we see it as a way for the [customer] to have a seamless experience more than as a business hack,” he said.“We are just trying to make everything smoother for everyone.”