MAC Cosmetics is the latest beauty brand to invest in in-store technology, debuting augmented reality try-on mirrors in 20 of its doors today. The rollout, which involves two to three mirrors per location, will include each of its U.S. stores by the end of the year and expand globally in early 2018.
Working with Modiface, the beauty industry’s go-to provider for AR experiences, the mirrors — which are really freestanding iPads — utilize a combination of facial tracking and 3D video makeup rendering to allow users to simulate how full eye, lipstick and blush looks will look on their face. To ensure accuracy, the makeup selected is mapped to the face 30 times per second, which places the final look to within a fraction of a pixel for each face.
“This allows customers to explore and try on a whole range of products without the mess and the hassle,” explained Jennifer Tidy, the vice president of partnerships at Modiface, who has worked on similar in-store initiatives with companies including Sephora and Laneige. It’s also perfect for those shoppers who aren’t keen to chatter away with store associates, she said.
The MAC x Modiface mirror in store
Although the impact varies across brands, installing these assisted mirrors has resulted in a 31 percent average increase in sales, according to Tidy. Since Estée Lauder launched the same AR-driven try-on technology on its website earlier this year, the company has been so pleased with the increase in conversions, it’s now planning to roll it out globally, she said.
Installing the technology also affords brands tons of significant data on shopper habits, including the most popular shades, how certain products are performing and what the makeup trends are by location.
“MAC can track virtually any component of the app,” said Tidy.
“When brands are able to track the top products, it results in more accurate production and the reduction of unnecessary costs,” said Victoria Buchanan, an analyst at The Future Laboratory brand consultancy.
MAC is starting out strong with a selection of some of its most popular products — totaling 20 eye looks and 58 lip options — for launch, but plans to expand its offering to include full face looks in the coming months. The brand also hopes that it will boost consumer engagement with its makeup artists in store, as they request the digital looks created for the mirror offline.
Users are also able to save a still image or a GIF of the makeup look for later, in case they want to revisit. Although the mirror is not directly connected to any social channels, they are encouraged to email or text images to themselves and post the look on social platforms from there. (Interestingly, MAC has yet to promote the mirrors on any of its own social accounts.)
According to Tidy, planning for this launch took about four months but required only one training day for MAC’s in-store employees. “The tech is made to be very easy to use,” she said.
The initial investment required for an install of this caliber is about $1 million overall, which Tidy called a small amount for larger brands with many doors.
Although the use of augmented and virtual reality is often seen as gimmicky, Buchanan believes Modiface is onto something worthwhile in the beauty market. “The technology is getting more and more realistic,” she said. “Done right, it can personalize the experience and help consumers buy the best makeup for their skin.”