Earlier this month, beauty brands like L’Oréal Group’s Clarisonic to Procter & Gamble’s Olay clamored to make their presence known at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It was an effort to highlight the ways they’re integrating tech into the beauty experience. But the ramifications of such tech-centric tools and their actual adoption by customers is still yet to be determined.
For example, take the push toward voice-enabled beauty assistants. In Nov. 2018, Sephora partnered with the Google Home Hub to give voice-enabled beauty recommendations. (It brought together the Google Assistant and Sephora’s YouTube content on the voice-assisted device.)
“The partnership with Google was a great one because we know beauty is visual,” said Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora’s executive vice president of U.S. omnichannel. “We were glad to hear [Google was] launching something with a visual component. A consumer can now access thousands of YouTube videos our Beauty Advisors have recorded and dive headfirst into whatever technique or issue they are dealing with in the comfort of their own home.”
At CES, Alibaba’s Amazon Echo competitor, the Tmall Genie, seemed more promising for this type of tech-enabled beauty experience, even though it only debuted in 2017.
“They were a force to be reckoned with,” said Benjamin Lord, NARS executive director of global e-commerce and omnichannel marketing. “They showcased the smart speaker’s ability to provide instant translation during a video call, providing a potential opportunity to translate to and from Mandarin. It’s been ‘the year of voice’ for a couple of years now, and while we’re not going to see a shift to ‘voice only’ overnight, beauty brands should be cognizant that voice-activated intelligent assistants can make smart recommendations and help them reach consumers in key markets.”
While U.S.-centric brands and retailers have been focused on providing engagement and entertainment through voice-enabled tools via Amazon and Google, with so much of today’s growth in beauty coming from China (according to consumer insights panel Kantar Worldpanel, the country’s skin-care and makeup markets increased by 17 percent and 30 percent, respectively, in 2017), more service-oriented capabilities could be the key to unlock conversion for the customer. –Priya Rao
How a fashion brand is boosting sales among shoppers over 40
More brands are looking to attract Gen Z and millennial shoppers. To do so, they’re basing their marketing on the fact that, compared to older consumers, these groups are willing to spend more with brands that are vocal about their values. But since the last presidential election, 6-year-old, Portland-based women’s fashion brand Wildfang has become louder about where it stands on women’s issues. In doing so, its seen the greatest sales boost among women customers over age 55.
“The last two years have been a big wake-up call for our brand,” said founder Emma McIlroy. “We started as a fashion play, [with a message] that women should be unrestricted to wear whatever the hell they want. After the election, we decided it’s got to be bigger than that. We’ve got to use our voice, platform and community to change how women are seen, full stop.”
Wildfang is a direct-to-consumer brand that has done collaborations with companies including Obey and REI. It has two storefronts in its homebase of Portland, plus locations in New York and Los Angeles.
Among its styles that would classify as fashion activism are a graphic T-shirt splashed with “Wild Feminist,” allegedly ripped off by Forever 21 and Harper’s Bazaar. Wildfang has since trademarked the phrase.
Since launch, Wildfang has seen an 80 percent growth in sales year-over-year. From 2017 to 2018, that growth was largely centered on older shoppers: It saw a 37 percent boost in sales among women ages 55 to 64, a 20 percent increase among women 45 to 54, and a 7 percent spike among 35- to 44-year-old women.
“They’re very clear what they’re values are, and they have some level of stability and feel passionately about supporting businesses that uphold their values,” said McIlroy, of the brand’s older shopper base. “They’re aware of their privilege and the fact that they can make a difference.”
The over-50 set is worthy of brands’ attention. Today, more women ages 50 and older make $100,000 or more than any other demographic.
McIlroy said the brand’s marketing has always represented those across the gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age and body spectrums. Its campaigns have featuring women over 70, and it regularly uses models in their 40s and 50s. It also shows women sizes 2 to 20. Last year, though not yet profitable, the business donated $500,000 to charities for women’s causes.
To share Wildfang’s story, the brand relies on targeted social marketing through Facebook and Instagram, though McIlroy acknowledged digital channels are getting expensive. The brand has recently dabbled in podcast ads, which have proven effective. It also hosts weekly events in its stores, including panels with local female politicians and a regular “Free Speech” series, where women are invited to share their personal, intimate stories. One of the regulars is 86 years old. –Jill Manoff
How fashion retailers are improving the authentication process
Authentication has become a major component of fashion, particularly in resale. Sneaker resellers like StockX and GOAT, as well as luxury consignment retailers like The RealReal, all employ dozens of authenticators.
But there is an inherent contradiction in trusting a source that sells you something to tell you it’s real or that it is what they tell you it is. The Diamond Pro, a company that helps people navigate the tricky world of buying diamonds, unveiled on Tuesday a new AI tool, called Ringo, that will help customers pick a diamond meeting their specifications, independent of input from diamond sellers.
“The specific risk we are eliminating with Ringo is purchasing a diamond online and not being sure whether you will see the inclusions with your naked eye when you receive the diamond,” said Michael Fried, CEO of Diamond Pro.
Some diamonds have more inclusions, or flaws, making them cheaper. However, sometimes those inclusions are impossible to see without special tools, meaning most consumers will consider them just as good as a diamond with fewer inclusions. “It takes a lot of experience to analyze the photographs and videos, and determine whether inclusions will be noticeable when non-magnified and under normal lighting.”
This speaks to the ongoing efforts toward education that brands talk about. Obviously, brands want their customers to be informed, but they’ll have to overcome the possibility that customers may be less than trusting of their efforts. For an example of a company struggling with this, look at recent controversies on the Sneakers subreddit where a user posted the long back-and-forth with StockX over obviously fake Jordans he had purchased through the company. StockX insisted the shoes were not fake for days, before finally taking them back, leading to many users to question the entire authentication process.
“Speaking from the perspective of our industry, up until the last 10 years, pretty much the only place someone could turn to for education about the product they were purchasing was the retailer they were purchasing from,” said Fried. “Now, people have the ability to reach out to a third party for their education and are better able to make informed decisions.” –Danny Parisi