Angelica Munson, global chief digital officer at Shiseido, highlighted just how essential beauty tech tools like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) became for beauty brands in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“COVID-19 gave rise to this very digitally powered stay-at-home economy. It has hyper-accelerated all the consumer behaviours… 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,” she said.
Like many companies, Shiseido accelerated its digital development last year, pushing out a raft of initiatives like livestreaming and video counselling.
According to Munson, 55% of consumers have bought something online after discovering it via social media that was spurred on by technology like AR or AI. She expects the importance of beauty tech to continue in 2021.
“Before, when you had a counter, you could count on that foot traffic – and hopefully that will return but now it's about the audience you can build beyond the counter.”
To ensure its staff are data and digitally literate, Shiseido has a digital academy with over 7,000 students from across all categories and functions within Shiseido that learn to use AI and AR tools.
Munson, who was speaking at SXSW Online 2021, emphasised that the goal of beauty tech was not to replace humans but to improve the connection between the brand and the consumer.
“Sometimes there’s a little bit of apprehension and we see AI and AR as taking jobs away or changing the way we work. But ultimately, what we see is that human touch and that service, that spirit can never be replaced. These are tools and enablers that augment that human touch within the digital channel and also in-store. It's been critical for us in the future of work in beauty.”
Munson believes the integration of beauty tech is the future and will enhance the role of beauty advisors on the retail floor.
“In the beginning, [beauty tech was used to] service the consumer who couldn't be in store. But now it's becoming clear 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 their clients, which otherwise wouldn't be as fruitful or effective.”
She elaborated on how data can be utilised to improve the physical retail experience for consumers through beauty advisors.
“With all of this data being generated, you can empower the beauty consultant or make-up artists. That knowledge can give him or her some type of predictability around product recommendation. It's what we call the black book of the future… tools like this open up a whole new world of access and reach that our beauty consultants haven't had before.
“By definition, these beauty consultants and make-up artists, have become micro-influencers of the brand. Really, 2021 is going to be the year of the empowered beauty consultant.”