Shade picker: Watsons to launch virtual foundation try-on to solve major consumer ‘pain point’

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Health and beauty retailer Watsons will be launching a virtual foundation try-on tool in the second quarter this year beginning with Malaysia and Hong Kong to solve what it believes is a huge consumer ‘pain point’. ©Watsons
Health and beauty retailer Watsons will be launching a virtual foundation try-on tool in the second quarter this year beginning with Malaysia and Hong Kong to solve what it believes is a huge consumer ‘pain point’. ©Watsons

Related tags: watsons, AI, make-up, Hong kong, Malaysia

Health and beauty retailer Watsons will be launching a virtual foundation try-on tool in the second quarter this year beginning with Malaysia and Hong Kong to solve what it believes is a huge consumer ‘pain point’.

The new dedicated foundation shade finder was developed by the firm’s in-house digital agency, eLab, and is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) tech to help consumers the most suitable foundation to match their skin tone and skin type.

It will first roll out on the Watsons mobile application and subsequently be extended in-store as a digital gadget.

Starting in the second quarter of the year, the app will be launched into Malaysia and Hong Kong and will feature foundations from all brands available in Watsons.

The Hong Kong-based company told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ that it expects to roll out the app to the rest of Asia “soon”.

The adoption of virtual make-up testing has been accelerating in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Many beauty retailers observing caution by removing testers, which can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.

This practice has endured even in markets like Australia and Singapore where the pandemic has been relatively well controlled.

According to a report by GlobalData, 48% of consumers reported having concerns over the safety of product packaging in the wake of COVID-19.

Previously, Watsons has worked with beauty tech firm ModiFace to launch the ColourMe programme, a virtual try-on and product recommendation tool on the Watsons app.

The tool uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology to instantly shows shoppers how they would look like with different make-up and even hair colours – even with protective face masks on.

This has helped Watsons to boost the sales of make-up, which has continued to struggle amid the pandemic.

“Even if customers are wearing facemasks, they can virtually try on any lipstick product they choose. This try-on tool not only creates a fun, engaging shopping experience for our customers but also results in a double conversion rate,”​ said Malina Ngai, Group COO of A.S. Watson Group and CEO of A.S. Watson, Asia & Europe.

Ngai believes that even without COVID-19, a foundation shade picker would solve one of the major issues facing beauty consumers.

“Normally testers are applied to hand, and in most cases, the skin colour on hands is slightly different from the face. The new AI foundation finder allows customers to test the shade virtually on their face to find a match. Our focus is to find solutions to customers’ pain-points,” ​said Ngai.

The future of retail

The launch of the virtual foundation try-on is part of Watsons’ overall goal to lead the market with its offline + online (O+O) retail strategy.

“Forget physical versus online. It's not either or – O+O is the new standard for retail,”​ said Ngai.

“O+O describes how customers shop today. The customer journey almost always involves offline plus online. The traditional strategy of O2O from the past generation drove customers from one channel to another, however O+O is totally different. It is more about creating an integrated experience to better serve customers’ needs, that enables them to shop across any channel, anytime, anywhere.”

Ngai emphasised that its O+O model does not cannibalise customers spending in physical stores. In fact, the firm has observed that the O+O customer spends three times more than an in-store only customer.

“It's about creating bigger share of wallet and higher customer lifetime value.”

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