In the last 18 months or so, we have seen rapid digitisation in the way we work, socialise, and shop. From independent brands to beauty multinationals, companies accelerated the digital push to survive the pandemic.
Beauty giant L’Oréal rolled out a virtual Lancôme store to better connect and engage with consumers in a contactless world.
The virtual stores were recreated using extreme photorealism and featured interactive elements such as minigames and live tours hosted by celebrities and influencers that appeared as avatars in the virtual world.
The store, which has launched in South Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Malaysia was accessible via a range of devices, including computers, smartphones and tablets.
Since launching Lancôme has seen an average decrease of nine years in consumer age and around 350% increase in consumer engagement time.
Today, even as beauty brands begin to welcome consumers back into brick-and-mortar, Noam Levavi believes consumers will still want to shop in an ultra-realistic retail experience from the comfort of their own homes.
“I think we will never go back,” said Levavi, CEO and founder of ByondXR, an extended reality (XR) company that partnered with L’Oréal to create the aforementioned Lancôme virtual store.
“We might go back more to visit stores or travel around the world but the digital space you know will only increase and in ways that are beyond our imagination.”
The future is now
Experiences like the Lancôme store are only the beginning of the virtual shopping experience, which he says are only limited by the hardware we have today.
“There are different engines today that can produce photo-realistic environments and you can create 3D scenes, but the devices are limited by what they can produce and display to us. Currently, most people are using just their mobile devices, and maybe desktops and iPads. So, you have a small two-dimensional screen to deal with,” said Levavi.
He highlighted companies like Microsoft and Apple which are currently building tools like glasses and headsets to bring this reality to life.
“They are building the next evolution of the computing platform. What’s going to happen is that our reality is going to be our display, and this will open whole new ways of immersion. For example, I can walk into my living but I’m actually in a different world, like a flagship store on the moon.”
While such a scene may sound like a distant future, Levavi believes we will start to see the first versions of such technology as early as next year.
With devices like smart glasses poised to become as ubiquitous as the smartphone or the smartwatch, Levavi highlights how the way people are perceived will become increasingly digital and create a ripple effect across the fashion and beauty industries.
“Just imagine walking down the street in a black t-shirt. In the very near future, as we introduce more digital elements, I could switch between 10 different t-shirts. You'll be able to switch them on the fly based on who's looking at you, where you are, what's the time of the day… You won’t need to buy a physical item.”
Such technology could be applied to items other than clothing – like packaging. Imagine downloading a digital lipstick cover designed by an artist or a celebrity sensation like BTS.
Such things are not too hard to envision now, considering that people are already shelling out millions for a non-fungible token (NFT).
“People think it’s a joke, buying something virtual, but it's like buying a piece of art, a nice painting for my living room that someone created for me and I own it. This is going to happen in the virtual space as well. We are already seeing it in niche areas like gaming,” said Levavi.
“I think that’s what’s going to happen in the next few years, and it's going to change the way people look at design and at buying a product dramatically.”