Beauty and tech: Top 10 most-read stories on the high-tech developments in 2021

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Top stories on the digital developments and beauty tech in the cosmetics industry. [Getty Images]
Top stories on the digital developments and beauty tech in the cosmetics industry. [Getty Images]

Related tags: beauty tech, trends

Here we reveal the top stories on the digital developments and beauty tech in the cosmetics industry, featuring innovations from Shiseido, Amorepacific, Foreo, Watsons, and more.

1 – Human touch: How Shiseido is using tech to make 2021 ‘the year of the empowered beauty consultant’

Shiseido is adamant that human contact is still essential​ to drive beauty sales but believes it can be enhanced greatly by tools such as Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality, according to its chief digital officer.

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.

2 – Custom craze: Amorepacific introduces four more bespoke services as it banks on personalised beauty demand

From cushion foundations to bath bombs, K-beauty giant Amorepacific has launched a slew of bespoke beauty initiatives​ in the past few months as it expects demand for personalised cosmetics to rise.

Within the past couple of months, the South Korean cosmetics conglomerate has launched four new personalised beauty services.

In March, the firm extended IOPE’s Lab Tailored 3D Mask and Serum service online and added virtual one-on-one skin consultations. This service was previously only available at the brand’s Myeongdong store.

The following month, it launched Base Picker, a customised foundation service available in-store and online.

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

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 in Malaysia and Hong Kong and will feature foundations from all brands available in Watsons.

4 – Digital imprint: Toppan working to develop hi-def skin diagnostic tech for smartphones by 2022

Japanese company Toppan Printing is working to translate high-definition facial scanning technology into a more consumer-friendly version​ for mobile and web by 2022.

Toppan recently announced that it has recently worked with Japanese cosmetic company Kosé Corporation to successfully pilot test high-definition facial scanning and the optical simulation of layers of cosmetic application.

The firms were able to faithfully produce 3D computer graphics of the characteristics of a face as well as the pigment and textures of Kosé cosmetic products.

The 3D computer graphic data was generated from the results of high-definition facial scanning using the Light Stage developed by the University of Southern California (USC).

5 – Eliminating emotional friction: How buy now, pay later plays to the millennial beauty consumer psyche – hoolah CEO

Millennial beauty consumers are adopting buy now, pay later (BNPL) services​ because they remove the ‘emotional friction’ of purchases by helping to spread the cost, according to Singapore-headquartered platform hoolah.

The firm, which operates in Malaysia and Hong Kong in addition to its home market, allows retailers to offer their customers the option to buy now and pay later with three equal instalments over three months with 0% interest.

According to the firm, BNPL can drive key marketing metrics of increased customer traffic, conversion, basket size and loyalty for retailers.

Since it launched in 2018, the company has seen month-on-month growth and the COVID-19 pandemic helped to boost its growth even more.

6 – Tiny but mighty: Foreo believes future of beauty tech lies in portable devices that give pro-level results

Beauty tech firm Foreo is betting big on small, handheld devices that can produce the same results as professional equipment at home, believing it to be the future of the beauty device business.

Foreo is a Swedish beauty technology firm that rose to prominence with Luna, a facial cleansing and massage device. According to the company, it has sold over 20 million Luna devices.

The company, which is celebrating its eighth anniversary this year, witness an unprecedented uptick in demand in the wake of the pandemic.

According to the firm, it saw a 30% increase in online sales alone.

7 – Virtual value: Kao expands digital tester offerings for KATE under competitiveness push

Japanese multinational Kao Corporation has been expanding its digital tester capabilities as part of its K25 goals to enhance the competitiveness of its cosmetics business​ with digital offerings.

The company behind brands such as Kanebo, Sensai and KATE has experienced a significant decline in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kao was hit especially hard in its cosmetics business division because of the decline of colour cosmetics, which accounts for a larger ratio of its business, approximately 10% higher than the market.

As part of its K25 medium-term plan, Kao said it would accelerate its digital transformation efforts by 2025.

8 – ‘Seamless link’: K-beauty platform PowderRoom tapping into e-commerce and product co-creation

South Korean beauty content platform PowderRoom is expanding its business into e-commerce and product co-creation to tap into the digital opportunities generated by the COVID-19 pandemic​.

PowderRoom is a South Korean social beauty platform that began on the Naver platform in 2003, and now attracts over 4.4 million users monthly.

Over the years, it developed communities on various social network sites including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

“PowderRoom is trying to develop a total beauty platform where users can find their own taste by sharing opinions and reviews, searching information, enjoying content, and following a group of users with similar beauty profile and concerns,”​ said Ho-Jin Song, chief strategy officer of PowderRoom.

9 – Made-to-order: Lillycover envisions robotic customised beauty system for scalp care and make-up

K-beauty start-up Lillycover aims to expand its robotic customised beauty system beyond skin care and branch out into scalp care and colour cosmetics.

Based in South Korea, Lillycover was established in 2016 by CEO SunHee An, who has a background in computer engineering.

Before becoming a beauty entrepreneur, An was working in the medical field, where she developed medical devices for burn patients. This sparked her interest in skin health and ignited her determination to develop customised skin care solutions.

“The fact is that the human skin condition changes depending on food, environment, stress… However, the trend is that skin care products are made in large quantities and stored in warehouses. Instead, people need to have their own skin care solutions customised to each of them. It was this point that inspired me to develop a customised skin care company,” ​said An.

10 – Brave new digital world: Incoming tech such as smart glasses will take beauty retail ‘beyond our imagination’

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the development of new retail experiences such as virtual stores, but one expert believes this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of extended reality in the beauty space.

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.

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