‘Thinking about beauty in a new way’: How brands are pursuing multi-sensory strategies in the digital world

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

From non-fungible tokens to augmented reality, and live commerce to the metaverse, major beauty brands are increasingly pursing multi-sensory strategies in the digital space. ©Getty Images
From non-fungible tokens to augmented reality, and live commerce to the metaverse, major beauty brands are increasingly pursing multi-sensory strategies in the digital space. ©Getty Images

Related tags multi-sensory beauty metaverse beauty tech

From non-fungible tokens to augmented reality, and live commerce to the metaverse, major beauty brands are increasingly pursing multi-sensory strategies in the digital space, according to panel of industry experts.

Just like how scents are known to trigger memories, the multi-sensory concept is designed to stimulate the five senses to elevate experiences and conjure lasting impressions. Many brands have jumped onto the multi-sensory bandwagon by injecting their products or stores with elements that appeal to the touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste.

Significantly, the effect on consumers goes beyond the point of sale. For instance, people tend to associate a certain fragrance with a brand when it is consistent across all its stores. This contributes greatly to brand recall.

Although these experiences stymied by the pandemic, the adoption of technology played an instrumental role in helping the beauty industry ride out the challenges.

As the world moves into a new era of the internet, it raises another set of questions on how the beauty industry, which is centred around how things look, smell and feel, can effectively leverage digital tools to achieve their goals. 

These compelling questions were discussed during a digital beauty panel at Cosmoprof Asia 2022, led by CosmeticsDesign-Asia editor, Amanda Lim.

Jeremy Ang, Chief Strategy Advisor – Data & Machine Learning of BytePlus (ByteDance), said during the panel: “A lot of big brands are thinking about beauty in a new way. They are interested in augmented reality (AR) try-ons, while we are experimenting with other smart tools they can employ, such as a virtual diagnostic tool where people can see whether their skin tone is suitable for a particular shade of blusher via their phones. We see opportunities where the physical tactile world is symbiotic with the digital realm.”

BytePlus has also developed product-recommendation engines targeted at e-commerce companies with large inventories, while constantly optimising all the applications under its umbrella, including TikTok.

Audio and video play critical role

Sight and sound provide much stronger sensory cues in the digital world, where consumers cannot smell and touch a product.

“Using visuals and videos, brands have to convey how a product feels on the skin so compellingly that consumers would go looking for it either online or offline,” ​said Issaree Sismey, Senior Director – Asia of MMR Research Worldwide.

This sentiment is shared by Johanna Monange, founder and CEO of Maison 21G, who added: “Fragrance is probably the hardest thing to replicate online. Thus, we have to pay more attention to other senses. In future, we could even make use of the metaverse to ‘transport’ people to a lavender field in France or a grassland in Tibet, so we could stimulate the users’ senses to the fullest.”

During the pandemic, live commerce experienced a dramatic boom. In China, top influencer Austin Li Jiaqi’s record of selling 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes remains a story for the ages.

“Beauty companies are increasingly coming to us and showing huge interest in live commerce, particularly for demonstrable products. This is because viewers are able to see very distinct ‘before and after’ results, so cosmetics are perfect for that,” ​said Kenneth Tan, co-founder and CEO of live streaming firm BeLive.

In addition, Ang highlighted the importance of incorporating videos "in any shape or form"​ as part of a brand’s digital outreach.

“The first function of technology for the beauty space is to prime interest, and then eventually link it to a call to action, such as visiting the store to check out a scent. Video content is one of the best ways to do that creatively. A picture paints a thousand words, and a video is many pictures per second, so the potential is tremendous,” ​he reiterated.

Marriage of beauty and tech

Citing L’Oréal and Meta’s partnership in launching a metaverse start-up accelerator, Tan said that brands can utilise Web3 features, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to provide exclusive experiences for their customers.

“An NFT is proof that you own something. For example, a beauty brand can replace the membership card with an NFT. We think that community-driven purchases will become a big part of the future. Regardless of trends, as long as you have a solid community following your brand, you’d thrive. The issuance of NFTs can help kickstart a small company’s community,” ​he explained.

At the same time, NFTs could serve to protect innovations, such as proprietary formulations. “Put your formula in a blockchain and link it to an NFT. Each time someone buys your perfume, he or she can check if it’s authentic. It would be a game-changer for the perfume industry,” ​said Monange.

Although technology has undoubtedly become an integral part of the industry, the human touch remains a crucial factor in influencing consumer choices, while the key to development is still in solving pain points.

“It doesn’t have to be a competition between virtual and reality; they can work hand in hand. People nowadays, especially younger consumers, lead two ‘lives’ — online and offline. One person can have different needs.

“For example, the online persona may need a wider range of photo filters to appear effortlessly good or to try bolder looks virtually, whereas the offline persona is looking for suitable colour cosmetics to look great in photos. What we need to do is to find out the demand in each area and serve that demand,” ​Sismey concluded.

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