turnover in the beauty sector worldwide in 2017

The beauty and cosmetics sector seems never to suffer a crisis. Global market turnover now looks set to reach $445 billion h $445 billion by the end of the year, equivalent to close to 19% of all retail sales volume. The United States beauty business is enjoying stable growth, notably due to the surge in e-commerce sites. Thus, while total US domestic sales of beauty products increased by only around 4% between 2015 and 2016, e-commerce giant Amazon achieved 47% growth over the same period. This trend might seem surprising in a sector where going into a shop seems intuitively to be part and parcel of the process, whether to test out beauty products or to enjoy the full pleasure of wellness treatment. However, an increasing number of consumers are now turning to online platforms, just as in the rest of the retail sector. In the United States in particular, e-commerce is nowadays becoming an inherent part of the way people consume beauty products and services: Amazon already accounts for 69% of all online searches for and sales of beauty and wellness products.

Using new technologies to personalise beauty products and services 

The popularity of these new e-commerce platforms is due to the fact that customer needs have changed, especially those of the Millennial generation. Generation Y-ers are constantly on the lookout for an on-demand shopping and consumption experience, which better suits their individual needs. Last year independent brand cosmetics companies posted growth of close to 43%, compared with just 1.3% for the traditional providers. The figures show that customers are now looking for unique products, and are able to find them at more intimate brands. Nowadays nobody has to be satisfied with mass market products. Many customers want to enjoy a personalised product that is perfectly suited to their lifestyle and physical characteristics. So, how can the sector’s major beauty and cosmetics companies on the one hand, and startups in the sector on the other, adapt to the new type of demand? Part of the answer might be an increasingly personalised shopping experience, but the actual products on offer need some tailoring, given that these days a lot of customers are looking for cosmetics made from natural sustainable ingredients as well as more personalised end-products.

A mass market in personalised beauty products coming soon?  

Matchco©'S mobile app 

Meanwhile, some beauty sector startups are going much further in terms of tailoring and customisation, offering not only personal beauty assessments but also products developed to meet the specific needs of individual customers. This is what MatchCo, a Santa Monica, California-based startup acquired by Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido in January, does. MatchCo has developed an app that allows you to use your smartphone camera to identify your skin colour. The company will then create a tailor-made foundation perfectly suited to your skin type.

Personalising the online shopping experience and digitalising POS

Regard d'expert

Anna Santeramo

CEO StyleBee

Our main differentiator is that we personalise the beauty experience 

Anna Santeramo, co-founder and CEO at StyleBee, believes that service personalisation is a key competitive advantage in the beauty sector. She underlines: "Our main differentiator is that we personalise the beauty experience. As our services are provided at the customer’s home, in a space that they find comfortable and familiar, they feel they can trust the beautician and so are more inclined to buy the products the beautician recommends. In this situation, the conversation with the beautician will be more personal, more intimate, which enables us to up the sales conversion rate for the branded products we use in our treatments." Moreover, service personalisation also means selecting a beautician who can meet customer needs precisely, as Anna Santeramo explains: "When you sign up with StyleBee, you can send us a photo, so that we can choose the person most suited to giving you a tailored service, for example, if you have a particular hair type. Personalisation is crucial to what we do."




However, while you can obtain both beauty treatment and relevant products at home nowadays, people have still not forgotten bricks-and-mortar stores. In the United States over 90% of all cosmetics purchases take place at a physical point of sale. The physical shopping experience is being reinvented using digital technology, with tools such as tablets and smart mirrors, while still keeping the human contact. ModiFace, a Canadian company that has fully grasped the advantages of a 'phygital' – i.e. physical plus digital – approach, a marketing term that basically means blending digital experiences with physical ones, launched in August the concept of 'digital make-up counters'. 

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ModiFace enables users to try on makeup using an Augmented Reality (AR)-based app on their smartphone. Once you have selected your products, they are displayed at a digital make-up counter in a 'shop', together with all the information available on each product and all the comments made by other purchasers. The customer can also get as close as s/he wishes so as to obtain a better view of the product. This is similar to the way AR is used nowadays in many other areas of the retail sector, enabling links to be created between different shopping channels.

New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality, together with the devices and apps that make up the Internet of Things, are now helping brands to personalise their offerings so as to meet customer needs more precisely and at the same time create a strong sense of intimacy. All in all, customers are becoming more and more able to obtain services that closely match their needs – on condition, of course, that they are prepared to hand over their personal data to the brands.

Camille Daudet and Marie-Eléonore Noiré

By L'Atelier BNP Paribas