The answer seems to be a bit of both: as digital’s huge potential for branding and retail means it continues to dominate the beauty agenda, apps like L’Oreal’s new try-before-you-buy virtual mirror are throwing open fresh avenues to reach consumers.
Other apps, however, exist independent of brands, limiting the control that beauty companies can hold over their own products’ representation.
Newly-launched ‘Stash’, for example, allows users to view recommendations for new products to try on the basis of their existing collection, while another - the ‘ThinkDirty’ mobile platform - warns consumers off products which it deems potentially unsafe.
The rise of such apps confirms the need for brands to stay on their toes in this quickly adapting digital retail and marketing space.
Consumer interest in formulation is rising, fuelled by government transparency initiatives like California’s Safe Cosmetics Program.
“Consumers are becoming more concerned about what’s in the products they buy and the impact of these chemicals on their health and the environment,” Cecile Guyot, project manager at data management systems provider Coptis, told CosmeticsDesign.com USA.
“Cosmetic databases put the power of information directly into the consumers’ hands at the point of purchase,” she noted.
Apps like the ThinkDirty platform offer yet another channel via which consumers can access such information; yet they strip brands of the opportunity to inform and communicate with the consumer.
As long as this area in app development remains dominated by third parties, there will remain room for beauty companies to better leverage the rising consumer interest in transparency.
“I think transparency is going to be hugely important as over the coming years with the access we now have,’ Jack Constantine, MD of Lush for digital, recently told Cosmetics Design.
Retail and marketing opportunity
‘Multi-channel’ retail is taking off in beauty, with 15% of cosmetics consumers up to the age of 34 researching a product online before buying in store, according to a recent survey conducted by videology.
Mobile apps offer a strong marketing platform for products: L’Oreal’s virtual mirror app has proved successful among those consumers looking to ‘try out’ the brand’s cosmetics.
"We believe that one of the major trends to come concerns the virtual reality experience," confirmed Cyril Chapuy, president of L'Oréal Paris International.
One thing is for certain – with consumer traffic rapidly soaring to 81% on mobile platforms in the last year, apps are fast becoming a key tool for the beauty segment: brands need to be ready to leverage the trend to their advantage.