Retailer shelves have become confusing. Too much choice, but not enough guidance to consumers to help find what’s right for them. One approach has been to create 'one size fits all' products, such as the overworked BB cream theme.
Another way is customised products, where consumers dictate what they want and the brand creates products to meet those needs. In a sense, customization isn’t new, because people have always mixed and matched the brands they use. What is new are the technology platforms to help people literally build their own products.
Customisation is not an entirely new concept
The first customised range of beauty products I remember was Prescriptives, that launched in 1979 and featured custom-blended make-up shades for women. For a premium price, you could have your own exact shade of foundation, powder or lipstick made up at the counter.
Perhaps the high price put off consumers during times of austerity, because Estée Lauder withdrew it from retail stores in 2010. But now Prescriptives is back as an online-only company, suggesting that the time is right for a more customized approach to beauty.
A couple of recent launches that fit the customized concept have recently caught my eye. Concoctions is a British haircare brand, debuting this July in Selfridges London which is inspired by cocktail mixology. The ShampYou range of shampoos promise to deliver a salon quality brand by mixing a fragranced base blend with two of eight 'super serum shots'.
Hair care from 'super serum shots'
Alex Epstein, founder and chief 'Concoction' Officer, devised the range out of his belief that consumers desire products that are 'made for me' rather than 'made for everyone'. He maintains that technology has been a real enabler of mass-customisation. “Think about Nike ID where you can completely customize a trainer on demand. Or what about car brands such as Mini where literally millions of colour and option combinations are at your fingertips,” he says.
The masstige-positioned Concoction products sell at £14 for a 250ml shot. “We learned that tailor-made products feel very personal and that the actual experience of purchasing, such as choosing, customizing, blending, is just as important as the ritual of using the product itself,” explains Epstein.
Customised skin care serums, out of China
Another interesting development comes from SE Asia, the seedbed of many global beauty trends. In April, L’Oreal-owned Yue Sai launched Customized TCM Beauty Solution Ultimate Refining Serum (RMB 490/20ml) in China. The brand claims to be China’s first ever customised serum that is formulated at the booth in-store according to the specific skin conditions of the client.
It is a tailor-made skincare experience based on four steps, which include customized massage techniques designed to maximize the effects of the serum (eg detoxifying, anti-acne, whitening, firming & lifting). The idea is that after 30 days, a new skin diagnostic is made and another serum is prepared according to the skin’s needs.
We are just at the tip of a potentially huge trend in the global beauty markets. Customisation could be a real game-changer, disrupting the way brands interact with consumers, but ultimately putting the power back into their hands.