Earlier this year, South Korean cosmetics conglomerate Amorepacific announced that the US is one of its primary growth markets with extensive plans for international expansion supported by recent innovations including the launch of the company’s custom skin care brand Custom.me, the recognition of 2023 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) Innovation Award winning smart manufacturing solution Authentic Color Master by Tonework, and additional CES award winning innovations.
As detailed in a recent press release, in 2021, Amorepacific’s overseas sales reached 1.8 trillion KRW, which accounted for 37% of overall sales, which the company seeks to exceed this year.
In the US, the company’s three primary brands consist of flagship luxury brand Sulwhasoo, Lanegie, and Innisfree, and this year, those brands are increasing their e-commerce and retail footprints through well-known retailers like Sephora and Bloomingdales.
As Amorepacific continues to diversify its consumer product and industry service offerings to target the US market, the company is leveraging the impact of its technological innovations to drive expansion efforts accordingly.
To learn more about the development, launch, and reception of Authentic Color Master by Tonework as well as Custom.me technologies and their role in Amorepacific’s continued expansion plans into the international, and specifically the US beauty and personal care product markets, CosmeticsDesign interviewed Youngjin Lee, Head of Amorepacific New Growth Initiative Division for his insights.
CDU: Can you share some background information about the development, launch, and consumer reception of Authentic Color Master by Tonework, including some planned applications for the technology in the marketplace?
YL: In recent years, we've observed a steady growth in the demand from Millennials and Gen Z for customized beauty products that cater to their specific needs. Additionally, the world’s first 'Customized Cosmetics System,' implemented in Korea, diagnoses individual skin conditions and custom manufactures products, thereby laying a regulatory foundation.
Capitalizing on this shift, Amorepacific embarked on a journey to develop personalized beauty products. In 2021, we launched our first pilot service, which integrated this novel personalized technology, in our flagship store, 'Amore Seongsu.' Our flagship service, 'Base Picker,' which was launched in April 2021 and concluded its highly successful run in March of this year, managed to attract over 8,000 loyal customers and garnered considerable attention throughout its two-year span.
In the pursuit of innovation, Amorepacific expanded its customer database, honed its technology, and ultimately secured an Innovation Award in the Robotics category at CES 2023. The award-winning 'Authentic Color Master by TONEWORK' is a sophisticated, AI-powered, and robotically controlled solution for custom makeup manufacturing.
Utilizing AI algorithms for precise facial color measurement and robotic arms to craft personalized foundation, cushion, and lip products, the system presents optimal, customized color choices, leveraging facial recognition technology and cutting-edge colorimetry research.
For the development of our proprietary technology, we have actively collaborated with the Color Research Lab, led by Professor Seok Hyun-jung of KAIST. Our collaborative efforts have focused on analyzing extensive customer and color data, both in Korea and globally.
The objective was to develop a universal color language that customers could perceive, underpinned by rigorous standards and comprehensive systems. As a result, we've made it possible to provide a nuanced spectrum of 150 shades, encompassing 30 levels of brightness and 5 undertones, a feat unachievable with conventional, pre-made products.
Moreover, our internal robotics and control program experts have been integral in the design and development of our bespoke product manufacturing robots. Given that these robots operate in full view of the customers in our stores, and are not hidden in factories, we've ensured that their operation is smooth, efficient, and customer friendly.
The system has been optimized to swiftly handle errors in real time, delivering a seamless customer experience. We have invested substantial effort into developing an array of robots and gripping technologies that can simultaneously manufacture diverse products like foundations and cushions. This leads to accommodating various packaging materials and creating a prepared system that is equipped to handle a wide range of scenarios.
Last month marked a significant milestone for us with the official unveiling of 'TONEWORK,' a bespoke makeup brand driven by our innovative 'Authentic Color Master by TONEWORK' solution. Our vision for TONEWORK is to position it as the go-to brand for custom makeup, an entity that captures each individual's 'Authentic Color,' enabling their unique qualities to truly shine.
Leveraging the services provided by TONEWORK, our customers can now analyze their facial color precisely through an AI-based color diagnostic algorithm, and procure products manufactured instantly, on-demand by our automated robots. We've painstakingly researched global skin tones and meticulously crafted 150 unique shades to cater to all our users.
Further, our customers are granted the freedom to choose between two types of finishes, glow and semi-matte, and two forms, foundation and cushion, culminating in an impressive array of 600 personalized base makeup options, each optimized for an individual's specific skin color.
In an industry-first for customized cosmetics, our products have been awarded vegan certification by the Korea Agency of Vegan Certification and Services. We've also made significant strides in environmental sustainability, employing FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper and recycled plastic (PCR) for our sustainable packaging solutions.
Our latest offerings, the 'TONEWORK VEGAN 150+ FOUNDATION' and its cushion variant 'TONEWORK VEGAN 150+ FOUNDATION TO GO,' can be experienced firsthand at our flagship 'Amore Store,' located in Yongsan, Seoul. In addition, these products are available for purchase through NAVER's Smart Store, a premier e-commerce platform in Korea. As part of our celebratory launch festivities, we're also hosting a pop-up store in major shopping district in Seoul, Korea.
CDU: Can you share some background information about the development and launch of Custom.me?
YL: Since our inception in 1945, we have been proud to showcase superior global skincare brands, such as Sulwhasoo, LANEIGE, and innisfree, to our valued customers. As we navigate the dynamic landscape of consumer needs, we're leveraging our seven decades of rich customer data and technical expertise to spearhead a new era in skincare. We believe it's time to develop a skincare service and brand that not only illuminates each individual's unique beauty but also addresses and meets their distinct needs.
In response to evolving customer demands, we initiated the development of our proprietary AI diagnostic technology, Dr.Amore, several years ago. Using image-based deep learning, Dr.Amore crafts an expert skin analysis algorithm and implements it through a dedicated platform.
Through continuous refinement of this system, we've enabled the precise diagnosis of various skin conditions, such as wrinkles, erythema, pores, and pigmentation. We've ascertained that based on this diagnostic approach, we're poised to successfully launch a bespoke skincare brand, one that is capable of offering optimized skincare products for each individual, coupled with professional skincare guidance.
This strategic vision culminated in the launch of CUSTOM.ME, a tailored 1:1 life beauty brand, in February of the previous year. CUSTOM.ME is a brand that offers personalized beauty experiences through mobile skin analysis services, ultra-personalized custom products, and dedicated 1:1 manager services. Customers can conveniently access our ‘skin analysis service’ anywhere, anytime using their smartphones.
By uploading a facial image and answering a few simple questions on either the CUSTOM.ME+ application or our brand homepage, customers can avail themselves of a custom skin analysis and solutions based on their specific skin concerns. Dr.Amore, developed in-house and grounded in high-quality clinical data evaluated by skin research experts, provides users with exceptionally precise and professional skin analysis results.
Customers who have experienced CUSTOM.ME's skin analysis service and custom products also have the opportunity to experience a 1:1 dedicated manager service via the CUSTOM.ME+ application following product authentication. This service enables customers to receive expert beauty care guidance tailored to their skin for four weeks, along with recommendations for a variety of life beauty content to enhance their daily wellness and beauty routines.
In February of this year, we debuted 'BESPOKE ESSENCE,' a product designed to offer an even more sophisticated custom beauty experience. This unique product crafts the optimal skincare essence from nearly 18,400 combinations, based on individual skin concerns, preferences, and lifestyle data inputted into the 'CUSTOM.ME Plus app,' and then deliver it directly to our customers.
CDU: How does Amorepacific plan to leverage its latest innovations to expand into the US market in the coming months?
YL: The prospect of international market expansion has been a consistently significant focus of our strategy. We foresee the diverse and inclusive clientele in the U.S. market deriving considerable satisfaction from our personalized services.
However, before committing to a specific timeline for entry, we must examine local regulations thoroughly and contemplate the most effective distribution methods.
As of now, except for Korea, we have initiated our bespoke services successfully in the ASEAN region. Having started April this year, we have collaborated with the prominent e-commerce platform, Shopify, to deliver our tailored Hera Silky Stay Custom Match service, providing custom foundation solutions to local customers.
CDU: Are there any future product launches or further expansion plans in the works in the coming year?
YL: For our TONEWORK brand, we aim to continually broaden the range of shades we offer by persistently analyzing customer data. This approach enables us to cater to a broader and much more diverse customer demographic. Our plans are not only limited to the foundation, but we are also intending to extend our product categories including customized lip products.
In the sphere of distribution channels, our objective is to never cease enhancing our personalized services available online and on mobile platforms. Our goal is to establish an environment where a larger number of customers can access our services, unhindered by the constraints of time or location.
However, our physical outlets hold a substantial advantage in providing superior counseling services and a comprehensive brand experience. Therefore, we also aim to augment our offline channels to further elevate customer satisfaction.