Roundtable: Beauty For One And All
Modiface, Curology, PHLUR, Squire and Narvar advise on how beauty and personal care brands can navigate an industry that will be required to become more intimate and personalized
PSFK’s Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.
Beauty. Both as word and concept, carries with it an implied universality. Sure, beauty happens to be in the eye of the beholder, and all that hakuna matata jazz, but it typically connotes a sense of prevalence or widespreadness, for to call something beautiful (or not) ensures that one believes most will agree. Yet, the beauty industry, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, is increasingly becoming defined by an increasing demand for personalization.
Forecasted to grow into a $51.8 billion business by 2020—there’s that Year 2020 again—it behooves beauty brands and retailers to understand consumers’ changing expectations. And to do that they must come to terms with the theme that will come to define the beauty industry in the next few years: intimacy.
As detailed in our Beauty Debrief, though customers are increasingly seeking out more holistic approaches to personal care, apps and assistants to help free up their busy schedules, ways in which they can self-diagnosis proper treatment, and, greater stake in the product-creation process, intimacy will be at the root of all those pursuits.
How can brands and retailers, in an act of Catch-22, come to deliver on growing demands for personalization and intimacy without disrupting that personalization and intimacy? How much freedom should companies give to consumers in an increasingly personalized beauty industry? How do you mass market and mass produce such an intimate and personalized experience?
To answer some of these looming questions, we’ve turned to a handful of experts, who include:
Parham Aarabi | CEO of Modiface – a virtual makeover platform currently powering over 150 web and mobile apps.
Amit Sharma | CEO and Founder of Narvar – an enterprise platform that helps retailers, including those working in the beauty and personal care industry, invest in supply chain analysis and flexible post-purchase options.
David Lortscher | CEO of Curology – a customized and affordable prescription skincare service tackling acne and the effects of aging.
Eric Korman | CEO and Founder of PHLUR – an online fragrance startup that hooks customers not through scent but words, pictures and even music.
Songe LaRon | CEO and Co-Founder of Squire – an app that facilitates the process of booking and paying for haircuts and shaves.
(Below is the first part of a three-part editorial series).
Beauty consumers’ intimate expectations make for a tricky business proposition: How do you sell the personalized and the intimate in a way that doesn’t betray the very nature of personalization and intimacy?
Can it be done? Is it simply a fine balancing act? If so, who is doing it effectively?
David Lortscher | CEO of Curology
“The key is finding a balance between the technology and the human aspect. Being sensitive to the fact that every consumer is looking for a different solution to a different issue is incredibly important. Just as personalized products can’t be ‘one size fits all,’ neither can the supporting customer service. At Curology, being personalized comes from our physical product, whereas being personal comes from our service. Every customer gets access to a licensed dermatology provider who finds their perfect formula and provides support whenever customers reach out with concerns. Being there for our customers the way medical providers are there through the ups and downs for their patients is how we approach customer care at Curology, and that helps us provide the best of both personalization and intimacy.”
Parham Aarabi | CEO of Modiface
“For us, we enable that personalization by showing how beauty products would look like on someone’s live video or photo. This augmented reality visualization is highly personalized by measuring and tracking every detail of a person’s face including the skin tone and the contour of the face, enabling hyper-personalized beauty recommendations and simulations.”
Songe LaRon | CEO and Co-Founder of Squire
“Absolutely! The key is trust. Grooming and beauty are inherently intimate. Consumers need to trust your brand before they make a purchase decision. One way that we’ve invested in fostering this trust is by vetting all the barbers on our platform. We want users trust Squire to provide the best barbers in every city.”
Amit Sharma | CEO and Founder of Narvar
“Truly nailing personalization is a constant struggle for brands. Many think the first step is to experiment with sophisticated personalization technologies. Before brands dive in though, they must recognize that personalization really starts with trust. Customers will only share information if they trust your brand. Trust is even more paramount for beauty since it’s intimate and emotional. When consumers share information, they expect something in return, whether it’s more refined personalization or tips and advice on how to use their products. When I’m prompted to share information such as my age, location, habits and preferences, I want to know that you listened to me and see that in the products and experience with your brand.
Although we’re still in the early days of this type of progressive personalization, there are a few beauty brands doing it really well. Look at Birchbox and HuesBox. As a Birchbox customer, you fill out a profile with questions about whether your skin is normal, dry or oily; how you style your hair; your level of beauty knowledge; and more. While you’re waiting for your monthly box with personalized products to arrive, you receive original ‘how-to’ videos based on your beauty routine and preferences. Another subscription beauty box that is nailing progressive profiling and personalization is HuesBox, a service for women of color. It creates a personalized experience by providing products from small black-owned business vendors and connecting customers to their ethnicity.
Whether your brand collects robust information from customers or simply knows their past purchases, there’s an opportunity to create a more personalized experience. If you know a customer bought a mascara or a foundation with sunscreen, use that information to your advantage and recommend other products they might be interested in and continue to gather insight.”
Eric Korman | CEO and Founder of PHLUR
“Yes, it can be done. The issues lies in how you interpret the word ‘personalized.’ While some people desire a product that is literally personalized—meaning made uniquely for them—a lot of people really want a personalized discovery and shopping experience, one that helps them find the right products for them.
With fragrance, personalized unique scents are prohibitively expensive (and not particularly practical). Instead, we deeply believe in creating the most personalized scent discovery experience possible. Online, that translates to providing as much non-olfactive stimulation as we can—engaging the customer with words, pictures and music to provide a representation of how that scent will make them feel. Equally as important, we enable a rich sampling experience in real life, providing personalized content for each scent to help guide the customer during their sampling experience.
Finally, we believe our brand voice and tone plays a significant role in making each interaction feel personalized. We seek to make every communication, regardless of channel, friendly and honest, and focused on answering the actual underlying question—not just telling someone what we want them to hear. This is important because a lot of what’s behind the drive to ‘personalization’ is actually the desire to make individuals feel special. One of the keys to making someone feel special is to begin by letting them know they’ve been heard.”
PSFK’s Beauty Debrief reveals how brands and retailers can build better products and deliver a more personalized experience to customers. Download the full report here, or request a presentation at your office. For full access to all of PSFK’s reports, debriefs, articles and archives, become a PSFK member today.