L’Oreal Expands Virtual Try-On Service

L’Oréal is among several cosmetics companies turning to augmented reality and artificial intelligence to boost sales

ModiFace, a company acquired by L'Oreal in 2018, has augmented reality and artificial intelligence technology that lets shoppers virtually try on makeup using their phone. Photo: L'Oreal SA

香蕉视频苹果下载L’Oréal SA is expanding its use of augmented reality and artificial intelligence, after virtual try-on services over the past year prompted customers to buy more makeup and hair color products, said Lubomira Rochet, the French cosmetic company’s chief digital officer.

The company’s U.S. subsidiary rolled out a service this week that lets shoppers use their phone’s camera to simulate various hair-color shades from L’Oréal products Garnier Nutrisse and Garnier Olia using augmented reality technology.

香蕉视频苹果下载Using the Google Lens image-recognition mobile app, made by Google Inc., shoppers can point their phone cameras at the hair-color boxes to activate the virtual try-on service. The application identifies the product and color and then activates the virtual try-on service, powered by technology from ModiFace, a company that L’Oréal acquired in 2018 for an undisclosed amount.

Customers can use the feature anywhere the two Garnier products are sold, but 500 participating Inc. stores will have signs near the products demonstrating how the virtual try-on service can be used.

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When online and in-store customers use technology that lets them virtually try on beauty products before purchasing them, L’Oréal sees three times the rate of customers purchasing a product, Ms. Rochet said.

香蕉视频苹果下载The company has been working with Modiface’s augmented reality technology since 2012, Ms. Rochet said, and decided to buy the business after coming to appreciate its potential.

香蕉视频苹果下载“We realized that AR and AI would really change the consumer experience for L’Oréal and the industry,” Ms. Rochet said. “We decided that partnership was not enough. We really wanted to source that capability internally.”

香蕉视频苹果下载It is difficult to determine how certain products, especially hair color, will look on a person until they try them on, Ms. Rochet said. “There’s a real advantage to guiding your consumer to find the right color,” Ms. Rochet said.

L'Oreal Chief Digital Officer Lubomira Rochet. Photo: Stephane Gallois / L'Oreal

And while retailers may offer makeup samples in stores, customers might not have time to try on multiple shades and wipe them off, or they might not want to experiment with samples that have already been used.

L’Oréal is among several cosmetics companies turning to augmented reality and artificial intelligence to boost sales. Cosmetics retailers that offer similar virtual try-on services include Inc., which recently acquired two startups that specialize in augmented reality and AI, and Sephora, owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE.

香蕉视频苹果下载Sales for L’Oréal between January and September of this year were about €22 billion, up by about 8% compared to the same period in 2018. The company said in October that one of the main drivers of growth was increased e-commerce sales, which grew about 49% during the first half of 2019 compared to the same period last year. The company does not break out e-commerce sales.

香蕉视频苹果下载Shoppers are spending more on L’Oréal products online, partly thanks to ModiFace’s technology.

香蕉视频苹果下载A customer using the ModiFace tool typically tries on more than 20 different shades of makeup, Ms. Rochet said. Clicking a “try on” icon next to a product lets the app use the customer’s laptop or phone camera to generate a preview.

Simulations of makeup and hair color have gotten more true-to-life with advancements in quality of the camera on smartphones, as well as processing power in the phones, said Parham Aarabi, chief executive of ModiFace, based in Toronto and founded in 2007.

“It took a long time for the technology to get better,” Mr. Aarabi said.

Websites such as Inc. and Sephora allow shoppers to virtually try on L’Oréal makeup products including lipstick, eye shadow and foundation using ModiFace’s technology, Mr. Aarabi said. The same feature is also offered on in-store tablets at bricks-and-mortar stores including Sephora.

香蕉视频苹果下载The ModiFace technology uses an AI system called a neural network to automatically identify parts of the user’s face and apply the right shade of makeup on the right part of the face. Mr. Aarabi said. The AI systems also analyze the background lighting to simulate the makeup color correctly.

香蕉视频苹果下载Neural networks are composed of layers of interconnected artificial “neurons” that automatically learn about the features of a specific object based on large amounts of training data. The ability to create such systems with multiple layers has led to advances in speech recognition and computer vision.

Pro Tip

  • When considering whether to acquire or build cutting-edge technology in-house, Lubomira Rochet says it’s important to determine how critical the technology will be and whether it will add competitive advantage. “We thought AR would be a completely new way of discovering our products, she said. That was what motivated the company to acquire Canada-based ModiFace in 2018.

Write to Sara Castellanos at sara.castellanos@wsj.com

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