Known for its larger-than-life in-person experiences, Benefit Cosmetics is now revving up the virtual event.

Today, the beauty brand debuts its Benefit Lash Factory to support the launch of its new They’re Real! Magnet mascara. Upon entering the website with their email addresses and country, invited worldwide consumers and influencers will be welcomed to the Lash Factory’s “earth’s core” — a nod to the mascara’s magnetic formula and applicator. There, they’ll be able to visit six rooms that include a photo booth with a custom Instagram filter, virtual try-on with AR, a live assembly-line game, and a control room featuring pre-recorded videos and entertainment from influencers. Six live meet-and-greets with influencers including Noor Stars (9.6 million Influencer followers) will also be available to attend, plus R&B singer Ari Lennox will perform three live sets. And because Benefit wanted its flagship virtual event to feel as interactive as an IRL experience, a chat functionality will be available for visitors to talk to one another while attending. The site will be available for 30 days post-launch, in 23 languages.

Toto Haba, Benefit Cosmetics svp of global marketing and communications, said the company had been ideating around the Lash Factory since last spring. “When Covid hit, we had to rejigger so much of our product launch calendar, because we didn’t want to launch a product when everything was shut down. We couldn’t get the visibility we needed, so we began imagining this very early, in case the world remained digital-only,” he said. Benefit enlisted creative agency BMF to bring the experience to life.

Haba expects They’re Real! Magnet mascara to become Benefit’s top-selling mascara. Currently, Benefit is the No. 1 prestige mascara brand in the U.S., Canada and the U.K, according to NPD Group data. Eye makeup has fared well during Covid-19. Despite a sales decline, the category was the most profitable segment in color cosmetics in 2020, with a sales revenue of $1.96 billion, according to consumer data firm Statista.

Benefit is known as a leader in the digital beauty landscape. In 2018, it debuted its virtual try-on technology for its browser that mirrored and manipulated a person’s brows via AR. Subsequently, it launched masterclasses and virtual consultations for consumers on its site. But the Lash Factory is its first large-scale event that has been hosted exclusively online.

“We didn’t think a general product demonstration or [a few] meet-and-greets were enough to show what the product can do. Once consumers come in, you can’t just serve them an infomercial. You have to drive impact,” said Haba.

While Haba would not share the cost of the virtual buildout, he said it was far less expensive than a real-life experience. Moreover, it provides scale. Nearly 2,500 people have been invited to visit the Lash Factory on Thursday, versus 750 for its last in-person event, which was in Tokyo in 2019. With influencer trips losing their relevance pre-pandemic, over-the-top virtual events could become a more judicious use of marketing dollars throughout 2021 and into 2022.

While Benefit will link out to its U.S. e-commerce site in the U.S. and to select partners in various regions, conversion is not the event’s premier KPI. The number of visitors per market, the time spent on the site and per page, and CRM from registration will be taken into account, as will post-event content, earned media value created from attending influencers and sales.

Rena Gillen, Benefit Cosmetics director of global PR and communications, said that customers can spend the whole nine hours at the event, or as little as five minutes to experience the entire Lash Factory. But, she expects the average visit to be between 10-15 minutes.

“We need to be sure to [gauge] the consumer engagement and excitement. That will tell us the ROI of the Lash Factory and if it’s something we want do bigger and better in the future,” said Haba.