The 40-turned-50 foundation shade standard has become less of a marketing talking point, now that every beauty brand now has their take, but companies are still seeking ways to make their expanded assortments stand out.
The latest is Estée Lauder, which extended its Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup in August 2018 from 42 shades to 56 shades in the U.S. and 62 globally. In late November, the beauty company took that further with its iMatch Virtual Shade Expert tool, created in partnership with Perfect Corp. With the tool, customers are able to detect their best foundation shade using the YouCam Makeup virtual try-on feature and then are directed to purchase their recommended product.
However, Estée Lauder is not promoting the experience to be exclusively self-guided as it is currently on available at beauty counters. For now, 20 counters across the U.S., the U.K. and Japan feature the tool. It will roll out globally to 1,000 counters in 30 countries in the coming months, and in February 2020, it will launch on EsteeLauder.com.
“The beauty adviser [associate] is our direct link to our customer. She builds trust and delivers a high-touch experience, ultimately driving loyalty and repeat purchase,” said Jon Roman, Estée Lauder svp over global consumer marketing and online. “The shade expert allows the customer to take advantage of our beauty adviser’s expertise, and she can choose to self-navigate with the tool and engage with a beauty adviser once she has found her shade.”
Estée Lauder has had to play a bit of catch-up in the virtual try-on arena. L’Oréal acquired ModiFace in March 2018, and DTC-first makeup brands like Il Makiage continue to stress that their forays into foundation matching are superior. Il Makiage boasted a 90% shade accuracy among customers online and sans associate. As a heritage brand, Estée Lauder is aiming to create an omnichannel feedback loop with its tool.
Estée Lauder’s approach follows the same model as Nars Cosmetics, which also partnered with YouCam in March. Nars debuted its artificial intelligence and augmented reality experience for color matching in 110 of Nars’ locations supported only through associates. Barbara Calcagni, Nars Cosmetics president, said at the time the tool was not meant to be used by customers alone.
Estée Lauder is certainly a much older brand than Fenty Beauty, which made a splash with its foundations in September 2017, or even Morphe, which debuted its first-ever complexion line, Fluidity, in 60 shades, this past January. However, Estée Lauder Companies said its namesake brand experienced double-digit growth in its latest earnings, thanks to its Double Wear franchise. Roman expects that to continue with the rollout of its iMatch Virtual Shade Expert tool. The overall company, meanwhile, has experienced declines in the Americas of 6%.
“One of our strategies at Estée Lauder is to focus on hero franchises and iconic products. Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup is our number one foundation, and we are always looking for ways to enhance our customer’s experience,” said Roman.
But even YouCam has recognized the need for a cross-channel strategy with respect to younger shoppers.
“While sales associates are still important to provide the human connection and professionalism of an expert, the use of advanced beauty tech allows users to discover without any pressure,” said Wayne Liu, Perfect Corp svp and gm. “Tools like the iMatch Virtual Shade Expert allow brands to engage with millennial and Gen-Z tech-savvy consumers that crave interactive experiences.”