On Wednesday, the recently relaunched hair care brand Fekkai debuted an AI-enabled hair tool called Fekk.AI, meant to teach customers about their hair and the products they need.
Although the emergence of coronavirus did not influence the launch date of the AI tool, it has come at an auspicious time for Fekkai. Professional and retail channels made up more than 50% of the brand’s product sales, said Frederic Fekkai, founder and CEO of Blue Mistral, a holding company founded by himself and private equity firm Cornell Capital. The brand is also sold through Ulta and Target, among other retailers. Like every other company, Fekkai must now rely on e-commerce for the indefinite future. The beauty brand has had to layoff 70 employees across its three salons and corporate-level.
Featured as its own tab on Fekkai’s e-commerce site menu, the tool first requests permission to take a photo of a user to analyze their hair length, texture and color, before asking four questions around hair goals and concerns, and the user’s location. Using proprietary cloud technology, the tool uses location information to consider seasonal effects on the hair, and the pH water level and UV ray index that hair is exposed to. Users then receive three recommendations to purchase subsequent products; the tool can offer over 720 possible combinations.
First launched in 1995, before going through a handful of different owners, Frederic Fekkai, in partnership with private equity firm Cornell Capital, re-acquired his namesake brand in Nov. 2018 and relaunched Fekkai in January. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although WWD reported it was likely around $50 million.
“The website and quiz are hoping [now] to replace some of the experiences that our customers had in salons,” said Alex Richardson, Fekkai chief technology and digital officer. “We didn’t really think of that [before coronavirus], but that’s what I’m hearing from customers now.”
There are opportunities for this tool beyond the customer experience. With granular data around geography, hair concerns and time of the year, the brand can develop future products. In the long-term, Fekkai plans to eventually craft an individual profile of a customer and know when they’ve moved to a different climate or know she has dyed her hair, in order to provide more intelligent recommendations. With the implementation of the GDPR and CCPA internet privacy laws, all brands have had to find ways to get customers to volunteer their personal information. Quizzes have been a predominant method thus far, as they offer customers value via a recommendation in exchange for their data.
“It’s great to get more customer information, and our goal is to get what I call a golden customer record or profile so that we understand her and she [is encouraged] to communicate with us on a regular basis,” said Richardson.
Fekkai said that, with the brand’s relaunch, the company has been targeting customers 35 years old and older, due to its higher price point of $20 per product. To introduce customers to the tool, Fekkai is sending three emails, on April 7, April 9 and April 14, to a database of approximately 75,000 customers. Additionally, both the brand’s and Fekkai’s personal Instagram accounts, which have 48,000 and 5,100 followers, respectively, will post on Instagram Stories and on IGTV with a question-and-answer video that promotes the tool during the week of April 13. Fekkai’s overall marketing and messaging is currently centered on self-care tips and community support, said Fekkai.
“When I acquired the brand back, I made a promise to myself that it needed to be relevant, modern and address the needs of today’s customer,” said Fekkai. “Because of the AI tool, we can become better and improve, and be even more creative and innovative.”