At-home hair dyeing, which is anything but glamorous, is getting a technology boost.
Multiple high-end and progressive brands are using technology like algorithms and augmented reality that promise an improved at-home hair dyeing experience. Madison Reed, which has raised over $70 million in venture funding, uses a chatbot to guide users through the color selection process, while eSalon offers customers a quiz and uses an algorithm to find their perfect shade before shipping a bespoke at-home kit. Traditional players are catching on: L’Oréal made a splash when it bought AR app ModiFace in March, which is exploring 3D live video hair-style changes, like changing texture, volume and style of hair, and Redken partnered with on-demand mobile blowout service Prête last month to offer a gloss treatment, in addition to an AR experience with YouCam.
At-home hair coloring is big business, with last year’s total retail sales in the United States reaching $1.9 billion according to Kline & Company, a market research firm. At the same time, there has been a lack of innovation from much of the larger brands, providing an opportunity for smaller ones to introduce new products and methods of interacting with the consumer. With technology like AR and chatbots reaching maturity and being utilized by apps that are being downloaded in the hundreds of millions, they have been able to address consumer concerns like the right shade or how to properly use an at-home product.
That’s where something like Madison Reed’s chatbot (called Madi) comes into play. Using photo recognition technology to analyze primary and secondary hair tones after a user uploads a photo, the company ships them a custom-picked dye. Actress Gabrielle Union’s own hair care line Flawless by Gabrielle Union also uses an AI-powered chatbot to provide customers with a more personalized experience: They fill out a hair profiler that uses information such as their hair color and daily hair care maintenance to create tailored product recommendations. Created by AI company Botworx.ai, the chatbot also integrates its Sentiment Engine, a tool that can automatically rate the overall tone and feeling of product reviews and either offer real-time insight into customer feedback about a very specific product or offer and overall brand’s reputation, according to WWD.
But there’s only so much a chatbot can help with, and for customers who want to try a creative color but are wary of the results, they can now use augmented reality to preview shades. And augmented reality apps like ModiFace and YouCam, coupled with Instagram, where bright and complex hair colors flood the feed, are potentially the next big area where brands can take advantage of market opportunities, said Maya Mikhailov, chief marketing officer and co-founder of mobile commerce platform GPShopper. If it used to be a major commitment to try on one single bright color in person, the ability to swipe through hundreds of them with little effort has elevated the likelihood that people will adopt more adventurous looks, she said.
Indie hair dye brand Splat, which features bold hues, launched an app late last year to help customers virtually try on shades they might be afraid to make a commitment to apply. The app allows users to take a photo in the app, outline the hair they want colored and then pick their color. Customers then have the option to shop from the app or be directed to the retailers carrying Splat such as Ulta Beauty. Around the same time, YouCam partnered with Redken for the launch of more than 75 professional hair color shades through its app which directs consumers to a Redken Salon finder to book an appointment to recreate the virtual image; in September 2017, YouCam said it was downloaded globally more than 500 million times.
“It’s probably fueled by online influencers,” Mikhailov said. “There’s a great YouTube presence with influencers for hair and makeup, who are teaching people to use products in a semi-professional way, and there are opportunities for brands there.”
Brands like Christophe Robin — which is launching its first at-home dye product in Sephora in September — and Madison Reed have taken advantage of the video opportunity by using video tutorials on Instagram and YouTube as a key point for promoting the product. Madison Reed also employees video tutorials instead of written pamphlets, as chief executive Amy Errett remarked that “no one even reads” the instructions after the brand worked with about 60 women to videotape how they applied to color.