As Target moves to position itself as a destination for beauty, it’s taking a cue from beauty stalwarts like Sephora and Ulta, and investing in augmented reality.

Target, which now sells more than 1,000 beauty products, announced today the launch of Target Beauty Studio, an AR technology tool that will be integrated into select brick-and-mortar stores and on its desktop and mobile site. The feature, available in 10 locations to start, will allow consumers to virtually experiment with products and shades before making a purchase. As part of the program, Target is also introducing a concierge service that provides advice and product recommendations from Target representatives through text message or a chat tool on the website.

“With the introduction of these new initiatives, which blend physical and digital to create an enhanced experience, we’re giving Target’s guests even more convenient options to find the perfect beauty items for their unique needs,” Christina Hennington, senior vice president of beauty and essentials at Target, wrote in a blog post on the Target site.


Target Beauty Studio in action

Target’s AR technology, which was developed by Perfect Corp.’s YouCam Makeup, uses similar digital facial mapping techniques as popular programs like ModiFace, which was just recently acquired by L’Oréal. Perfect Corp., which received a Series A investment round of $25 million in October, has also worked with Estée Lauder, Yves Saint Laurent, MAC Cosmetics and Macy’s.

For Target, teaming with Perfect Corp. is a pointed move to continue to build out its beauty department, an effort that has included introducing new products and marketing similar to strategies adopted by drugstores like CVS and Walgreens. At the same time, beauty departments across all retail formats have experimented in recent months with new initiatives to lure shoppers, including revamped loyalty programs, merchandising and store layouts that position makeup near the register to prompt impulse purchasing.

“In mass cosmetics, it’s been really interesting to watch, because you can see that what was transpiring on the prestige side has started to happen on the mass side,” Monica Arnaudo, svp of merchandising at Ulta Beauty, told Glossy earlier this month. “The industry is moving very fast, because the customer is moving very fast. And young, emerging brands, no matter the price point, can achieve an unbelievable level of desirability based on digital influence alone.”

In order to increase its digital desirability, Target is also investing in the next generation of beauty. The company recently announced 10 startups that will work from Target’s Minneapolis headquarters as part of an incubator program called Target Takeoff, now in its second year. While last year’s teams were tasked with focusing on health and wellness tools, this year they will experiment with beauty-oriented tech solutions and programs. Participants will pitch Target executives and receive real-time feedback on their ideas, many of which will be integrated into the business. Target Takeoff is a retail-focused arm of Target’s larger tech incubator, TechStars.

The recent developments signify Target’s push to keep up with rapid transformation in the beauty industry as it merges physical and digital — for example, last month Sephora combined its brick-and-mortar and digital teams into one department in order to more strategically handle customer service and track shopping patterns. At the same time, Target is in the tenuous position of identifying ways to stay competitive and maintain an edge over looming e-commerce giants like Amazon and Walmart. As a result, Target also announced this week the debut of Target ReStock, a next-day delivery service that will open in 11 markets, a clear play to keep up with the major online shopping players.