Olay wants to know your “skin age” in an effort to make makeup shopping inside the Targets of the world simpler.
The P&G brand has built a skin evaluation tool that uses a series of questions, artificial intelligence and “deep learning,” the algorithm-based data reading used by Google and Facebook, to determine a customer’s “skin age,” identify problem areas and offer a regimen of products meant to address those issues. The web tool will be promoted with the URL to its homepage in drugstore aisles, as well as online.
The goal, according to Olay principal scientist Frauke Neuser, is to educate customers about Olay products, where they would otherwise be relying on customer reviews and impersonal Google searches.
“Beauty is a crazy category,” said Neuser. “There are thousands of brands, and a 30-foot long shelf isn’t designed to help you find what you need. People want more personalized experiences, and that’s where this tool comes in.”
Olay’s skin evaluation tool, to be released August 15, isn’t an app. The brand didn’t want people to have to download something and figured a web tool would be easier to update as technology improves, said Neuser. Still, it’s asking customers to put in some work, making adoption tricky. When trying the tool, users are asked to upload a selfie and answer a few questions, like their skin type (mostly oil, sensitive) and their problem areas (dark circles, acne), as well as enter their age as the technology assesses the photo. After receiving their set of recommended products and determined “skin age,” customers can add products to an online cart, read reviews, and learn how to use them.
“Of course we want to sell products, but more importantly, we want to get people to stick with the products because they’re working for them,” said Neuser.
Olay is joining other drugstore brands like Covergirl and L’Oréal that have turned to technology in order to win over loyal customers in a crowded market. While makeup brands are testing augmented reality to show how their packaged products would look on different customers, skincare brands are tasked with identifying and targeting individual problem areas and skin types. If they get it right, they’ll set themselves up for better customer retention, since shoppers won’t have to continuously search for products that work for them.
“That’s a modern-day loyalty program,” said Zach Paradis, vp of customer experience strategy at Sapient Nitro. “Retailers and brands are realizing if they invest in personalization, their relevance can be unmatched by competitors in a customer’s life.”
Olay’s team, which began developing the tool in 2011, found during beta testing that nine out of 10 women purchased a product after using the tool, and that four weeks after the first assessment, 88 percent were still using the products recommended by the skin evaluation. As time goes on, Olay hopes that people continue to check in on their skin age to see if they’re noticing improvements.
The brand is hoping to provide a similar experience for drugstore shoppers that Sephora has done for the premium beauty market. Sephora’s Color IQ is an in-store tool that matches shopper’s skin tones to a four-digit code that they can then use to filter foundation shades that would work best for them. Olay wants to open that experience up for shoppers on a lower price scale.
“These things are successful because they manifest in meaningful decision support in the path to purchase that can differentiate a brand,” said Paradis. “Confidence that you can walk out of the store with something that you feel good about related to the brand experience is going to drive sales.”