Avon Products Inc. (the international arm of the beauty company) is launching a personalized beauty app, a new digital tool aimed at helping Avon’s 6 million representatives deliver customized service to customers.
The app, which is a foundation color tool allowing Avon representatives to easily match consumers to one of 40 different shades in the company’s product assortment, was built in partnership with printing software company Techkon. Avon representatives can use the app to take a photo of the customer, use a calibration card to measure skin shade and enter a series of answers to identify a client’s skin-care needs. The information is then processed through a unique algorithm that generates personalized product recommendations. The company would not disclose its investment in the new app.
Avon, which counts its beauty business as 75 percent of total revenue (fashion accounts for the remaining 25 percent), found that 70 percent of women choose the wrong foundation shade and felt there was opportunity for the brand to increase its color business with the app — in 2017, 23 percent of Avon Products’ $5.7 billion total revenue came from this category. In its second-quarter earnings for 2018, the company reported soft revenue, down 2 percent in like-for-like business, but at its investor day in September, new CEO Jan Zijderveld said he wanted to “unlock digital” by investing about $300 million in those initiatives by 2021.
“One of the biggest problems women face is not finding the right foundation color for their skin tone, and our industry hasn’t solved it, even in a retail setting,” said Louise Scott, Avon’s chief scientific officer, who helped spearhead the project. “In the direct-selling industry, one of our challenges is how to enable our representatives to give the best possible advice.”
Though companies like ModiFace have attempted to solve this foundation shade problem with augmented reality functionality via selfies, Scott said Avon’s app capabilities are superior because it is “color-true” to one’s skin tone and to the Avon foundations offered, as it takes environmental surroundings into account. “Lighting conditions and the quality of a camera can make enormous differences, but our partner [Techkon] was facing a similar challenge in the paint industry, and we used their technology to be the first in beauty to provide a color match like this.”
Before the official companywide roll-out in the next few months, Avon tested the app over the summer with about 100 representatives, who reached approximately 3,000 customers in the U.K. and South Africa — those markets were chosen as they are two of Avon’s top regions and have the most diverse skin-tone ranges, said Scott.“We used these markets which feature very light to very dark skin tones, and people with blended backgrounds to show the power of the app. It proved that our representatives can better serve the customer with this digital tool,” she said.
Though the app will be used primarily to sell Avon’s $12 True Color Flawless Liquid Foundation, after a foundation is selected, customers can add on additional products, like lipsticks, blushes and eyeshadows that go well with their skin tone. The idea here, of course, is to increase a customer’s basket size of merchandise.
“You can recommend a whole new look, based on this updated understanding of a customer’s skin tone,” said Scott. Avon would not reveal how many products customers in the U.K. and South Africa purchased during the pilot program after being “color-matched,” but Scott confirmed it was “a bundle of products” versus a single foundation.
Part of Avon’s transformation is to become more relevant in the modern beauty consumer’s mind, and the new app helps target millennials from both a customer standpoint, as well as a representative recruitment point of view, said svp and chief digital and information technology officer, Benedetto Conversano.
“The leadership [here] truly understands the power of digital and are committed to revolutionizing Avon as a digital company,” he said. “Avon has a great opportunity to use what we have to greater effect, and we are adapting our business rapidly to become multichannel.”