As smart speakers and voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home grow in popularity, makeup companies are increasingly using them to offer customized beauty advice and sell products.
Last year, Shiseido launched Skill, a voice service offering beauty tips through Amazon Alexa to its Japanese customers. In January, Coty unveiled ‘Let’s Get Ready,’ a visual tool that displays different makeup looks and also comments on individuals’ makeup choices through Amazon’s Echo Show, a voice assistant with a screen.
“We created the ‘Let’s Get Ready’ beauty skill based on deep user research and need-gap analysis,” said Elodie Levy, Coty’s senior director of digital innovation. “The most prevalent request from customers was curated, personalized makeup looks that matched their personal characteristics — including color of eyes, skin tone and color of hair, etc. — and also linked to their upcoming events and were paired with step-by-step application guidance.”
Levy’s team found that the “skill” (a series of command tools programmed into a voice assistant), which also allows users to put the products they see on the screen into an Amazon shopping basket, received high satisfaction reviews among both new and returning customers.
“Interestingly, 80 percent of those that have interacted with the skill are new customers, which means the skill also facilitates discovery of our company,” said Levy.
The personalized makeup recommendations are, according to Levy, one of the most beneficial features of the new software. Most often, users access it to ask beauty questions or find products made for their unique traits.
Right now, Alexa skills My Beauty Chat, a collaboration between Amazon Echo and editors from Hearst magazines (including Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar), is one of the most well-known beauty services available on Amazon’s Alexa. Skills such as Make Me Beautiful and Beauty Hacks have also been added to Alexa’s set of commands by individual users looking to share makeup tips and other beauty knowledge.
Popular makeup brands, including Sephora and MAC, are rumored to be greatly expanding their tech offerings in the near future, and an increased focus on voice is most likely in their plans. In France, Sephora launched a beauty advice app for Google Assistant, with rumored plans to eventually expand it into other areas. Estée Lauder, MAC’s parent company, launched the Estée Lauder Nighttime Expert to answer beauty questions through Google Home last year.
Sephora and Estée Lauder would not comment on whether they plan to launch any other services through the various voice assistants. A Sephora representative only told Glossy the company is constantly working to “evolve with the addition of new and innovative features.”
Customized skin and makeup advice, the chance to purchase products, and recommendations based on current beauty trends are some of the most popular voice assistant services for beauty companies, according to Amazon. With Estée Lauder’s Nighttime Expert, users can ask, “Hey, Google, can I talk to the Estée Lauder Nighttime Expert?” for advice on what they should do, or what products they need, for their nighttime skin routine.
But even with voice assistants’ popularity, it is still unclear whether they actually help drive sales. Right now, the tool remains an experimental tool for most beauty and fashion companies, said Sarah Jindal, Mintel’s senior beauty analyst. They’re seeing how customers respond to the skills, including what features they gravitate to most.
“I think voice activation has vast potential, as we see more consumers moving away from screens, and relying on the convenience of using voice when multitasking and going about their day,” Jindal told Glossy in an email.
She said beauty companies’ push to embrace voice assistants represents a larger shift within the beauty industry — one in which new forms of technology are more readily embraced.
“The rise of voice assistants is a sign that something big is happening in an industry that was at first slow to adapt to technological advances,” she said. But she predicted that, this year, makeup will transform into an increasingly advanced high-tech experience: Everything from eye-tracking software to body language signals will be used to blend the use of physical beauty products with the virtual world, she said.
“What I’ve seen recently is a real shift in brands and retailers realizing they need to be on the forefront, in order to meet consumer demand and remain relevant,” Jindal said.