Maybe it’s Maybelline, Maybe it’s investing in Technology?

L’Oréal is the largest cosmetics company in the world. The French personal care company owns brands like Maybelline, Keihls, Lancôme and Clairsonic to name a few and earned 26 billion Euros in revenue in 2017.

L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator was initiated in 2012 with the goal of better integrating technology into L’Oréal’s business and making products and experiences more customized to each customer. Today it functions much like a startup with the goal of creating the most innovative products in the beauty market. “’Everything starts with this pillar in my mind of where beauty and technology meet,’” says Guive Balooch, it’s global VP.

So far the branch has churned out a mix of wearables, objects and apps that aims to optimize consumers’ cosmetic, skincare or haircare regimens by creating custom products and giving users more information about their needs.

Here’s some examples of the types of products coming out of this incubator:K

Kérastase Hair Coach Powered by Withings

Under their haircare brand Kérastase and in partnership with smart tech company Withings, L’Oréal has created what they call the world’s first smartbrush. The machine is essentially a brush with tiny sensors in the bristles that are able to analyze your hair and give information about the type and health of the user’s hair via its connected app. The technology is incredible, “the brush contains a conductivity sensor that knows whether hair is wet or dry; an accelerometer and gyroscope to measure the speed and force of brush strokes; a microphone that captures auditory data” and uses an algorithm to analyze all of this data and spot breakage. Wi-Fi connectivity allows the brush, which looks like just a normal hairbrush, to report all of these statistics in a readable way to their app so that users can understand more about the health of their hair and better care for it.

Lancôme Le Teint Particulier

This is a point-of-sale device created by the cosmetics brand that has a color matching algorithm which compares a customer’s skin to 22,000 on file in order to find the most accurate shade. A custom foundation is then blended in store for them ensuring a perfect match for every customer.

UV Sense

UV Sense is a project for La Roshe-Posay, a dermatological skincare brand, which was a development to what was previously known My UV Patch. My UV Patch originally started as a “wearable adhesive containing photosensitive dyes that change color when exposed to UV rays”; it lasts up to 5 days through water, sweat, heat, wrinkling, really whatever life might put it through. The result of this product was a dramatic decrease in the sunburn experienced by users (60% of users reported less sunburn) and an increase in use of sunscreen. However, L’Oréal knew they could do better. With UV sense they moved the wearable from the skin to the nail. On one of the user’s fingernails is a small dot that reports information about UV exposure throughout the day. The dot is a lot smaller than the original patch, and to be honest, when I saw the photo of one, I though it was just a speck of nail polish. But even that is intentional. Yes, the product is mean to have a dramatic effect on skin health and sun safety by “course correct[ing] the way [consumers] behave and live in the sun,” but it is also a response to the popularity of nail art.

These are clearly some great ideas which are definitely contributing to the competitive advantage which allows them to call themselves the largest cosmetics company in the world. But where do they get these ideas from? Besides just internal idea generation from their Technology Incubator, L’Oréal also runs a “Brandstorm” competition each year where they challenge students from around the world to brainstorm ideas relating to a certain business initiative and integrates technology into the idea. I was lucky enough to participate in this competition through a course I took while abroad in Paris. Our challenge related to the Professionals haircare lines (haircare products used and sold in professional salons), and challenged us to find a way to use technology to enhance the in-salon experience. We were told that no idea was too far fetched, even if it seemed impossible or too expensive, and that if we won, L’Oréal would find a way to bring the idea to life. After learning about their Technology Incubator I can see how they have the means to make ideas like those imagined in the Brandstorm competition become a reality. While my group didn’t advance very far, it was a great bit of insight to L’Oréal and how the value they place on both technology and innovation and young innovators.

The Tech Incubator furthers L’Oréal’s mission of “Beauty for All”, allowing everybody to be educated about their personal needs and have the right product for their skin, hair and lifestyle. The company says the Incubator is in line with the “company’s initiatives around technology, diversity, sustainability and more as it moves towards modernization”. Besides just using technology to aid in picking shades that go with customers’ skin tones, this technology has the more serious potential of having a larger effect on making broader diagnoses about skin and having a larger effect overall on health which I believe is in line with the intersection that beauty and health have been making in recent years.

“If you just go back to values, every man and woman should be able to get the perfect product for them. I believe that tech is where do do that. If you look at deep learning and machine learning and design, and hot it’s starting to change the consumers’’ life in such a positive way, I want to be able to use the product of the future to do that”

Guive Balooch

Plus, it’s smart business. This tech directly contributes to the conversations we’ve been having in class (along with the entire business world) about how to keep retail alive in an increasingly digital based market. Companies need to use technology to aid in store experiences and L’Oréal is doing just that. They are creating technology that satisfies a need of education and personalization which can be integrated to consumers lives both in and out of store.

Works Referenced/Consulted:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelarthur/2018/01/07/why-design-is-critical-to-innovation-at-loreals-technology-incubator/#355ee3645455

12 comments

  1. All of these investments in technology is a great way to keep consumers engaged in a world where so much competition exists among similar products. What better way to brainstorm new ideas than putting it in the hands of consumers, especially young consumers? This is a great way to get a sense of what folks are looking for. The combination of the incubator and brandstorm will allow L’oreal to continue to advance in this industry. Great blog!

  2. I’m actually quite surprised that more technology hasn’t been integrated with L’Oreal’s in-store experiences. Not to say that investing in wearable technology is not a good investment, but only a small, select number of individuals can actually afford to purchase these high-tech products. At least for the time being, that is. Alternatively, I think L’Oreal’s brands could gain a lot of customers by choosing to invest in the type of technology that pretty much anyone could travel to the store/salon to experience.

    For example, Henkel’s Hair Analyzer and Customizer by Schwarzkopf was designed for hair stylists to learn about individuals’ hair coloring history to make the consultation process more structured and data-driven. In the end the styling process is more individualized, and customers are more inclined to buy Schwarzkopf product. I think that L’Oreal could best utilize the Kérastase Hair Coach in a similar fashion–targeting experts rather than the end-user.

  3. L’Oréal is a monster in the beauty industry and it’s crazy to see how many brands they own. I did a blog post a few weeks back about the hairbrush and I was so impressed by how technologically advanced they made it. The incubator is such a great way to keep up with new and innovative creations. The beauty industry has not changed much in terms of how products work, so it’s so interesting to see how this brand has revolutionized the industry. People have increasingly cared more about shade ranges and inclusivity, so L’Oréal’s initiatives really get at this with their Beauty for All mission. So many influencers and youtubers have come out with their own beauty lines and this has really changed up the industry, but I think L’Oréal has a lot to contribute to the beauty community. Great insights!

  4. dilillomelissa · · Reply

    Thanks for the great post! I’m always interested in new technology in the beauty space. I completely agree with Olivia’s comment in that many of these items marketed seem very high end and unrealistic for the average consumer. I am truly interested in the Lancome Le Teint for such accurate blending. This is definitely a pain point for anyone who wears make-up. Also- very cool that you were able to participate in such an amazing opportunity at L’Oreal where all voices are heard! I love when companies give the power to the people to make change. These challenges are becoming more and more popular. I like how the beauty industry continues to grow in ways I could never have fathomed.

  5. The beauty industry rakes in massive amounts of money yearly, so it is no surprise to see more and more technology entering the space. Like Olivia mentioned, I think these products are a bit too expensive for the everyday user, but could definitely see them being of benefit in salons. When Luiza posted about the hair brush a few weeks back, I commented that stylists using them in salons in order to recommend products to their customers could be a great use for them. It would be much easier for salons, especially high end ones, to purchase one or several of these brushes to have on hand as opposed to being purchased by regular consumers. One product that you highlighted that I hadn’t heard about before was Lancôme’s Le Teint Particulier. Finding the perfect shade of foundation can be a pain, but using this technology to analyze a persons specific shade and skin type to create a personalized formula is a really cool concept. As someone who only breaks out foundation for special occasions, I don’t see myself paying that much for foundation, but could definitely see someone who uses foundation on a more regular basis taking advantage of it.

  6. This is a great post! L’Oreal is doing some really cool stuff with regards to technology and the beauty industry, and with their tech incubator, they are clearly signalling that it will be an important part of the company’s long term strategy. While purchasing these items may be out of reach for the average customer, I think that L’Oreal may be producing and selling high end items to signal their commitment to this aspect of their business, with the hopes that, in the future, they are able to provide similar items on a mass market level.

    Personally, I think the UV patch is amazing. It’s so easy to forget how often we are exposed to harmful UV rays, and how important sunscreen is to preventing skin cancer. With a family history of melanomia, I would be willing to pay a pretty hefty price for a wearable that helped me become more aware.

    For all of these items, it probably doesn’t hurt that, even with a limited pool of potential customers, L’Oreal is able to collect a huge amount of data about their customers, their beauty needs, and their shopping habits, and can use that information to decide what products to develop in the future.

  7. It’s great to see tech creep its way into personal care and self-care. As the evolution of these products continues I hope it will increase the health of the individuals utilizing the tech, and help cut down on hospital or doctors visits for preventable issues. For example, with the UV patch, hopefully, there will be fewer cases of skin cancer requiring fewer visits to the dermatologist and a healthier population. While I realize the market is currently limited hopefully, this will help pave the way for future more widespread self-care tech devices that will be more applicable to a larger pool.

  8. I’m constantly shocked by the advancements the haircare and beauty industry make in incorporating tech into their business models. They have realized that these programs, products and apps will dramatically enhance the experience of the consumer and often turn them into loyal users of the brand especially when their data gets stored and personalized. I often have trouble getting the exact right shade of foundation and end up having to mix two myself to get a closer color. Knowing they have a system to beat this consistent issue in a timely manner makes me more likely to give their brand a chance and keep coming back if I enjoy my experience. I personally always related L’Oreal with older women, as I usually only saw my mom and other women in my family using it while my peers used lower price tiered and “sephora-friendly” brands. I think involving tech will help them target a new consumer base and get younger consumers into the stores to try their products.

  9. I had no idea L’Oreal was investing so much in technology (hardware-wise). The UV patch specifically caught my eye. As someone who burns super easily, I can’t even imagine the difference this would make. For such a cool technology, I’m confused as to why I have never heard of it. Whatever they are doing marketing wise, they should definitely switch it up a bit.

  10. I think the application of technology in the beauty industry is incredible, and something I wasn’t really aware of until reading some of our class blog posts that touch upon the subject. What intrigued me most in your post was the description of UV Sense. As someone who is prone to sunburn and needs to use a high SPF whenever I’m in the sun, I could definitely see myself using this. The tech incubator seems like a beneficial addition to the company, with the promise of developing solutions that could not only make beauty more tech-friendly, but also really help people (like in the case of UV Sense). Great post!

  11. Nice post and very relevant to the material covered in class. I am a huge beauty and retail connoisseur. The example that stood out most to me is your reference to the Kérastase Hair Coach. I never leave my house without a brush and to know there is technology that is backing brushes with smart technology speaks volumes to how the industry is using technology into tangible products. Furthermore, L’Oreal is one of the leaders who is crushing it in a market place that is saturated as we see some beauty retailers get lost in how to implement and create long lasting developments to keep up. The most important takeaway from this post is adoption. The reason these products and companies are blowing it out of the water is because they are adopting to the tech rush and the demand of every consumer in their market.

  12. I had no idea how many brands they owned and didn’t know about their incubator, and it was so interesting to read about! The UV Sense seems like an amazing idea and I can see it having a real difference in avoiding burns and skin damage that can lead to some very serious help problems down the line, which is so great. You’re so right that this is just good business, especially in a generally struggling industry like retail, and goes to show that there are ways to use technology to your advantage in disrupted industries.

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