Beauty consumers are hungry for guidance, just not from a sales assistant

A recent study commissioned by AI-driven marketing firm Automat has revealed a beauty industry ripe for the deployment of virtual advisors, with consumers keen for guidance but reluctant to engage with in-store staff.  


Covergirl parent company Coty has invested heavily in new AR technologies recently but could do more in terms of AI - Instagram: @covergirl

The study was carried out on commission by independent consumer research firm Wakefield Research and surveyed 1,500 female beauty consumers in the US between the ages of 18 and 65. 

70% of those surveyed said that they felt overwhelmed by the range of product choices in the beauty sector and 63% stated that they were confused by the different claims made by brands about their products.

If this suggests that consumers are crying out for guidance, it would also seem that beauty retailers should be careful about how they offer it. Some two thirds of survey participants said that they preferred to be left alone while shopping, a fact that apparently flies in the face of other recent consumer studies emphasizing the importance of hands-on customer service to the survival of brick-and-mortar retail. 

Instead, over two thirds of respondents preferred to try and hunt down their own information, researching products online before visiting a brick-and-mortar location, while 71% conducted further research through mobile devices while in store. 

As pointed out by Automat, this hints that the on and offline experiences are already very much interwoven for the vast majority of consumers, a pattern of behavior previously picked up on by the National Retail Federation and IBM in a study focusing on Gen-Z shopping habits that was released in April. 

The same study suggested that retailers could harness these consumer tendencies by innovating with cross-platform integration that would be able to simultaneously engage shoppers in physical stores and through mobile technologies. 

Automat's study draws a similarly technology-focused conclusion, predicting that the future of beauty retail lies with AI-enabled virtual advisors. Indeed, 49% of those surveyed by Wakefield said that they would definitely or likely use a virtual beauty advisor if one were made available, either on or offline.  

The beauty industry has been revolutionized by digital technologies in recent years, with everything from augmented reality makeup try-on apps (such as Perfect Corp.'s YouCam MakeUp) to in-store blended reality magic mirrors (see Coty's product-powered model at its Bourjois boutique in Paris) radically changing the consumer experience. Nonetheless, Automat believes that the possibilities provided by virtual advisors have been relatively overlooked until now. 

"Simplistic guided selling tools exist but don’t go deep enough in terms of getting to know consumers, providing personalized and trustworthy recommendations, and delivering positive experiences that cement relationships with consumers over time," the report claims, highlighting the potential for further investment and innovation in AI-technologies that could help consumers make better informed choices online and in store. 

"Beauty consumers are really struggling to make sense of which beauty products are right for them.  It's ridiculous that consumers in this day and age have to expend so much time and effort to complete beauty purchases," commented Automat CEO and Co-Founder Andy Mauro in a release. 

"New conversational AI technology and virtual beauty advisors make it possible to cut through this complexity and provide the ease of use, convenience, and personalized experiences that consumers so clearly need and want," he concluded.

Automat's survey was undertaken in May of this year as part of the company's ongoing research into AI technology in the beauty industry, an activity which previously resulted in the launch of the Beauty.bot platform. 

All study participants had a household income over $40,000, were smartphone users with Facebook Messenger installed on their devices and had made a beauty purchase in the three months preceding the survey. 

Full results of the study can be found on Automat's website.  

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