Listen : Audio version of this article
Artificial intelligence (AI) is such a popular development in data science that soon I’m not going to have to explain the acronym before using it. The power of AI and machine learning to sort through vast quantities of data and present unique and detailed responses to queries has been mobilized in so many industries, and the beauty industry is no different.
“But hang on,” some of you might ask, “isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder?” It’s true that human attractiveness is a difficult quality to pin down (though that hasn’t stopped some AIs from quantifying it). That being said, the beauty industry is like any other in that it deals with customers and their data. The potential applications of AI in beauty product marketing and management are overwhelming, but here are few companies that are using AI right now to support their business.
Personalization is one of the primary benefits of AI systems. Due to the fact that they deal in vast quantities of data, they are able to provide specific responses to user questions based on observed trends in their datasets. This is currently being mobilized by beauty companies to provide personalized product recommendations to their customers.
Companies like Proven Skincare have developed apps that suggest skincare regimens based on skin type and condition. It’s based on the data from millions of product reviews, a hundred thousand skincare products and twenty thousand product ingredients, all cross-referenced against allergen data and scientific reports on skincare. Function of Beauty has developed a similar service for customized shampoo and conditioner.
Natural Language Processing is a big term to describe AI systems that deliver data based on keywords, most often generated by users. In practice, this means that an NLP system can recieve a collection of terms from a user, pull upon its datasets to find common connections between products, and recommend personalized and curated answers particular to each user.
This is best exemplified by beauty brand Coty, with their Alexa skill Let’s Get Ready. Users are asked questions based on their current look, their desired look and where they’re going, and are given a curated look in response. The response features video tutorials on how to put the look together and tips on what products to use.
Another innovation in product marketing is the development of so-called virtual mirrors: apps that use computer vision technology to show the customer what they would look like wearing certain products. You might recognize this from online eyewear companies, who have been using virtual try-on services to give customers an idea of fit and style without having to visit a brick-and-mortar store.
Taking it to the next level in this are is ModiFace, who claims to be able to simulate the effects of anti-aging skincare products with such augmented reality software. This feature is based on the research of dermatologists and is apparently used by industry heavy hitters like Unilever and L’Oreal.
More broadly than product recommendation, AI can help shape the beauty industry by providing data on what characteristics most people around the world find attractive. Attractiveness is often considered a nebulous and vague term, something unique to each individual, however, there are companies that claim to achieve a definitive index of beauty with the help of AI.
The most well-known of these is perhaps Beauty.ai. Claiming to be the first international beauty contest judged by robots, this mobile app allowed users to submit selfies to be ranked by an AI engine based on various factors such as wrinkles, skin color, and facial symmetry, and the results were then divided by age group and gender. Whether it is even possible to arrive at a universal definition of absolute beauty is perhaps beside the point, but it is an interesting exercise in the power of AI in beauty.
AI represents an exciting new frontier bringing data science into how we understand beauty and beauty products. As the worlds of research, science and marketing and brought closer together, and AI technology develops, the sky is the limit for the beauty industry.