Decoded Fashion - Powder Personalised Beauty
Image source: Powder

British publisher Time Inc. UK has launched a beauty website called Powder that offers personalised product suggestions based on users’ self-selected filters, shrewdly wrapped in corresponding editorial content. A box of personalised products (both samples and full-size) can also be ordered for £36 ($52) every quarter.

Consumers create a free profile based on a series of questions determining personal needs and preferences such as age, skin type and budget, plus specific product-related questions including ‘what would you like your mascara to do?’, or ‘how much coverage would you like?’

Users search by product type to receive personalised recommendations, each of which is accompanied by insider tips from beauty editors, mimicking the in-store experience but with the bonus of top-flight editorial acumen. The products can be clicked to buy (users are transferred to brands’ e-commerce sites) or stored in a virtual wish list dubbed the Beauty Drawer.

Consumers can also browse the Beauty Feed, a regularly updated section that resembles an online magazine. Health and beauty-themed editorial content is mixed with new product launches and additional tips from in-house beauty experts – all curated to match consumers’ previously stated preferences.

The extra level of relevance is music to the ears of advertising beauty brands like French giant L’Oreal (already on board), which are assured of more effective native advertising.

Guest post by Marta PodeszwaKatie Baron

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Blusho
Image source: SMG

New British beauty e-marketplace Blusho is shaking up the sector with an unusually democratic retail model that merges user-generated content within an affiliate e-commerce model.

The site allows anyone from professional make-up artists to amateurs to become influencers by sharing images of their work within the community, or participating in themed competitions. However, only top contributors – those deemed by Blusho as having particularly high-quality work – are invited into an elite section on the site where they are able to monetise their content.

By using a bespoke tagging system to indicate the products used to create a specific look, shoppers can click directly from the Blusho platform to purchase items, usually via the product brand’s e-commerce site. Blusho takes a commission.

The use of user-generated content (largely selfies) marks a shrewd bid to appeal to teens and millennials – a group increasingly responsive to peer images and reviews rather than retouched model shots or traditional expertise.

While brands using the platform aren’t presently able to initiate direct involvement with users, engaging those with high or rising profiles as brand ambassadors would be a shrewd way to infiltrate the system.

The site also includes a wish-listing tool, a product search and extensive filter options including ‘face parts’, ‘looks’ and ‘brands’ to pinpoint specific interests. The image-driven platform also boasts tutorials – another key lure for YouTube-hungry Gen Y.

Replicating social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, beauty fans can also comment on images and personalise their feed by following favourite artists or scouting new products in the trending section.

The concept taps into a booming market: global beauty spending is forecast to reach around $265bn by 2017, with a growth rate of +3.4% per year, according to global market research firm Lucintel.

Guest post by Katie BaronStefanie Dorfer


“Even though she had what seemed a great idea for a business, Melody McCloskey admits it took her a few years to believe she could make it happen. She kept thinking of all the reasons she couldn’t do it. She was young. She had never run a business. She wasn’t a techie. And so on.”

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Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Sephora Beauty Box
Image source: Sephora

Beauty and cosmetics megabrand Sephora is entering the subscription beauty box business, competing with established players such as Birchbox in offering convenient product discovery platforms to beauty fans.

Costing a reasonable $10 and featuring a theme (such as ‘Uncovering the Essentials’), the Play! By Sephora monthly delivery box will introduce five deluxe-sized prestige products as well as samples, application tips and a Play! Pass for one-on-one tutorials in Sephora stores. A themed Spotify playlist will also enrich the experience of product discovery.

The first box will launch with limited distribution in a few top US cities such as Boston in September 2015 before rolling out nationwide in 2016. It will include the Sephora Collection’s Rouge Infusion Lip Stain in Peony, Marc Jacobs’ Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon in Blacquer, Ole Henriksen’s Sheer Transformation Face Crème, Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil, and Glamglow Supercleanse facial cleanser.

Such ventures are disrupting the process of beauty product discovery, allowing consumers to access and try new items ultra-conveniently. The sample boxes also help to establish a fan base for specific products, giving them cult status and fuelling sales. Benefit’s They’re Real mascara and Liz Earle’s Hot Cloth Cleanser are bestsellers on competitor Birchbox, with consumers returning to the site to buy full-sized versions of their introductory samples.

The subscription beauty box business is a strong market. Birchbox (which also charges $10 for its monthly delivery service) has grown exponentially in the five years since it launched with $71.9m in funding. It’s now the leading monthly beauty delivery service in the US and UK.

In the US, similar service Memebox introduces consumers to the Korean beauty routine, which, with thousands of products launching each month and its rigorous 12+ steps, can be daunting to Western consumers.

Guest post by Lisa Payne

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - AlpStories
Image source: AlpStories, Croatia

In order to communicate its innovative approach to beauty retail, Slovenian cosmetics brand AlpStories enlisted Croatian interior design studio Brigada to create a tech-enhanced concept for its new store in Zagreb, Croatia, including an on-site robot that mixes personalised skincare products.

Situated inside the Arena Centre shopping mall, the store concept emulates its online retail model, which invites consumers to custom-create products by combining selected natural ingredients, such as vitamin-rich plant extracts sourced from the Austrian Alps. They can also design their own packaging; colour-ways, logos and a personal photo can all be added.

The co-creation happens in a customisation area stationed in the middle of the store. An AlpStories specialist provides one-to-one consultations using a skin analysis machine to determine the skin type and the combination of ingredients that will suit the customer best. Armed with that data, the personalised concoction is created using a mixing station partnered with a touchscreen digital kiosk, plus a robot inside a glass-walled studio that prepares the product.

The spatial design tempers the overall emphasis on scientific acumen with a nature-inspired aesthetic. Materials including pine wooden shelves and slate walls showcase product, while a photographic mural of a mountainous scene, referencing the product’s core ingredients, stretches across the back wall.

While some beauty brands are enhancing their selling spaces with lifestyle-focused initiatives to engage consumers, others are using high-tech concepts or science-inspired spatial design to denote industry innovation and advanced product knowledge.

Guest post by Samantha Fox

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Pixability
Image source: Beauty blogger Michelle Phan on YouTube

A new study by video marketing company Pixability reveals how consumer views of beauty videos and beauty marketing on platforms such as YouTube are growing at an unprecedented rate – highlighting significant shifts that beauty brands and marketers should be aware of.

The beauty ecosystem on YouTube “experienced a 50% growth rate in views from January 2014 to April 2015” according to the Beauty on YouTube report, which studied 215 beauty brands, and videos from over 180,000 creators on the social video site, who post videos on topics such as skincare, hair, make-up, and perfume.

With 45.3 billion total beauty views and over 123 million beauty subscribers, YouTube is the leading global beauty consumption platform, and its popularity is growing. Compared to 2014, beauty brand mentions on YouTube are also up 53%.

The report shows that beauty creators own 80% of YouTube’s top performing beauty videos. Interestingly, beauty video content from brands is becoming more popular. The study found that “total monthly views of brand-produced content increased 78%, and views of brand-produced beauty content grew 35% faster than views of overall beauty content on YouTube from January 2014—April 2015”. These findings suggest that brands are already in a strong position to engage with consumers without having to tap into hot-property vloggers.

The study also revealed that emerging content categories hold critical growth opportunity for brands. In men’s grooming for example, the top ten channels on YouTube “collectively hold 5.4 million channel subscribers – 4.4% of YouTube’s 123 million beauty subscriberships.”

Similarly, the mature beauty market on YouTube is growing. “Monthly views of videos featuring beauty solutions for mature consumers over the age of 45 are growing 62% faster than YouTube’s overall beauty space.”

Videos that combine beauty with other lifestyle categories such as fashion, health and even comedy are also growing in popularity. Crossover beauty content earns 530% more views and 670% more shares on Facebook per video than beauty-only video content.

Guest post by Lisa Payne


“Beauty business L’Oréal USA has its sights firmly set on the latest tech innovators, tapping into a different source from the norm.”

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Decoded Fashion - Fashion Tech Daily -  L'Oreal


French beauty retailer Sephora is gunning to become a forerunner in digital beauty retailing with the launch of an innovation lab and four new digital initiatives.

Billed as an incubation hub for the ideation, development and testing of new digital initiatives, the lab – based in a San Francisco warehouse – will also host a monthly internal Think Tank team, charged with grooming the next generation of Sephora digital leaders, and predicting the shopping landscape five years from now. Additionally, it will house ‘Idea Central’ – a programme that sources and delivers ideas from employees, regardless of rank or role.

To coincide with the launch, Sephora has also prepared a number of key digital initiatives:

  • Devised in collaboration with New York-based, cross-platform beauty app Map My Beauty, Pocket Contour is a virtual make-up artist application for contouring. The app identifies face shapes and provides a personalised, step-by-step guide on how to create a contoured look. The tool can be accessed via Sephora’s website (on mobiles) or the app.
  • In April 2015, it will launch its first augmented reality (AR) experience via its existing Sephora-to-Go mobile app for iPhones. Users will be able to unlock digital content – including interviews with beauty experts, product videos and product pages on – by hovering over the faces of nine beauty brand founders, including US-based Laura Mercier, which are featured in windows and in-store display cases.
  • Bluetooth beacons are to be rolled out in Sephora stores across the US, delivering personalised alerts to the mobile devices of customers who have opted in to the service (see Sales-Boosting Beacons for more on how this works). When shoppers are either in or close to a branch, they can be notified when new demonstrations or activities are happening in-store, and receive birthday alerts or loyalty programme updates.
  • Lastly, frequent shoppers can sign up for Flash, which grants two-day shipping on all online products ordered within the US. The service is free for Rouge Beauty Insider members (the top tier of Sephora’s three-tier loyalty rewards programme), or $10 per year for all non-members

Guest post by Alison Gough, EditorKatie Baron, Head of Retail


“The mirror has an embedded camera that scans and projects an image of your face on top of your reflection. Then it offers suggestions and lets you try out different looks by applying digital makeup and facial hair.”

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Decoded Fashion - Fashion Tech Daily - Panasonic Smart Mirror

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Tech and the perfect Pout

As the fashion industry grows increasingly smitten with wearable technology, a previously overlooked aspect to the commercial potential of these technologies is gaining traction. The cosmetics industry – including those beauty arms of global fashion brands that are now as vital to revenue as handbags and shoes – has started to embrace new technologies in a bid to harness customer loyalty and boost business. From Google Glass as make up tutorials to facial mapping beauty apps, the new beauty brand initiatives all share a common objective: to attract a digitally savvy customer, who wants her online/offline shopping experience to be as seamless as her go-to red lipstick.

One such cosmetics brand that is keeping ahead of the pack this season is YSL Beauté, the L’Oréal-owned subset of the fashion powerhouse. Launched in London’s Selfridges last week, the brand are hoping to transform party season beauty routines with their Google Glass collaboration – which will give Glass to YSL make-up artists in order to capture the make-up application through the eyes of a professional. Does it work? Take it from one who has tried it – and who doesn’t know the first thing about a five-step smokey eye – this is an equal parts fun and useful service. Once the application process is fully recorded, you get a personalised email package once you get home: including ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures, the personalised Glass-recorded tutorial in full and, of course, a customised list of products to purchase.

Other whisperings of tech in the beauty industry have come direct from L’Oréal, Makeup Genius is the brand’s beauty app for iPhones and iPads (Decoded Fashion reported). Using a facial mapping technology, the app is a virtual make-up tester that allows you to layer beauty looks onto your face using your device’s front facing camera. These looks might be your own creations or curated by make-up artists, but they all use purchasable L’Oréal Paris products as standard. Thanks to the app’s sophisticated algorithm that is able to spot up to 64 data points on your face, the app moves with you as you turn your head or change your expression.

From multi-national corporations to a less established name on the scene, MiniLuxe is a chain of beauty salons that is set to disrupt the big players of the industry. The high tech company, which aims to do for beauty what Starbucks did for the coffee world, is increasing its physical locations throughout the US as well as employing high tech point-of-sale systems. MiniLuxe’s large data mining and collection system can respond to changes in the environment that might lead to higher or lower bookings of manicures and pedicures – for example, better weather will lead to more bookings, and that will require more staff in store. This responsive approach extends to the customer experience, with the company recently announcing a new booking app for customer’s smartphones (and a $23 million round of investment).

The key reason why these three different business models of the beauty world are going about implementing tech in the right way? Rather than trying to directly recreate the invaluable in-store experience of trying on make-up, they’re adding dimensions to the process of purchasing make-up at every possible point of contact. When it comes to attracting make-up lovers, it’s this combination of online and offline integration that makes for the real lesson in beauty.

Reported by Claire Healy

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