Sephora again makes over Virtual Artist augmented reality app

Dive Brief:

  • Beauty retailer Sephora has launched new augmented reality-based features for its Virtual Artist application on Apple’s iOS, including an eyeshadow virtual try-on feature, an Expert Looks preview feature and three new virtual tutorials for brows, contouring and highlighting.


  • The Sephora Virtual Artist Eyeshadow Try On feature gives users to access to thousands of shades by color, brand and finish, including each individual shade or an entire palette. Users can click on up to three shades to try them on the eyelid, crease and outer corner, and instantly determine their favorite combinations.


  • The Expert Looks allows users to pick from seven different on-trend looks created by Sephora’s experts, including Bright Lip & Cheek, Smoky Eye and Cut Crease, and have any of these instantly overlaid onto their own faces with a 3-D live view. The Virtual Artist Tutorials provide step-by-step DIY virtual training for creating trendy looks. The three new tutorials include Brows 3-Ways, Contouring, and Highlighting. Each step is customized to and animated on the user’s own face using 3D Live view. 

Dive Insight:

Sephora continues to be one of the most aggressive companies among beauty brands (and retailers in general) in its readiness to add new features to its mobile app. The retailer has added to its list of Virtual Artist offerings multiple times within the last year, and has been busily extending these capabilities to its chatbot on Facebook Messenger as well. It seems like the company is intent on enabling in its mobile app just about everything you might do at the beauty counter in a Sephora store.

Augmented reality technology is what make much of that possible. It allows Sephora customers to “try on” make up and cosmetics they same way they might try them on on a store by matching it with their facial type or features, or even overlaying it on images of their own faces. It’s a mobile app tool that is not just useful for beauty brands either — Gap said at CES 2017 in January that it’s testing a DressingRoom app that would use the same sort of augmented reality technology to allow customers to virtually try on clothes.

Retailers that thrive on try-on traffic — people visiting their brick-and-mortar stores because they want to try something on in person before buying — have some interesting decisions to make about how far they want to go with enabling these realistic try-on capabilities via mobile and social media. Could the richly-featured apps keep people away from stores and addition selling opportunities for the retailers, or could the apps drive them to buy more from retailers who they feel are serving them well?

Sephora seems to be pretty invested in the latter outcome, and doing everything it can to make it happen. It’s in a very competitive space, as fellow beauty retailer Ulta Beauty is succeeding on the e-commerce front while also continuing to open new stores. Macy’s also appears to be working harder to leverage Bluemercury, the beauty chain it acquired in 2015. With beauty being such a battleground, Sephora will need to keep its Virtual Artist well-armed.



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