“Tech” has already served as gamechanger for many large brands, and moving forward, it will be ubiquitous, assert industry insiders. In fact, one marketing executive who spoke with Happi during CES last month in Las Vegas suggested that AR will be as integral to a beauty brand’s marketing plan as end caps and shelf talkers were in the past.
CES took place January 7-10, drawing approximately 170,000 people to Las Vegas to view the latest developments in a wide range of consumer electronics including self-driving cars, home security devices and drones. But health and wellness continues to be a growing component of this massive event that occupies multiple venues throughout the desert city. According to the Consumer Technology Association (the organization behind the show), this year, more than 4,400 exhibiting companies launched their latest tech products across more than 2.9 million net square feet of exhibit space.
Procter & Gamble expanded its presence considerably at this year’s show. Back for a second year, the Cincinnati-based CPG company started off CES 2020 with a slick press conference on January 5, brought in top brass like Chairman David Taylor and others for panel discussions, and in addition to its “LifeLab” on the show floor inside the Sands Expo Center, rolled in two Gulfstream-style campers in which show-goers could get up close and personal with new tech-driven personal care devices from two major brands. With the help of The Art of Shaving (another P&G brand), Gillette Labs provided on-site shave sessions with its new heated razor, and right next door, attendees lined up by the dozens to brush their teeth with the just-unveiled Oral-B iO power toothbrush.
P&G is betting big on this new Oral-B brush. Throughout CES, company officials touted the way P&G looks to “meaningful change” in consumers lives—and such was the talk about Oral-B iO’s product development process.
Why is meaningful change needed? On stage at CES, Steve Bishop, CEO of P&G Health Care, shared some jarring statistics about the state of oral health in the US: 50 million people in the US have untreated tooth decay and 25% of people in the US will lose all of their teeth by the time they are 65.
“There is a growing body of evidence that shows a clear link between your oral health and your overall body health,” he told the audience.
According to Bishop, when it came to NPD to address those concerns, historically P&G would have relied on qualitative research and clinical studies.
“Those were all great, and still very valuable and needed, and they helped us build leadership brands like Crest and Oral B—but they left gaps,” he asserted. “Today we have a much richer data set and a much more real-time approach to data,” said Bishop.
The gaps, according to Bishop, come from the differences between what people say they do and what they actually do.
When P&G started selling connected toothbrushes, consumers (willingly) shared data with the company—and that was critical to the development of Oral-B iO. For instance, while dentists recommend a 2-minute brushing session twice daily, data showed that the vast majority of consumers weren’t meeting those benchmarks; in fact, they were brushing a little over once a day for about 45 seconds. They were also missing large areas of the mouth and around the gum line too.
During the past few years, P&G has assembled a large cache of data scientists who collect and analyze that data. Most importantly, they share it with the rest of the P&G team tasked with product development and beyond.
“We have paired that with all the historic strengths of our company,” said Bishop, pointing to P&G’s robust team of chemists, microbiologists, engineers, dentists, master marketing organization and UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) experts.
That has led to a brush that’s been reimagined and redesigned from the inside out stemming from insights collected for more than six years of product research and development and 250-plus patents.
Oral-B iO features a frictionless magnetic drive, which distributes energy more efficiently to the tips of the bristles, resulting in a smooth, quiet cleaning experience, as well as a redesigned brush head engineered to combine oscillating and rotating cleaning motions with micro-vibrations. There are new twisted bristles reinforced with high-density tuft-in-tuft configuration.
A big part of the Oral-B iO brush are features that fuel consumer interaction, such as a bimodal “Smart Press” sensor that provides positive brushing feedback that guides users to remain in optimal pressure range and protect gums and enamel. A smart display interface greets users, provides coaching and motivation throughout the cleaning process, and features up to seven brush modes for personalized experience. Lastly, it has AI tracking via a new app that provides coaching. These tools help users know they are doing what the dentist wants them to do in real time—no more waiting for that yearly checkup to see how they fared.
“iO is by far the biggest leap in our electric toothbrush business that we’ve ever made,” boasted Bishop.
Still, consumers will need to wait a bit longer to use it. Oral-B iO, which was CES Innovation Award Honoree, will be launched later in the second half of 2020.
A Brush Off Is On!
Oral-B wasn’t only oral care brand with big brush news at CES. Colgate exhibited for the first time, showing off its new Colgate Plaqless Pro, a smart electric toothbrush that Colgate says will be the first commercially available electric toothbrush that detects biofilm buildup and coaches, in real time, for more complete brushing.
According to Maria Ryan, Colgate’s chief dental officer, this new device was inspired by a shift toward precision oral care that tailors treatment to each patient’s specific needs. The company says that Plaqless Pro improves brushing efficacy by accounting for an individual’s brushing technique and the biofilm buildup in his or her mouth. The brush alerts users via a light ring that turns blue when buildup has been found and white when the areas is clean and it’s time to move on. The Colgate Connect App pairs to the brush via Bluetooth technology and sensors embedded in the handle create a comprehensive map of the user’s mouth so the app can show missed spots and provide personalized data and coaching.
Colgate execs had a lot to smile about at CES as the Plaqless Pro won the CES Best of Innovation for Health and Beauty. They had plenty of competition—just in oral care. In addition to Oral-B and Colgate, other brands were touting new tooth care technology.
Home Skinovations Ltd. was at CES 2020 with ToothWave, billed as the first and only device that removes impurities attached to teeth through DentalRF. The technology sends a mild radiofrequency wave of charged molecules that is said to engulf the surface of each tooth. The charged molecules destabilize the bonds between the tooth’s surface and the impurities. When impurities detach from the tooth’s surface, they are replaced by other molecules from the water or the toothpaste and the new bonds prevent impurities from re-attaching. ToothWave has been officially approved for sale in China and in Europe, and is in the process of being cleared by the FDA, Health Canada and other regulatory authorities, according to the company.
Not every oral company at CES was so focused on killing plaque; another start-up was more focused on launching a device aimed at killing time, so to speak, during one’s morning routine. Wavee Group, Inc. set up camp in the Eureka Park section of CES with what it was touting as the world’s first toothbrush speaker system. According to co-founder and CEO Jon Semira, since consumers spend as much as 60 minutes in the bathroom as part of their daily routine, adding some great music makes perfect sense. The company’s omni-directional sound speaker has both Bluetooth connectivity and IPX 5 Water Resistance, which makes it optimal for a bathroom environment. And while the emphasis was mostly on the sound experience, the Wavee team didn’t shrink on efficacy. The brush features a two-minute timer with 30-second intervals and three brushing modes, according to the company. Wavee spent 18 months prototyping and testing the unit, which is currently on the Kickstarter platform.
Wavee is a hopeful start-up, just like so many others at CES, which is a proving-ground, launch pad, inspiration zone and matchmaker all in one. Companies large and small that exhibit at CES and those that come just to walk the aisles, have long used this venue to forge new relationships.
IFF can attest to that. The flavor and fragrance company was on the CES show floor for the first time this year with SleepScore Labs, which offers a “suite of data-backed sleep solutions.” The duo forged a partnership—reportedly after a handshake at CES two years ago—to create and validate products designed to support healthier lives through improved sleep. SleepScore clinically tested a prototype pillow spray developed by IFF to support healthy sleep. According to SleepScore, objective sleep measurements showed that participants who used the scent spent 26% less time awake at night after falling asleep.
“This partnership marks a strategic decision by IFF to extend our leadership in the “beyond sensorial” market,” Nicolas Mirzayantz, IFF’s divisional CEO, scent, said in a statement when the alliance was announced on January 5.
This year marked Amorepacific’s debut at CES, too. Despite its freshman status, the company walked away with accolades for its Iope Tailored 3D Mask printing system. The unit, which was created in collaboration with Lincsolution in 2017, was recognized as a CES 2020 Innovation Award Honoree for extending the scope of 3D printing technology from materials like plastic and silicon to liquid-type hydrogel.
Facial sheet masks are a major part of K-Beauty, and Amorepacific has more than a decade of experience in this category that exploded globally. Now, the company is leveraging its knowledge about masks as well as its trove of skin analysis with advanced 3D printing in real time.
A smartphone app-based 3D scanning system allows Amorepacific to make a custom mask that is truly tailored to each user’s face by taking 18 measurements that are transferred to the printer, according to Yi, who developed the system. The multi-material pump 3D printer has been engineered to control and print different cosmetics formulations to create hydrogel masks both efficiently and hygienically, which impressed CES judges. According to Amorepacific, temperature and torque control systems manage the different types of hydrogels which have different viscosity levels, while a cartridge helps maintain hygienic conditions. There are six different “prescriptions” that customers can select for use in the mask (anti-aging, moisturizing and acne, for example) and on specifically selected areas of the face (including cheeks, eye area and forehead). Add them all up and 7,000 permutations are possible, according to the company.
Amorepacific conducted a year-long pilot test of the system in 2017, and since then, it has been able to upgrade the speed and accuracy of both the analysis and printing. Rather than hours, Amorepacific says this new system takes generally less than five minutes to print one sheet of hydrogel face mask. That real-time turnaround makes in-store service feasible. The company will offer these bespoke masks to consumers as part of its tailored service available at Iope’s Seoul flagship store starting in April.
The Personalization Push
While it has enjoyed a leadership position in beauty tech with a string of headline-making developments starting with Makeup Genius in 2014, L’Oréal found CES a much more crowded space in 2020.
“Seven years ago when we came here, I don’t remember seeing one beauty company. Now there are so many start-ups and large companies,” said Guive Balooch, head of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator.
During a session on ”Value Creating in the Age of Personalization,” Balooch acknowledged, and welcomed, all the new activity.
“It makes me happy to see that this space is growing because we to need have that for the industry to rise,” he said.
But with the uptick, there’s more to assess and more at stake.
“One of the challenges for us is what are the right bets we want to make,” Balooch said, noting that as the space become saturated, it is easier to get pulled in many directions.
“We have to keep our heads down and focus on what are the big services and the big problems we want to solve.”
One problem in beauty has been the ability to find the right shade, and Balooch’s department wanted to create a tool to be used at POS that would help people find their skin tone and then take the right SKU off the shelf.
“We didn’t succeed as much as we thought we would. The tool was great, but we then would have the same amount of shades on the counter that you always had—and it wasn’t helping people who couldn’t find the right shade, get the right shade. You have way more skin tones of people than you will ever have product you can put on the shelf,” he said.
That realization put the company on the pathway toward Perso, its new AI-powered at-home device unveiled at CES. Perso is sleek and has a small footprint (it stands 6.5 inches high and weighs just over one pound), but it promises a powerful level of personalization by delivering on-demand formulas that are optimized for increasing levels of personalization over time. According to L’Oréal, with a patented motorized cartridge system, Perso creates personalized skin care formulas in four steps:
- Personal skin analysis: Through an image taken by a smartphone camera, and by utilizing L’Oréal-owned ModiFace technology, an app uses AI to analyze the user’s overall skin condition—including deep wrinkles, fine lines, the appearance of dark spots and pore visibility.
- Environmental assessment: Using Breezometer geo-location data, Perso assesses local environmental conditions that can influence the state of the user’s skin, including weather, temperature, pollen, UV index and humidity.
- Product preference: Users enter their personal skin care concerns into the app, including fine lines, dark spots, pigmentation, pore size, radiance and dullness. The user can also input preferred texture and hydration-level to further customize their unique formula of moisturizer, serum and under-eye cream.
- Custom formulation and dispensing: This collective data informs the creation of a personalized blend of high-performance skin care, dispensed in a single dose at the top of the device for easy, clean application. The technology adjusts for morning and evening application, and the device features a detachable mirrored top so consumers have the option of taking a single or larger dose with them on-the-go.
The launch in Las Vegas represented what company officials called “phase one of the rollout”—namely the device’s foray into skin care. Perso will reportedly offer custom formulas for lipstick and foundation at a later date, according to the company, which at press time did not name specific brand under which the device would debut.
“Personalization is understanding and really getting the right information about consumers’ habits or skin tones….and then being able to link that to the formula that meets that level,” said Balooch, adding that personalization will “be a big part of our future in terms of our business and beauty tech and will also enable the company to bring the inclusivity we want to our initiatives.”
Perso took about seven years to develop as L’Oréal needed to make sure it would perform to the company’s standards when it was out of the company’s reach.
“Once something is in a house, and in [consumers’] hands, you have to insure the quality, insure that everything works perfectly, and you have to make sure you do it with the right elements and that it really works,” Balooch said.
The Lipstick Effect
Large players like L’Oréal and others know they must protect their brand reputation at all times—even when it comes to tech. A fancy new gadget may spark interest, but just like any formulation, it needs to provide tangible benefits or it will be cast aside.
Venerable beauty giant The Estée Lauder Companies has made its stake in the global beauty business with high-touch customer service that’s been crafted over decades. But it, too, is having success with technology.
“From an Estée Lauder perspective, we are fusing beauty and technology by leveraging innovative technology solutions to create immersive, relevant and specific experiences,” Jay Anderson, senior vice president, global brand technologies, The Estée Lauder Companies, said during a CES panel discussion held on January 8. “We have 35 brands and leverage technology across all those brands in retail experiences as well as online and offline.”
Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) has more than 8000 virtual try-on devices in stores worldwide right now, including iMatch, a virtual shade expert that uses smart detection and AR to help users find their skin tone and shade match. Through its partner, Perfect Corp., ELC has AI and AR solutions in use at its flagship Estée Lauder brand as well as MAC, Clinique, Smashbox, Tom Ford, Too Faced, Aveda and Bobbi Brown.
More will debut as these technologies remove barriers in the buying process that stymie the experience at a beauty counter.
Even just a few years ago, people were physically trying on one lipstick at a time, wiping it off, and then testing another. While that time provided an opportunity for conversation between the brand and the customer, Anderson acknowledged it also created “friction in the shopping experience.”
Now, consumers can check out 30 different lipsticks shades in 30 seconds with a lot less wear and tear on their lips, not to mention without being physically present in the store.
“It is almost a liberating experience when you can explore and play around, and dynamically change your looks. We are seeing amazing results right now both on the retail side, but also in the scale that we are getting on the mobile side,” said Anderson.
Anderson was joined on the “Beauty Tech 360” AI and AR Personalized Solutions” panel by executives from Sally Beauty and Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena brand. All utilize Perfect Corp’s technology.
According to Jamira (JC) Johnson, group vice president of digital commerce, strategy and insight at Sally Beauty, there is a “splintering of customers” in beauty—some are devoutly sticking to their beauty regimens while others are diving deeper into the “knowledge economy,” often spending hours a month online researching all kinds of beauty products and services—and Sally Beauty must serve both.
“Many women still want to come into stores and they expect to have an expert level conversation and our goal is to help them unleash their potential. And you can do that partly with the experts in the store, but technology really helps fill that gap of the level of expertise that beauty customers are looking for,” she said.
To that end, Sally Beauty has unveiled ColorView a virtual hair color try-on experience, powered by Perfect Corp. technology that matches customers with suggested hair product categories and hair color shades based on their individual preferences.
“Beauty consumers are on the hunt for the next best thing, and technology is a vehicle to get there,” noted Natasha Haubrich, senior director of global innovation for Neutrogena, which used CES to unveil the new Neutrogena Skin360 app.
The revamped app combines advanced skin imaging, behavior coaching and AI to empower consumers with “actionable, personalized” steps to help achieve their skin health goals. One major change: while the first-generation of the app required a separate skin scanning tool attached to a smartphone, this iteration does not.
According to Haubrich, the need for an attachment proved to be a hurdle for consumers.
“We learned that it was very cumbersome for them. We listened to them, and that is why we expect this app to take off,” she said during the panel discussion.
In shifting away from an add-on tool, new 180-degree selfie analysis (powered by Perfect Corp’s YouCam technology) provides faster analysis for a broad range of skin parameters (wrinkles, fine lines, dark under-eye circles, dark spots and smoothness), according to Neutrogena. Skin analysis boosted with “Neutrogena skincare experience” and the individual’s sleep, exercise and stress levels provides a Skin360 “score.” Users can also input self-assessment attributes such as moisture, clarity, tone and radiance into the app.
Another key aspect of the updated app is the Neutrogena AI Assistant (NAIA). Powered by AI and behavior change techniques, NAIA is said to build a relationship with users by initiating a text conversation to determine their skin care personality, approach to skin care and their current routine. NAIA then helps users identify an 8-week goal that is monitored and supported with behavioral coaching.
Neutrogena took customer feedback to heart to “optimize” the app in other areas, too; there is now more science-backed information and access to experts as well as the ability to track any skin care product in their current regimen—including those from other brands—to better understand how the user’s end-to-end skin care routine impacts skin health over time. If consumers have skin care products they love and use consistently, asking them to remove it from their regimen doesn’t make sense, according to Dr. Michael Southall, global R&D lead, Neutrogena Skin Tech, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health.
According to Southall, the depth of Neutrogena’s skin knowledge combined with NAIA, makes for a powerful combination. An algorithm analyzes more than 100,000 skin pixels over 2,000 facial attributes (developed using more than 10,000 facial databases across ethnicities, skin types and ages) with more than 10 types of lighting. More than 2.5 million product recommendations can be offered to consumers, complete with specific morning and evening routines. Over time, as a consumer’s Skin360 score changes, she or he can learn what’s working or not, and adjust their routine accordingly.
In addition, Neutrogena officials at CES told Happi that the launch will serve as a pipeline for hyper-personalized and customized products like Neutrogena MaskiD, a personalized 3D-printed sheet mask that will launch in Q3 2020 and will be available exclusively through the app.
Luddite or Leader?
According to Alice Chang, CEO of Perfect Corp., AR isn’t new technology, but now that the rest of the “ecosystem” has caught up—think, better cameras in today’s smartphones—it is delivering for beauty brands.
“If you can use technology to solve the pain points for shoppers, the technology can be valuable,” noted Chang. “Frontrunners leverage the technology and engage with the consumers.”
“I don’t think beauty tech is niche anymore. It’s becoming something that will really shape the future of all of the companies in our space because it is a demand consumers have that we must meet. And if we don’t do it, it’s going to be startups that may not be beauty startups, that reinvent the space,” said Balooch of L’Oréal.
Industry insiders agree that there’s a sea-change happening—and brands must dive in now.
“There is no choice. It is really what consumers are demanding,” said Johnson of Sally Beauty. “We are at the point where if you hand someone a camera, more people will turn it on themselves than turn it on others. The expectation today is that it’s about what are you doing for me and how is this personalized for me.”
ELC is pushing ahead. Anderson said that the company is already looking at GenAlpha—the first generation to grow up using tablets as babies—to prep for expectations they may have when they reach their teens and 20s and are key beauty customers.
According to Adam Gam, US chief marketing officer for Perfect Corp., there’s little time to waste. “If you don’t have a technology strategy in place, you are not going to be able to compete. It is a must have,” he said.
If you are ready to develop a strategy, mark your calendar for CES 2021: Jan. 6-9, 2021. And, for more of what we what saw at CES this year, check out Happi.com.