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Beauty’s Digital Strategy Needs a Makeover: Why Virtual Experiences are the Future

February 5, 2021 • Written by Erika Brooks Adickman

Beauty’s Digital Strategy Needs a Makeover: Why Virtual Experiences are the Future

Why The Future Of Your Marketing Funnel Relies on Virtual Experiences 

In 2020, beauty’s biggest obstacle also brought its greatest opportunity: how would the intimate, hands-on experience of purchasing makeup translate into the digital world? As consumers sought to maintain a connection to friends, loved ones and coworkers online, they also found a new way of seeing and expressing themselves in the camera with help from AR. This amounted to 1.7 billion people using AR across the globe in 2020. Beauty brands that understood AR as a powerful new tool for engaging audiences throughout the customer journey were primed to seize this moment.

Recently, we partnered with Vogue Business to host a discussion around how virtual experiences drive the consumer journey —  throughout every touchpoint. We were joined by beauty leaders in the space, such as MAC Cosmetics, who shared how they’ve leaned into virtual experiences to promote their products and brand message. We learned by using AR on social channels, brands can significantly amplify reach and drive more engagement (up to 90%) than through any other medium.

Replicate in-store expertise with virtual try-ons on social

Without the ability to safely inspire and educate shoppers through makeup artists in retail locations, AR is able to achieve what no other technology could: bringing the makeup counter into users’ phones. Through virtual try-on experiences, or more specifically AR filters on Instagram, MAC replicated the experience of working with a knowledgeable makeup artist to find the perfect shade of lipstick or eye shadow right at their fingertips.

As Drew Elliot, Global Creative Director at MAC Cosmetics shared in the webinar, “We actually work with our artists to develop our technology. And we ask ourselves, is this giving the same payoff that it would in real life? We’re not just paying attention to the color, but how does the application of the color actually look inside of the digital?”

And that important shift to think about their product digitally paid off for MAC across its Global and Regional social accounts, earning the makeup pioneer hundreds of millions of impressions in 2020.

Grow communities by investing in creative tools to co-create with your audience

Virtual try-on was just the tip of the iceberg for beauty when it came to engaging audiences over the last year. Looking to move beyond passive content experiences, makeup brands have been able to capture new ways to co-create with consumers using AR. Through AR filters on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Zoom and other platforms, brands can spark creativity with their audience — users can build off branded filters to direct their own stories. Celebrating and elevating their creativity is the key to reinvigorating digital spaces and getting real time feedback from your community.

“It’s much less about the heavily produced content, and more about being part of the brand. I think virtual experiences create ultimate brand loyalty, that greater connectivity, which then of course leads to greater conversion,” says April Uchitel of ONDA Beauty.

Fans are not just viewing a passive editorial piece of content, they are now the center of that content — and more importantly, an advocate for a brand. In fact, users spend an average of 75 seconds engaging with AR experience. Compare that to an average of 15-30 seconds watching an Instagram video and we realize the power of augmented reality to capture attention.  More “face time” with the user translates into brand affinity, which in turn results in a fast-growing and highly-engaged digital community.

Plan for the Future – It’s Here Now

After a meaningful discussion with top beauty leaders, one thing is clear: AR is an important tool for engaging audiences throughout the consumer journey, from discovery to conversion. 2020 set the expectation for virtual experiences and leveraging AR where users already play on social. 2021 will be about defining what beauty means in the camera and setting the standard for what digital beauty looks like this year and beyond.


Watch the full recording of Camera IQ’s event with MAC and Vogue Business

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