Smart (magic) mirrors aren’t all created equal. Frequently dogged by clunky tracking and visualization technologies generating virtual overlays so extreme they’d make a drag queen queasy, there’s also confusion concerning how to capitalize on the experience. Redressing that, British creative technology agency Holition has reimagined the format for French beauty brand Bourjois, creating “the world’s first blended reality mirror”: an in-store augmented reality (AR) tool that elicits a compellingly interactive bespoke physical-virtual frisson. It’s even laying the groundwork for Facebook ’s incoming deep linking shopping feature, announced at its F8 developer summit earlier this month.
The concept, which currently lives in Bourjois’ relaunched Paris flagship and requires physical products to trigger the AR, builds on Holition’s own 2018 research revealing a significant uptick in buying if there’s a tangible physical experience connected to the wow-factor of virtual play; 86% of consumers said they’d like in-store technology to help them visualise products on themselves pre-purchase, while 72% wanted an in-store beauty experience to be a mixture of both physical and digital elements to make it feel more real, more believable.
Using 3D sensing smart camera tech devised by American retail technologists PERCH, when a shopper picks up a lipstick the chosen shade immediately appears on their lips as an ultra-realistic reflection in the mirror. The realism is made possible thanks to Holition’s FACE software that maps what its Marketing Strategist Adriana Goldenberg describes as, “the full topography of your face”, transcending the cruder paper doll look of standard mirrors. It’s a key component in upgrading the genre; while similar ‘trigger tech’ is used elsewhere, such as the digital testing device in Japanese brand Shiseido ’s store in Ginza, Tokyo it’s only product info and application instructions that are revealed, not the nuanced contours of unique faces.
The mirror simultaneously registers skin tone – offering a bespoke smorgasbord of cosmetic combinations including blush, foundation and eye shadow that can be previewed in the mirror. Users can switch products in and out, ensuring the vibe is more personal experimentation than tech-enabled mandate. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed in the follow-up mechanism: an emailable selfie (with filter options, of course) is accompanied by the relevant product links on Bourjois’ e-commerce site to peruse later. While sales matter, the power of play is currently deemed equally useful, offering a light-touch gateway to brand exploration and a window onto how people connect with the tech.
It’s an ‘engage now, trust sales will follow’ strategy that’s also being deployed by US technologists Memomi and its American partner brand, department store Neiman Marcus. Memomi’s ‘makeover mirrors’ filmstaff applying the cosmetics, subsequently sending on high quality, voice-note-embedded video footage – essentially brief clips showing each step – by email or text. Staff can even use the mirror like a sketchpad, noting products tried, bought and preferred. The recipient simply clicks on the links attached to the video to make a purchase.
Notably, the Bourjois mirror has been designed with a subtly domestic aesthetic edge. Well, in the chicest Parisienne sense. Striving to evoke the ‘digital empathy’ Holition holds as its company credo, it resembles a bathroom mirror to suggest, says Goldenberg, “the excitement of putting on your make-up for the first time at home”. It reflects the creep of tech-boosted domestic appliances; Korean telecoms company LG U+ and Japanese tech giant Panasonic have both created smart home mirrors that can analyze users’ faces and then use machine-learnt dermatological input to suggest products and skin-enhancing tutorials. Goldenberg believes the next generation of magic retail mirrors will amplify this foray into skincare diagnostics by pushing into new ‘frenemy’ territory – i.e. offering unbiased recommendations that could see specific products from different brands paired as complementary: “Imagine for instance the mirror advising a Glossier face wash but a Laura Mercier foundation”. Projecting yet further, expect connections to users’ diaries and social media accounts that will transform the devices into highly-skilled counselling services attuned to the users’ daily movements.
With consumers becoming increasingly brand promiscuous, it’s an idea brands would be smart to embrace and is borne out by Goldenberg’s observations: “Consumers are getting sick of the PR stunts with no benefit, they want websites such as [US beauty brand] Glossier’s that are as much a forum as an e-tail site, where people buy based on what others advise”.