Being a genius is something that you can’t make up.

But a makeup genius? That’s L’Oreal Group’s territory.

The cosmetic brand gave itself the makeup genius title when it launched its virtual reality mobile app, called Makeup Genius.

L’Oreal launched Makeup Genius in the spring of 2014 as a way for consumers to navigate the cosmetic brand’s more than 500 products. In the app, a consumer can virtually try on L’Oreal products to see how they look on her face, says Christophe Eymery, head of digital at L’Oreal in Australia.

“The whole point of Makeup Genius is an app that is leveraging virtual reality to enable you to discover and try products and learn how to use them,” Eymery says.

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Here’s how it works: A consumer opens the app and it scans her face to identify where her facial features are, such as her eyes, lips and nose, while it also evaluates her skin tone. Then, the consumer can select a product to try on. The app works like a mirror, allowing the consumer to see the makeup on her face as she tries products on, as opposed to seeing a static image of herself. For example, if the consumer selects a lipstick, she can see that color on her lips, including how it looks when she moves her lips.

“It’s not fixed imagery; it’s moving images. That’s why the technology is so innovative,” Eymery says.

L’Oreal uses 3-D facial animation company Image Metrics for the technology in the app. L’Oreal’s Digital Incubator, a small technology team based in New York City, developed the app, Eymery says. Eymery would not disclose how much L’Oreal invested in the app, only that it was a significant amount.

Consumers in 62 countries can use the app and Makeup Genius has amassed more than 15 million downloads, Eymery says. In Australia alone, the app accumulated 700,000 downloads, a metric Eymery says he is especially proud of considering the country’s population is roughly only 24 million people. Eymery would not share U.S. figures.

Mascara and lipstick are the most popular products to try on, he says. Since launch, consumers have tried on hundreds of millions of products in the app, Eymery says. Makeup Genius users also have tried on millions of L’Oreal’s suggested “looks”—or combinations of products worn together that achieve a certain style—each month, he says.

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Over the last six months, L’Oreal has rolled out a purchasing component to the Makeup Genius app in selected countries. The shopping aspect can be complex and takes coordination from multiple parties, Eymery says. If a consumer finds a product she wants in the app, she can hit the purchase option. She is then redirected to a retailer’s mobile site to buy the product. L’Oreal directs the traffic to retailers that already carry L’Oreal products on their e-commerce sites.

The app uses the shopper’s location to choose retailers that ship to a consumer’s geographic location. If there are multiple retailers that can fulfill the order, the consumer will see a list of retailers for her to choose from.

“We drive traffic for a retailer, and the retailer is managing the transaction,” Eymery says.

L’Oreal also uses the app to send push notifications, or alerts to the lock screen of a consumer’s smartphone. Eymery would not say how often it sends such messages, but notes that L’Oreal is cautious about frequency, and will only send one when it is “a very relevant piece of communication.”

For example, L’Oreal gathers data about the products consumers are trying on in the app. Then, when L’Oreal launches a new product that would coordinate well with one that a consumer has previously tried on, the brand will send an alert to that shopper announcing the new product, Eymery says.

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L’Oreal also sent a smartphone alert to Makeup Genius users during the May 2015 Cannes Film Festival. The makeup brand sent some of its top makeup artists to the festival to evaluate the makeup looks of the celebrities. Those artists determined the L’Oreal products needed to achieve those looks, and sent that information to the L’Oreal technology team to create that look in the app. The next day L’Oreal sent an alert letting consumers know that the makeup looks worn by Cannes Film Festival celebrities were available in Makeup Genius. The alert aimed to show consumers that L’Oreal is was on top of the latest beauty trends, Eymery says.

“For us, it was an amazing opportunity to really make the experience available in real time,” Eymery says.  “This shows the strong commitment to meet our customers’ needs.”

 

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