Today’s world is rooted in the future with gadgets that have transformed daily life in ways that previous generations could never have imagined. Remember The Jetsons? This 1960s cartoon depicted a hyper-futuristic society in which flying cars and video calls on your watch were incredible technologies far removed from what the real world was capable of. Now, we have FaceTime on almost every device we own, and with self-driving cars already a thing, flying cars are not outside the realm of possibility.

Perhaps one of the greatest symbols of this technology-driven world is that of augmented reality (AR). It was originally popularized with gaming-centric technology—remember the Pokemon Go craze?. But since then, AR has wedged its way across industries. Particularly for the relationship between consumers and businesses in the time of COVID-19, technology has proved crucial. 

As for the beauty world, this couldn’t be more true. Whereas other industries might have online and in-person shopping separately or one without the other, the beauty industry ties it closer together. People like to “try before they buy”, so when stores like Ulta and Sephora closed their doors in 2020 for lockdown, many thought that the industry would take a harder hit than most. Even when stores re-opened post-quarantine, trying on make-up in-store was prohibited (in my local Ulta, it still is).

Anything but static, the beauty world quickly solved this problem. 

Meet AR beauty edition. 

With today’s advanced face-recognition technology and accurate digital coloring samples, consumers are able to “try before they buy” from the safety of their devices. Nine out of 10 brands plan on using AR in promo campaigns. Major names in the industry like Sephora, L’Oreal, and MAC Cosmetics have already jumped on this. AR beauty apps like Perfect365 allow people to try the latest looks from their favorite beauty gurus and social media trends without making a purchase until they are completely satisfied. Sephora’s app uses AR to try on a variety of make-up and even partnered with Benefit Cosmetics to create an eyebrow try-on tool, too. You can even sample a virtual manicure through Sally Hansen’s ManiMatch app

Worried about inaccuracies between virtual products and the real thing? Not a problem! Many of these AR apps use 3D facial scanning to ensure your try-on is as accurate as it would be were in the make-up chair at Sephora. 

But what has all this beauty technology done for retail? 

Nine out of ten brands plan on using AR in promo campaigns.

Virtual engagement between the customer and beauty advisors from stores like Sephora and Ulta creates a closer relationship between the purchaser, the business, and the product. This is vital during COVID when many places rely on customer loyalty to keep them afloat. 

Amazon, a behemoth in the online retail sphere, has taken all this up a notch. Recently, they opened the Amazon Salon in London, a 2-story beauty hub AR rules. This is huge for the beauty world. Nothing combines the real-world experience and virtual reality more than bringing AR into the store itself. 

Customers can learn about the salon products (which are also Amazon products) through “point and learn” technology and then scan a QR code that takes you right to the product on Amazon to confirm your purchase. The salon also uses AR to test hair colors and styles before customers choose the service on-site. 

The future of the beauty world is AR, and companies like Amazon are starting to take the lead because their salon recognizes that AR is more than video and images, it’s about immersion. It is this immersion that is saving the beauty world, creating an intimate relationship between its consumers and stores in need of a boost in a post-pandemic economy. 

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  • Laurie Melchionne

    Laurie Melchionne is the editor in chief at The Argo, Stockton University's independent student newspaper. Laurie majors in Literature with a double minor in Journalism and Digital Literacy/Multimedia Design. With a concentration in creative writing, Laurie loves all things editorial and communications, and believes in people sharing their voices through the written word.