Interview Spotlight: The New Face of Beauty with AR

Interview Mikela Eskenazi, Commercial Director at Blippar EMEA

Keynote speaker at Trend Beauty, November 2017

mikela eskenazi

Mikela is a commercial leader and Augmented Reality (AR) expert. She helps the world’s largest consumer and retail businesses leverage the benefits of augmented reality and computer vision. As Commercial Director EMEA for Blippar, Mikela oversees multi-million dollar partnerships for one of the UK’s most celebrated tech companies. She is recognised as a “Digital Maverick” having been named one of the top female digital marketing leaders in the UK by Campaign Magazine.

Mikela is regularly asked to speak and participate on panels on the subject of augmented reality and new technology. She gave her first TEDx talk on the “Future of Mobile and Mobility” back in 2012. She is also extremely passionate about the intersection of women and technology. Mikela devotes her time to this cause by working closely with a number of associations that encourage more women to join the tech industry.

Favourite Mantra: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi

1 . Let’s start from the beginning. How did Blippar start and how did you get into AR?

Blippar is a technology company that specialises in augmented reality, computer vision and artificial intelligence. Blippar was founded in 2011, it all started in a pub. Our CEO, Ambarish, joked that it would be easier to get the bartender’s attention if the queen could pop out of the £20 note and ask him herself. His co-founder, Omar, made that joke a reality a couple of weeks later with a prototype and Blippar was born.

Since then, Blippar has been pushing the boundaries of what is possible in AR. Having created thousands of augmented reality campaigns we realised that to deliver outstanding AR experiences you first need to understand the world in front of you (we do this through Computer Vision – the field of AI that understands sight). This knowledge and our vast experience have shaped the augmented reality and computer vision ecosystem we have built for our clients and partners who are interested in this technology. This ecosystem lets you recognise the world via computer vision and then project augmented reality onto it. You can build these AR yourselves using our self-service platforms — Blippbuilder and Blippbuilder Script — or we can build it for you. You can publish augmented reality experiences to your own app (via our SDK), to the Blippar app or to a banner ad or browser using our new ARDP format.

As for me, I saw my first Blippar demo in 2012 and was completely blown away by the technology and its potential to shape our future. This lead me to quit my job and join Blippar a few months later.

2 . Today, consumers are overloaded with new technology. Can you explain the main difference between AR and VR?

AR and VR are often mentioned in the same breath but are fundamentally different. With virtual reality, the user is completely immersed into a virtual world with no connection to real life or their surroundings. This is usually achieved with a headset that replaces your field of vision. On the other hand, augmented reality is all about connecting the physical and digital worlds. AR is essentially a digital overlay onto the world in front of you. With AR, the context in which we find ourselves is an essential part of the experience. Currently, most AR takes place through a smartphone camera lens, but we will soon see more experiences through smart glasses as well.

3 . How do you think beauty brands are embracing AR?

A recent survey by PWC discovered that 46% of shoppers prefer to research health and beauty products online compared to only 33% preferring to research in-store. However, when it comes to purchasing — 47% prefer to purchase in-store as opposed to  37% preferring online. Augmented reality is the perfect tool to solve this disconnect. Beauty brands can use AR to bridge their online and offline experiences for consumers. Unsurprisingly, the beauty industry has been one of the first to embrace augmented reality rapidly in the past few years.

Here are some key ways AR can benefit beauty consumers and brands:

  • Virtual Try-on

Some of the biggest beauty brands, namely L’Oréal, Charlotte Tilbury, Estée Lauder, and Smashbox have successfully used AR to improve the consumer shopping experience. Combining AR and face-tracking technology, these beauty brands have created virtual try-on apps, which enable online customers to see how cosmetics look on their face. Consequently, these brands make it easier for consumers to play with different colours and looks to inspire purchase decisions.

Estee Lauder

Estée Lauder’s Virtual Try On

  • Virtual Assistant

Max Factor collaborated with Blippar to create a “Beauty Consultant in Your Pocket”. In this campaign, we enable every customer to launch AR content, namely product information, product tutorials and customer reviews, by just scanning any of the 500 Max Factor products. The AR experience aims to empower women at key moments of knowledge and inspiration to choose the right product for them. This campaign has resulted in 82% ‘Buy Now’ Click Through with 70%  of women trusting the advice from the “virtual assistant”.

maxfactor

Blippar x Max Factor “Beauty Consultant in Your Pocket”

  • Personalisation

In order to help customers buy the right makeup, Sephora collaborated with startup Map My Beauty to launch the Pocket Contour app. The app identifies the user’s face shape and analyses the symmetry of her facial features with a proprietary beauty analysis and makeup mapping technology. Based on the analysis, users receive personalised, step-by-step application instructions along with product recommendations. The app addresses the challenging task of contouring and provides scientific, individualised guidance on how to apply any makeup look.

Sephora contour app

Sephora’s Pocket Contour App

4 . What are the main challenges for a AR provider like Blippar?

Like with any new technology, the challenge is to define use cases for the technology that will drive adoption amongst consumers and bring value for brand owners. This means there is a need to test and learn. The challenge is to balance a learning approach with the immediate need of ROI for clients.

5 . How are Millennials and Gen Z using this technology versus older generations?

As the first digital-native generation, Millennials and Gen Z are definitely more familiar with AR. As heavy internet users, they tend to be more explorative and faster to adopt new technology compared to older generations. Hence, the idea of virtual try-ons or virtual assistants usually attracts Millennials and Gen Z over the older generations.

However, older generations shouldn’t be ignored they are still a valuable potential market. Beauty brands need to consider how to make AR experiences accessible for people from any age group. For example, Charlotte Tilbury created a ‘magic mirror’ in its retail stores which enables in-store customers to try on different makeup looks using AR technology  — simply by sitting in front of the “magic mirror”.

Charlotte Tilbury Magic mirror

Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Mirror

6 . Can you give us a brief idea of your keynote session at TREND?

I will provide a brief introduction to augmented reality and how it compares to virtual reality. I will then deep dive into a range of beauty and fashion case studies that showcase how brands are already benefiting from embracing AR. Finally, I will share some key tech trends that will be vitally important for the beauty industry over the next few years.

Don’t miss Mikela Eskenazi’s keynote session at TREND: The Digitalisation of The Beauty Industry on Thursday 9th of November at 6th@Soho. A few places remain. Stay tuned #TRENDbyVERB