L’Oreal, Walmart and More Brought AR into Focus in 2020

Augmented reality took hold in 2020 as shoppers looked for ways to shop makeup, furniture and more without leaving home.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed just about every aspect of consumer retail in 2020, forcing brands and stores to investigate innovative, digital-first ways of engaging their consumer base—particularly fashion and cosmetics brands, whose customers might be reluctant to purchase a product they can’t try on or see in real life. Enter: augmented reality, which a number of companies leveraged for its ability to mimic the in-store retail experience, from home.

The implementation of AR varied, depending on the types of products being sold. Cosmetics brands allowed customers to “try on” hair dye and makeup, while fashion houses allowed would-be buyers to place items at-scale in their own homes, in order to see how new pieces of clothing would look when combined with items they already owned. Other retailers, meanwhile, allowed customers to view furniture and decor items—a category that saw a huge spike in 2020, as the switch to learn- and work-from-home led to an increase in home-improvement projects—right in their homes. Here’s how a few companies used AR this year:

Google Debuts AR Makeup Feature Powered by L’Oreal

  • Google launched a new augmented reality feature that lets users see how eyeshadow and lipstick look before buying.
  • Customers can visualize how different shades from brands like L’Oreal, MAC Cosmetics, Black Opal, and Charlotte Tilbury look on themselves or a model.
  • The integration is powered by Perfect Corp as well as the L’Oreal owned ModiFace.

Google entered the world of augmented reality makeup try-on with the launch of a new integration powered by ModiFace, a L’Oreal-owned technology startup, as well as Perfect Corp. The new integration allows shoppers to try on lipstick and eyeshadow shades from several different brands, such as L’Oreal, MAC Cosmetics, Black Opal, and Charlotte Tilbury. When searching for a particular product through Google, customers can compare shaded and textures on different skin colors and tones.

For L’Oreal, which acquired ModiFace in 2018, the AR makeup feature was just one in a long line of augmented reality launches in 2020, which included collaborations with both Amazon and Walmart. The new integration also reflected Google’s continuing efforts to break into direct e-commerce, which, in 2020, included the launch of video-shopping platform ShopLoop and direct e-commerce integration into Gmail.

Estée Lauder Boosts Digital Sales Via Livestreaming and Virtual Try-Ons

  • Estee Lauder’s online sales grew 60% in the final quarter of 2020 due to improved online services while conversion rates improved by nearly 10 times.
  • The iconic beauty brand’s net sales totaled $3.56 billion for the quarter and digital sales comprised 35% of all first-quarter retail sales in the Americas.
  • Brands under the Estee Lauder umbrella launched virtual try-on sessions, shoppable livestreams, and digital consultations to better connect with customers online.

Due to new and improved digital services that better serve its customers, Estee Lauder’s online sales grew 60% in 2020, leading to total net sales of $3.56 billion. The brand launched virtual try-on sessions for a number of its brands, which rely on augmented reality technology to allow customers to see how a makeup product would look on their skin, hosting more than one million sessions globally. 

According to Fabrizio Freda, president and CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies, virtual services such as AR try-on “have a higher conversion rate up to ten times the average and a higher average order value.” The beauty company also launched AI-powered online shopping tools in 2020; Freda believes that, even when in-person shopping resumes in full, e-commerce will remain an important part of the company’s selling strategy—for which it is now well-primed.

Burberry Partners With Google to Enable AR Shopping

  • Burberry partnered with Google to bring customers an augmented reality shopping experience.
  • Customers can view items such as shoes and shirts at-scale against real-life backgrounds in their homes.
  • Many retailers are beginning to partner with Google to improve the customer experience by meeting customers within a platform they use every day.

Burberry brought fashion to life with the launch of a new augmented reality (AR) shopping tool. In February, the fashion giant partnered with Google Search to allow consumers to experience Burberry products in the environment surrounding them. The new tool works when users search for Burberry items on Google Search. Customers can then view the item at-scale against real-life backgrounds in their home or surroundings. This means users can actually place existing outfits from their own closets next to the item to see how they would look together. 

The luxury brand also experimented with AR in-store: At the opening of its flagship store in Tokyo, customers could scan QR codes with their smartphones to activate an exclusive AR experience. Burberry launched the tool just pre-pandemic, at the very end of February, in a move that would later seem prophetic. “Burberry is continuously experimenting with digital innovation such as AR to create a more exciting experience and enhance personalized luxury commerce,” the brand wrote in a statement at the time, “blending the technology with other activations around the world.”

L’Oreal Partners with Walmart and Launches AR Hair Dye Tool

  • L’Oréal expanded its use of artificial intelligence and AR with its Garnier brand by allowing customers to “try on” hair colors before committing to a choice from its Garnier Nutrisse and Garnier Olia lines.
  • Powered by ModiFace, customers using Google Lens point their smartphones at product boxes. The app then identifies the product and color, connecting it with the ModiFace platform. Then, using AR, L’Oreal overlays the hair color on a live selfie.
  • L’Oréal purchased Toronto startup ModiFace in 2018 after working with the company since 2012 on numerous projects including L’Oreal’s ‘Style My Hair’ mobile app.
  • As part of the rollout, L’Oreal is creating interactive in-store displays within 500 U.S. Walmart locations.
  • L’Oreal reports purchase rates improve up to three times when customers can virtually try-on items.

L’Oréal took the risk out of hair dyeing with its latest ModiFace-powered AR app. Available anywhere L’Oréal sells its Garnier products, customers can now use their smartphones, Google Lens, and AI to see which hair color looks best before taking the plunge. 

The launch took place almost a full year before L’Oreal teamed up with Google for its AR integration. Throughout 2020, the cosmetics brand proved itself a trailblazer in the AR arena, with a healthy digital bottom line to match.

Amazon Expands AR Shopping Options With Room Decorator

  • The new tool, Room Decorator, will let users see house decor and housewares in their own homes.
  • Room Decorator allows users to place multiple objects into a room at the same time, or add items to photos of a room saved to their mobile device when they’re away from home.
  • Amazon has made the tool available for both products it offers and products offered by third-party sellers.

Amazon expanded its AR capacities in the U.S., launching a new tool, Room Decorator, that allows users to visualize how new home furnishings might look in their homes. Room Decorator allows users to place furniture and decor available on Amazon inside their homes. Images of the items are scaled to fit and in high-definition, making it easy for users to get a good sense of how they might look in real life. The tool allows users to place more than one item in the same room, differentiating it from AR View, launched in 2017, which allowed users to place just a single item into a room in their home.

“Amazon is always exploring new ways to create experiences that delight our customers. With the addition of Room Decorator tools, Amazon enhances its augmented reality feature to give customers an even more immersive shopping experience from the comfort of their own home, or on the go,” Amazon said at the time. The e-comm giant launched a number of tools throughout 2020 to accommodate changes in online shopping trends; the launch of AR specifically addressed the spike in sales in home improvement categories brought on by the increased amount of time most people were spending in their houses.

Mastercard’s New App Showcases Benefits in Augmented Reality

  • Mastercard unveiled an AR app that allows customers to see, explore, and access their Mastercard benefits in an industry first, 360-degree virtual environment. 
  • By using their phone to scan areas around them, cardholders unlock portals representing categories of Mastercard benefits: Experiences, Everyday Value, and Peace of Mind.  
  • Mastercard is the first in the financial sector to use technology in this manner to solve communication problems and increase cardholder awareness. 

Mastercard’s new AR-powered app takes its cardholder payment journey to new heights to excite and inform users. Mastercard’s immersive experience begins when cardholders scan their Mastercard using an in-app function. Users then scan the area around them, revealing three “portals,” each representing a category that Mastercard benefits fall into: Experiences, Everyday Value, and Peace of Mind. Cardholders then tap the portal to explore the benefit and associated 360-degree, fully immersive experience. Once inside the virtual room, cardholders are able to click on items to learn more about the related benefit.

“By leveraging an intuitive AR design, cardholders can now easily find and fully explore their benefits that otherwise might have been overlooked,”  Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing officer at Mastercard said in a press release. The company also gave itself a leg up on its competitors in a year when immersive digital experiences and a focus on customer engagement were paramount.