The science of beauty - how digital devices can unlock customized personal care

04 April, 2017

Engaging consumers on a personal level to build lasting emotional connections is an ongoing quest for personal care brands. Consumer phenotyping – analysis of individuals’ personal characteristics – is emerging as a potential game-changer here. Brands that harness and leverage phenotype data via digital technologies are at a competitive advantage.

For many personal care brands, the traditional interface with consumers is frustratingly detached. In general, product selection is rooted in a trial-and-error approach, with consumers remaining invisible to the brand at the point of sale.

When shopping for skincare or haircare products, consumers typically self-diagnose at the point of purchase. They have to consider their own characteristics then decide between various categories, such as ‘normal’ or ‘oily’; ‘damaged’ or ‘flyaway’. Much of the time they misdiagnose and are forced to switch between products before finally settling on one that is just about good enough. Yet there is another way. Digital diagnostic devices can open the door to better, more personalized dialogue between brand and consumer. They can also unlock opportunities for new product development that is strategically aligned with consumer needs.

young woman shopping for make up


Brand activation: hi-tech devices

The digital age has escalated consumer demand for personalization. But traditionally, it’s not been easy for personal care and beauty brands to offer large-scale customization in a cost-effective way. This is set to change with the emergence of technologies that allow consumers to diagnose their phenotypes.

Digital diagnostic devices used instore or at home (for instance via a smartphone) can help create a closer bond between brands and consumers. They collect key information surrounding an individual’s personal characteristics, from age, ethnicity and hair colour to data elicited from visual or physical evaluation of skin, hair or nails. The data enters a cloud-based system for analysis and a diagnostic algorithm is used to pinpoint the product that best suits the individual’s needs.

It’s an approach that delivers multiple benefits for brand and consumer alike. Deeper personal insights enable consumer need to be married with product type to customize the experience. In some cases, it’s also possible to track changes over time and provide evidence-led proof of efficacy. Crucially, diagnostic approaches of this type create one-to-one dialogue between the brand and an individual. This generates a closer customer touchpoint for the brand and a more personal experience for the consumer. It enables consumers to be directed towards appropriate products to enhance their beauty regime. And with some premium products, it can involve the provision of truly bespoke formulations.

Benefits include better brand engagement, loyalty and advocacy, driving repeat purchase and peer recommendation. The brand also receives valuable consumer data that can inform ongoing product development and marketing strategies.

So how do brands go about developing these diagnostic devices? This paper explores technical considerations and critical success factors.

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