Namah Chawla

On virtual try-on platforms, people spend twice the time: L’Oréal India’s Gaurav Anand

The chief digital and marketing officer of the brand, shares how beauty tech and virtual try-ons have fared in India.

The way consumers discover, test and buy beauty products, is evolving quite fast. Consumers these days, expect more personalised connections and advice. So, beauty brands are racing to up their tech capabilities to meet their consumers’ expectations.

L’Oréal India, one of the beauty segment leaders, brought Modiface Inc. to the country in 2018 to leverage technology and provide a more seamless customer experience.

Modiface is an augmented reality company that uses technology to offer virtual try-ons, when it comes to make-up, hair colour and one-on-one beauty consultations via video chats.

The company is using this technology on its own website, as well as that of its e-commerce partner channels in India, like Nykaa and Flipkart.

afaqs! recently caught up with Gaurav Anand, chief digital and marketing officer, L’Oréal India, to talk about the brand’s experience with beauty tech, consumers response to virtual try-ons, and more.

Edited Excerpts:

How has the brand benefitted from acquiring Modiface?

There is an increasing trend of consumers looking for more personalisation and, hence, consultations have become important. The way to democratise consultations, is by using technology. It is more workable (this way), than people actually visiting a store, as they can do this at their own time. There is no sense of pressure, in term of sales, and the consumers can conveniently make the right choices.

We first brought this technology to our website and then used it on other e-commerce platforms, like Nykaa and Flipkart. These platforms are also using our virtual try-ons and have benefitted from it.

How will these e-commerce partnerships enable L’Oréal to get more customers into its fold? Do these platforms require additional virtual try-on abilities?

Earlier, the buyers on e-commerce platforms, were intent-based ones - those who knew what they wanted to buy. Now, our e-commerce partners need to also create demand on their platforms. That is why consumer experience has become pivotal. People may not come to a platform, with a shopping list in mind. That is where this tool has helped our partners - to give the consumers the right experience to make purchases.

On platforms with virtual try-ons, people tend to spend 2-3 times more time, exploring different products, as compared to platforms that don’t have one.

In terms of accepting virtual try-on and technology as a part of the process of making a purchase, how have Indian consumers responded, as compared to other countries?

It has been a phenomenal success in India. Till date, nearly four million consumers have tried our virtual try-ons on Nykaa. Brands always benefit from scale, when they operate in India, where there is a lot of need to educate folks.

For categories like make-up, which hasn’t had deep penetration in India, it becomes pivotal to have this element of education and provide consumers the ability to try out different shades.

What is the apt distribution for L’Oréal India - online versus offline? Also, which e-commerce platforms rake in the most sales for L’Oréal?

We want to be available across channels and have an O+O (online+offline) strategy, when it comes to distribution. E-commerce platforms have definitely helped us and enabled our products to reach out to 99% pin codes in India. We also try to make sure that we balance our online and offline distribution, especially in general and modern trade.

In the past year, a number of new-age marketing ways, have come up – be it brands using metaverse stores or live commerce. Which are the new-age channels of marketing that L’Oréal is most interested in?

The brand is interested more in consumer trends, than just looking at platforms. What is clear is that the consumers are looking for personalisation and wants to get what is right for them. They are keen on investing time to find out more about an array of products.

While e-commerce is expected to grow, some of its elements, like social commerce and D2C, are expected to grow faster. The reason for this is, better consumer experience. The kind of experience that social commerce provides, is richer than what consumers get on marketplaces.

How have the behaviour and needs of today’s woman, evolved over the last two years? Is she looking for more affordable products? Is she browsing online and buying offline? Is she looking for organic and sustainable labels? How is L’Oréal addressing these changes?

Over the last few years, awareness, as far as world events go, has improved and, hence, sustainability has become a key factor. From our product ingredient design to the packaging, we are bringing in elements of sustainability.

Recently, while there was a lot of restrictions on travelling and shopping, people were looking for other sources of happiness. And, some of that has come from the beauty category. We have seen that consumers have become pickier and are carefully selecting products. The trend of premiumisation will also continue.

The make-up market is quite cluttered, with newer brands, like Chumbak and Masaba, launching lip colours and nail paints. For a legacy brand like yours, is it a challenge?

The quality of our products, is more important. Our portfolio is very well differentiated. Maybelline is a brand that gets a lot of traction. We have been trendsetters in the make-up industry and set benchmarks for others. This comes with years of experience and is difficult for any new entrant to replicate.

Over the last five years, we have seen many new-age brands come up in the skincare, hair care and make-up segment. Most of these appeal to the younger generation. Does L’Oréal look at these D2C brands as its competition?

We look and consider all these brands as our competition. Our brand equity in India, gives us an edge. It is good to have competition, as it keeps everyone on their toes. We are happy with the ‘differentiated’ proposition that we have created, both within our brand and the category, which has sustained us till now.

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