Sephora puts a tech spin on ‘Mirror, mirror’

Jun 03, 2014
George Anderson

The question of whether one shade of blush looks better than another can now be answered with the simple touch of a screen. At least that’s the hope of the beauty retailer Sephora, which is using new 3D augmented reality mirror technology at one of its stores in Milan to enable a customers to see how various cosmetics will look without having to actually apply anything to their faces.

The technology, developed by ModiFace, uses a video feed from a camera to precisely track a user’s facial features and apply colors in the proper location. An extensive variety of cosmetic colors make it easy for customers to try numerous looks in a very short period of time. Antonio Ferreira de Almeida, general manager, Sephora Italy, called the technology a "breakthrough" for the chain’s customers.

A video on YouTube shows the ease of use and accuracy of the new technology, which took three years to develop.

[Image: ModiFace 3D]

Sephora is not the first in the beauty space to use augmented reality to improve the customer experience. A report on Mobile Commerce Daily pointed to digital campaigns run by Estee Lauder and Maybelline that used augmented reality to help drive brand sales.

What role do you think augmented reality technology will have in retail in the years to come? Is there a particular product category or retail vertical where you think the technology holds the greatest promise?

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7 Comments on "Sephora puts a tech spin on ‘Mirror, mirror’"

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Cathy Hotka
5 years 8 months ago

I took a group of men and women into a Sephora store to check out the technologies they were using, and it was the MEN who were most impressed. Men are increasingly interested in looking their best, but feel awkward in the retail cosmetics setting; getting great answers from mirrors and interactive kiosks really appealed to them.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
5 years 8 months ago

Sephora’s mirror is a good example of the cutting edge of augmented reality for consumer interaction with specific products. Consumer engagement and experience matter most in categories that are the most “personal.” There are perhaps nothing more personal than the cosmetics and beauty categories.

Perhaps the next frontier will be augmented reality for shopping the entire store. There are already prototypes where retailers can test different planograms as consumers navigate store aisles from their screens. Virtual reality shopping would seem to offer increased potential to upsell market basket versus websites that display only a single product.

Max Goldberg
5 years 8 months ago

Look for more augmented reality at retail. The devices, if accurate, can help retailers interact with consumers, make choices with less sampling and a definite wow factor. The technology hold the most promise in categories where consumers are presented with a wide variety of choices, such as cosmetics and eyewear.

George-Marie Glover
George-Marie Glover
5 years 8 months ago

It’s a fascinating technology, however, it won’t be able to totally replace a make-up artist actually applying make-up to your face and telling you how great you look. Many women don’t just want to see what they’ll look like, they want validation.

This seems like a sterile experience compared to someone with a hands-on approach who engages you in conversation. It relies heavily on one sense and neglects the others. Women want to know how something feels and smells as well. I’m not sure that this will genuinely enhance a woman’s experience other than being a novelty.

Craig Sundstrom
5 years 8 months ago

I think for fashion items – cosmetics, clothes, home decor, etc. – there will be widespread use; for mundanities like dog food, not so much (unless, of course, “augmented smell technology” gets the go ahead!)

Karen S. Herman
5 years 8 months ago

Real time product sampling with augmented reality fits nicely in the Beauty Brands sector and when it is well executed and user friendly, as the ModiFace 3D beauty mirror appears to be, it will be the game-changer that brings other brands scrambling for the technology.

It appears that the three years of research and development to create this 3D mirror were well spent and I like the simple presentation format, ease of color selection and real time display showing product, as well as the before and after presentation screens.

Also like the deployment of this technology in-store, which includes a stand alone kiosk with touchscreen monitor and camera, and also a mobile app that can be used on tablets at the beauty counter or on a consumers own device.

Great move by Sephora.

Phil Rubin
5 years 8 months ago

AR has a place in retail especially as pricing comes down and functionality expands outside of physical spaces (i.e., stores) and more into the digital commerce world. The challenge AR has had thus far is a function of it being campaign focused versus embedded into the customer experience, which is why this is such a relevant example.

For categories like beauty and makeup especially, ecommerce beyond replenishment is a challenge as it misses the personal experience and application (as in literal application, not as in “app”).


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