Alexandra Hanlon
May 18, 2017

The quantified self provides the perfect partner for beauty

How beauty brands are adopting quantification technologies to drive personalisation, tailored shopping experiences and coaching.

The quantified self provides the perfect partner for beauty

Slow metaboliser of caffeine. Low risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Heightened sensitivity to bitter flavours. 38 percent of DNA originates in West Africa.

I avidly scan through my results, heart pounding, stomach twisted, scouting for signs of bad news. Phew, nothing seems glaringly catastrophic. But there’s too much data to digest in one go.

That’s the experience of receiving results from 23andme, the direct-to-consumer genome test service that provides customers with a sense of their genetic makeup. It's one of many products embracing advancements in technology and driving consumer desires for a quantified self. From monitoring our sleep to scrutinising our ovulation cycles to analysing our moods, today we’re tracking everything. And this is merely the beginning.

The health and wellness space stands as the most obvious category to be influenced by quantification technologies. However, we’re starting to witness the potential for other industries as well, the beauty category being one of them.

As beauty consumers crave a greater understanding of who they are, they further seek to understand what this means in terms of products they use and behaviours they adopt. And whilst for other categories gaps still exist between the ability to track data and the ability to act on it, beauty companies are rising to this challenge, creating products that both track data and provide personalised products, tailored shopping experiences and coaching through ownership and routine.

Swiss-based IDDNA made waves as the first-ever epigenetic personalised skin care system, made-to-measure using your DNA. Analysing data related to both your lifestyle and your genetic makeup, IDDNA provides a holistic service, not only creating skincare products but also providing advice on diet and lifestyle. Today, IDDNA is bringing personalised skincare to Asian consumers through Bella Skin Centers across North America.

Unsurprisingly, bigger players in the game are also claiming their stake, with Shiseido recently purchasing MatchCo, a US company that offers consumers custom foundations based on skin scans. As CEO Masahiko Uotani commented, the acquisition will allow Shiseido to offer, “accelerated innovation in rapidly evolving digital tools and customized products".

As ongoing political activities on a global scale create fractions amongst communities, many predict that the need to know more about what individualises one person from another will dilute through a desire to consume universal products around which we can unite. Yet within beauty, the desire for personalisation seems to be one that will only strengthen. 

The beauty category provides a fierce and fickle landscape for brands to play in. Thanks to the internet, we now have a dynamic global marketplace for consumers to exchange knowledge, tips and information on established yet also emerging beauty brands.

In order to stay ahead in this intensely competitive marketplace beauty companies need to get to grips with the ever-increasing capabilities that technologies in this space can offer, and fast. Carving out a signature within this complex world of quantification and personalisation is the only way for brands to avoid losing footprint as competitors innovate around them.

This article is part of the Cultural Radar series

Whilst today’s beauty innovations in this space focus on genetics, behavioural data and topical skin assessments, we can’t help but look to the future and ask, What’s next?

With the global beauty consumer increasingly adopting Asia’s philosophy of ‘beauty from the inside out’, the use of data to help consumers achieve their beauty goals in an increasingly holistic manner seems likely. Data that taps deeper into the body and tracks information such as hydration levels feels like a logical next step, yet technology never ceases to surpass prediction capabilities.

There is no doubt that the future of beauty looks incredibly exciting. And whilst we watch quantification technologies push the perimeters of the category and demand more from beauty brands shaping the industry, it’s time for me to get back to my 23andme results and—now that my heart has settled—continue in my exploration of exactly who I am.

Alexandra Hanlon is associate director of Flamingo New York

 

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