Fast-track Facade

Christine Liu is the assistant insights manager for Carat APAC.

Imagining what’s to come for makeup junkies in quest of progressively quickened paths-to-purchase.

5 minute read

Not long ago, I uncovered a stack of Seventeen magazines from my teenhood: My prized possessions and authoritative beauty bibles from a decade ago! Every issue stood for each excruciating monthly wait for fresh content on the latest and greatest in cosmetics, for which I was willing to fork out from my allowance to receive.

A quick flip through the issues hit me with another realisation of how patient I used to be with getting dibs on makeup: There were dog-eared articles and ads introducing new makeup products, bookmarked until I happened to get into a physical store to test and buy them.

Blast from the past! Back when product smeared on pages was enough to pique my desire to go to a store to try it out.

What a stark contrast to the magazine-eschewing, tech-reliant millennial I’ve grown into. It has become second nature to do a zippy self-source on Google for trending lipsticks, click on the image search tab for real-life user-contributed previews of my chosen lipstick, go straight to to verify my choice with others’ reviews, and cart out my selection immediately to receive it within the same day. I can’t help turning testy when it takes longer, or if a cosmetic brand I’m interested in is absent from the WWW, as if they’d much prefer swatting away my outstretched hand of cash.

It’s not just me: My hastened tendencies are habitual of most Under-30s, especially when it comes to beauty products: Euromonitor reports that digital channels have been essential to strong global growth of the cosmetics category, driven chiefly by the young, digitally-savvy demographics embracing makeup as an online hobby [1]. They are flexing their wallets obligingly for the clever brands who are paying attention to their demand for hyper-accelerated beauty discoveries and purchases in the digital arena.

Fast-forward 10 years: Tapping through video makeup tutorials and swatches on Instagram stories are a daily habit for me, and I’ve grown to expect nothing slower than a click/swipe to purchase featured products
One lip, a million lipsticks: It’s common to see millennials fulfilling their love for makeup online, readily sharing their product reviews and gargantuan makeup collections on social media. There’s never enough makeup for a crowd that’s fed with new shades and formulas daily, at relatively inexpensive prices.

Adding to that, the makeup industry is characterised by a proliferation of choice for the consumer’s incessant hunt for their ultimate “holy grail” products. The return to consideration after purchase could take mere minutes, enough time to swipe on a new bullet of lipstick and realise it looks different on your skin than it did in other people’s Instagram swatches. (Bummer.) The speed that digital platforms and innovations can offer to such a category is a godsend, and it’s a rare vertical where consumers have adopted and embraced futuristic upheavals so quickly and easily.

L’Oreal’s AR Makeup Genius app.

Live face filters powered by augmented reality have been a gladly-received response to this demand for swiftness, especially in the trial stage which is typically most time-consuming and what handicaps  the makeup purchase journey. L’Oreal launched a mobile app called Makeup Genius, which scans the consumers’ faces to impose a realistic, live reflection of what a wide range of L’Oreal’s products looks like on their own skin, as if the phone is a mirror. Sampling cosmetics can now be done anytime and anywhere, with the additional aid of product recommendations, and then bought instantly, all in one platform and sitting.

LOOKS by LINE facilitates the virtual trial of products from numerous hot beauty brands such as 3CE, Clinique and Etude House in a single app.

LOOKS by chat app LINE takes this one step further, enabling multi/cross-brand recommendations, trials and purchases, and Shiseido Japan’s Telebeauty face filters can be shown real-time during Skype calls, which presents opportunities for quick feedback from friends.

Maybelline/Garnier X Grab’s beauty bar on-the-move.

Of course, being able to test-drive the actual cosmetic before buying it would take the cake. Maybelline Singapore took a cue from that literally, teaming up with Grab to install beauty stations inside GrabShare cars, allowing consumers to order a ride where they can test products while getting to the next destination. Perfect for touch-ups on makeup-melting hot days, and solving the inconvenience of finding time for testing trips to physical stores.

It’s hard to see this need for speed slowing down anytime soon. Let’s peer into the marketing crystal ball and have a go at charting where this accelerated purchase journey is headed in 10 years.

Automated advertising that predict our product preferences is currently based on past purchases, but imagine that in 10 years it may be established from our actual usage instead, because the physical product can be tracked. Manufacturers are likely to realise that for cosmetics, the frequency of post-purchase use is a better indicator of re-purchasing than just the order itself.

A “smart hairbrush” from Kerastase that diagnoses your hair health, suggests personalised care tips, and offers real-time product recommendations.

For example, foundation bottles may be equipped with sensors to monitor usage and formula preferences, but disguised for consumers as a means for analysing their skin type or health, so as not to freak them out (L’Oreal’s Kerastase is already headed in that direction).

Also, with all minds on virtual reality and constant progress in that space, perhaps the technology will advance into a full sensory experience. Brands may just be able to stimulate textures and smell, shortening and improving the trial of cosmetics even further. Visualise being able to feel the effectiveness of a lip balm on demand—And hygienically too.

But hold up: As social parameters rapidly redefine, and technology permeates all forms of communication (think vacating offices and relying on video calls to connect, getting information from chatbots instead of salespeople, the future of social media as interacting with avatars in VR instead of a webpage), will we even need to wear physical makeup in the future, if no one will see our bare faces any longer? Perhaps we will be buying customised face filters and makeup for our VR avatars instead, which fits into the projected trend of accelerated purchasing of makeup—All it takes is a click to apply a full face of makeup to my cartoon self!

Perhaps we will be buying customised face filters and makeup for our VR avatars instead.

Obviously, the aid of technology can be a dream or a disaster. Delving into tech innovations just to be part of the industry trend, without careful consideration of whether it will improve the customer’s experience isn’t just a waste of resources, but can make a brand come off as gimmicky. Being a first mover may be tempting an accolade, but it should be less of a priority than making sure these visionary contraptions meet an apparent consumer want or need.


[1] Euromonitor Passport Beauty Survey: Evolution of Beauty Routine Becomes a Key Innovation Driver, January 2017


Magazine article picture: Harper’s Bazaar 2014. Taken from

L’Oreal Makeup Genius picture: Taken from

Maybelline X Grab photo: Taken from @thesmartlocalsg on Instagram

L’Oreal Smart Brush picture: Taken from


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