Lancôme And YSL Bring Less Touch, More Tech To Travelers

Lancôme and YSL Beauty have launched two beauty technology firsts at Doha’s Hamad International Airport in partnership with retailer Qatar Duty Free. Both are aimed at making the Covid-19 travel shopping experience more efficient and simple.

The brands—both part of the portfolio of French beauty giant L’Oréal—have opened in Doha Café, a flagship concept at the hub where Lancôme has a 650 square foot space and YSL Beauty has an area about half that size.

Lancôme, L’Oréal’s biggest brand, is showcasing a tech tool for foundations called Shade Finder, and YSL Beauty is introducing Modiface which travelers can use to virtually and safely try on new make-up products. Qatar Duty Free’s vice president operations, Thabet Musleh, comments: “These new stores engage shoppers in a unique way through interactive technologies.”

Shade Finder is appearing for the first time in the travel retail channel within the EMEIA region—Europe Middle East India and Africa. The device measures skin tone, but in a lot of detail. It is able to identify up to 22,500 shades “by taking into account skin intensity and undertone” according to a statement from L’Oréal’s travel retail division.

The make-up tool, allows women to find the right shade foundation with minimal fuss—and more crucially in pandemic times, with minimal contact. Using a device that is powered by artificial intelligence a beauty advisor measures the customer’s skin tone on three parts of their face before the results appear on a tablet computer. The customer can then test up to three shades from Lancôme’s extensive collection of foundations.

Also for the first time in the travel retail EMEIA region, YSL Beauty has integrated AI-driven ModiFace software. Travelers can use it test new make-up looks without touching the products. L’Oréal describes this as “a digital service of paramount importance in a contactless world.”

L’Oréal Travel Retail’s general manager for EMEIA, Gianguido Bianco, describes the Doha Café experience as “immersive” thanks to rolling beauty tech innovations, digital augmented services, and connected and personalized advice into one package.

In China’s domestic market, where consumers are particularly tech savvy, L’Oréal has already integrated the augmented-reality technology of ModiFace on Tmall’s app to improve the experience at the Alibaba

-owned mobile commerce platform. Consumers can access the AR-powered feature while watching livestreams from YSL Beauté, for example, though ModiFace now supports more than half of all of the beauty giant’s makeup offerings on Tmall, according to Alibaba.

Minimizing risk

In airports, ModiFace offers more than just the convenience of an AR-supported makeup experience that a consumer can get at home. The software gives travelers in the new Doha Café flagship store the confidence to try and, more importantly, buy makeup with a minimized risk of Covid-19 infection.

Right now those travelers are limited and recovery in the Middle East—where many hubs are solely reliant on the worst hit segment of intercontinental traffic—will take time. In a good year, Hamad International Airport handles 30 million passengers, but in 2020 that could drop by an estimated 60%, based on projections for the Middle East region as a whole, released by global airports body ACI World this summer.

Nevertheless, there are opportunities for the beauty business when looking longer term, and also when looking at the wider travel retail picture. Investing now, as L’Oréal is doing, is one way to capitalize on a return to growth in 2021.

Earlier this month in an investor call, the French group’s biggest rival in the channel, Estée Lauder

Companies, was blunt about the situation. Chief financial officer Tracey Thomas Travis said: “The path to recovery is not expected to be smooth as cases of Covid-19 have begun to surge again in many markets, creating renewed restrictions on travel and social activities.”

However, despite poor international traffic in the quarter ending September, Estée Lauder achieved flat growth across its global travel retail business thanks to “outstanding results in Greater China, particularly Hainan and Hong Kong, and sequential improvement in Korea.”

Investment in these more promising markets will be a priority for all beauty houses, but larger portfolio players like L’Oréal and Estée Lauder will likely ensure that they also stay focused on selected larger hubs around the globe like Hamad International, in order to maintain regional market share.

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