Color cosmetics look different on various skin tones, which is a problem for those who want to buy cosmetics online. As a result, beauty brands rely heavily on guided selling tools for e-commerce sales. How-to content, diagnostic quizzes, and featuring user-generated images are a few selling tools used on product pages. For example, bareMinerals has diagnostic quizzes that lead the user to the right foundation type and shade.

In the past few years, however, several brands have taken guided selling tools even further with virtual reality. According to L2’s study on guided selling tools in beauty, 7% of brands in the category have built some sort of a virtual makeover tool. Rimmel, for example, allows users to try on a photo. L’Oréal has built a MakeupGenius app that transforms the phone screen into a mirror, and users can see how shades of color cosmetics look on their reflection. A particularly innovative feature of the L’Oréal app: makeup stays on during face movements, and users can see their new look from various angles.

However, Sephora quietly released a virtual lipstick tester called “Virtual Artist” earlier this year, which has proven to be even more popular and developed than preceding efforts. Users can upload a photo, ensure the virtual lip line is in place (and drag it in place if not), and test a variety of shades grouped by color (coral, brick, red, berry, purple, pink, brown, nude, and unconventional). It even has refine and surprise features that define the lip contour and place shades on the selfie at random. The face and lip colors are not distorted (a weakness of many virtual try-on apps) and the lipstick looks as if it was part of the photograph. Sheer colors let the user’s lip color show through, displaying a realistic image of how each shade will look in real life.

What is truly helpful about the app – and can potentially stave off consumer cynicism – is that it is brand agnostic. Instead of clicking on brands and beautiful packaging, consumers choose shades to try on based on color. Virtual Artist’s popularity is to be expected as it follows the success of Sephora’s previous efforts to blend tech with beauty: Pocket Contour, and the Sephora + Pantone Color IQ. Given how fast Sephora is moving in virtual makeup testing, brands may be better poised to work with the retailer to be featured in its tools rather than create their own.

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