Digital Retail Innovations Q&A – Holition / Charlotte Tilbury ‘Magic Mirrors’

Brought to you by Retail Insider and Webloyalty

Following the launch of the Digital Retail Innovations 2017 Report (sponsored by Webloyalty) a series of Q&A’s with the leading figures behind some of the key entries in the report are being published.

Here is a Q&A with Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of Holition, which is placed at number 48 in the report for its work with Charlotte Tilbury and its creation of Magic Mirrors.

1.How did the original idea come about?

Technology can sometimes get in the way of innovation and it ends up being a solution looking for a problem. Holition research all the potential pain points a user has and we look for a way of solving them. Cosmetics are a perfect example of where innovative technology can enhance the trying on of make-up experience but it’s not just about creating beautiful and realistic apps it’s about making their life easier through removing points of friction.

When we built our ‘Face by Holition’ AR technology a couple of years ago it meant developing accurate face-tracking algorithms from scratch through anticipating how it would be used. We now customise this technology for our global beauty clients across each major touch point including social media, in store technology, mobile applications and websites.

For Charlotte Tilbury her focus was on the ‘artistry of makeup’ and her famous 10 Make-up Looks; Charlotte was really keen to push boundaries within the whole make up experience using the latest emerging technology. Recreating the way make-up is applied digitally with bespoke tracking software, skin analysis and hyper accurate visualisation underpinned the ‘Charlotte Tilbury Magic Mirror’. Together we were able to create the world’s first full view in store magic mirror which enabled her customers try on each one of Charlotte’s signature looks in only 42 seconds.  Something which is just impossible in reality.

 2.What has been the level of take-up of the solution with customers?

 Our clients are global and innovative cosmetics brands, including Charlotte Tilbury, Coty (Sally Hansen, Rimmel London, Covergirl), Estee Lauder, La Mer and Douglas. It has been disruptive of us to work with our clients exploring and understanding how the role of emerging technology can enhance the whole of the shopping experience encouraging sales and brand loyalty.

Our research indicates that consumers who interact with new technology are innovative and more likely to embrace novelty and risk, thereby leading other consumers to try new experiences. The success we have had with our AR technology has been groundbreaking and it comes as no surprise therefore that Charlotte Tilbury is taking the Magic Mirror technology to her franchises across the Middle East; Coty’s ‘Get the Look’ which enables consumers to try out other people’s makeup styles, is launching a similar app in Germany; Douglas, the leading European specialist retailer in the beauty market, is expanding our AR initiatives across their new format concept stores in Europe.

The digital cosmetics revolution has only just begun and we are particularly thrilled to have collaborated with Facebook and Rimmel London to create a series of live augmented reality make-up filters using Facebook’s beta Camera Effects platform – a global first for a beauty brand.


3.What about competition in this area?

 There are many companies offering some form of virtual cosmetics or digital experience, from uploading a picture to add make-up or hairstyle, or ‘trying on’ multiple brands’ cosmetics. What differentiates Holition, we believe, is our approach which is to offer a real-time authentic and realistic user experience that allows consumers to enjoy the interaction and learn more about their favourite cosmetic brand. If the customer isn’t happy or satisfied they’ll look elsewhere.

The Charlotte Tilbury Magic Mirror demonstrates how augmented reality solutions can be used to develop the consumer experience where technology is less intrusive and more meaningful. The announcements of Facebook and Apple to get into the AR market and the consumer acceptance and use of Pokemon Go and Snapchat both make AR a very dynamic and exciting industry to be in.

4.How has the solution been developed / advanced over time?

 Many brands want to be market leaders in their industries and are looking for the next revolutionary solution. That’s why we continue to explore the boundaries of the latest cutting edge technology. At Holition we feel strongly that the in-store experience should be between the store and its product and digital should support that – it is not about iPads and screens but getting people to interact with the product and look around the store. The best technology-enabled store is where you don’t see the technology – where content is being communicated without technology getting in the way. Technology should support the message and not be the message.

Our in-house R&D team work tirelessly with clients, academics, scientists, technologists and artists to further each piece of tech in a collaborative and iterative manner.

5.Have there been any surprises along the way?

 Holition typically takes on at least one project a year that has never been done before, these are our ‘global firsts’. It is these which offer us the most surprises and learnings as they are truly innovative and are where we make new discoveries through hacking, developing, recoding, observing and again iterating until we get the desired outcome.  There is no instruction book which means having to start from scratch and experiment constantly with the technology. Tracking and analysing skin tones, facial contours and lighting conditions for Tilbury’s Magic Mirror was no exception.


6.What can we expect from the solution (or extensions to it) in the future?

 Just as consumers have become channel agnostic, spurring retailers to move towards an omni-channel integrated experience. So too the technology will, and therefore  we are working on making our AR beauty technology as simple as possible to be adapted and used across all brand touch-points, as this is what the consumer wants and expects.

Another key theme is the democratisation of technology: as virtual reality and the Internet of Things spreads more widely into the hands of customers, there will be no stopping experiential enrichment – whether real or digitally-supported. As these technologies continue to become cheaper and more readily available, there will be a turning point for consumers as they demand and expect a standard in line with the values being shaped by today’s new economy, such as accessibility, sharing, and a collective consciousness for how companies and customers alike can behave responsibly.

There are many trends and applications of new technologies that are already starting to affect consumer behaviour. For example, the idea of anticipatory intelligence, where data-capturing systems are put in place to predict and pre-empt a customer’s next move before they know it themselves. There will be nowhere to hide if brands and retailers are not keeping up with their customers.

7.Do you have any recommendations for entries in the next Digital Retail Innovations report?

 A focus on AI?

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