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Could the Future of Skincare Shopping Eliminate the Need For In-Store Beauty Consultants?

If you’re invested in skin care — and if you buy skincare products, you know it’s often an investment — there’s a few shopping options we’ve all grown accustomed to: purchasing online after reading or watching reviews, deciding to buy after seeing a post (or more likely, #ad) on Instagram, or taking a chance in a store. The latter has been somewhat of an alleged ghost town for consumers; in 2019, we have everything we need at our fingertips. I say “alleged” because many publications like to cover the trend of “dying retail,” but if you go into retailers like Sephora and Ulta Beauty, the aisles are brimming with customers. Even mass retailers like Target have upped its beauty offerings, making them a legitimate contender in the space.

SK-II Future X Smart Store

Pop-ups are also a huge part of the purchasing experience — people want to be able to physically engage with a brand. Benefit launched the Roller Liner Diner pop-up in Los Angeles for 10 days in January to promote its new product, Roller Liner; the Chanel Beauty House was a four-day affair around Oscars weekend on Sunset Boulevard to celebrate the brand’s new Instagram page, We Love Coco; brands Too Faced and Jouer have also presented in the pop-up space. While these short-lived shops have been sporadic disruptors in retail, plenty of brands — from Glossier to CoverGirl — have opened up their own permanent brick-and-mortar locations. Needless to say, it appears consumers crave a brand experience, which could translate to more singular brand stores in our future.

In standard shopping environments, you may feel a few emotions: overwhelmed by the breadth of offerings; annoyed by salespeople, usually marketed as consultants or cast members, pushing certain types of products on you. You might even feel embarrassed by assessments from these “experts” about your skin. Then there’s that moment when you get home: you physically have the product, and you’re willing to try it, but will you keep up with it over time? More importantly, will you see results?

“It’s a lot of pressure to shop in the skin care aisle. It’s both the pressure to buy things that you don’t necessarily want to buy sometimes, and also the pressure of being judged by the beauty consultants out there.”
These were the concerns SK-II thought of when it came to the retail experience. The Japanese brand, famous for the Facial Treatment Essence, decided to take a risk and try their hand in the retail space, launching the SK-II Future X Smart Store — first launched in Tokyo, then Shanghai and Singapore in 2018. Describing it as a “phygital” experience — physical + digital — the store utilizes technology like facial recognition, computer vision, and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) in conjunction with SK-II’s proprietary skin science and diagnostics innovation. This, along with Instagrammable photo opps, is meant to take the nerves out of shopping for a skincare regimen.

“The starting point of this is that the physical shopping environment today is quite intimidating,” said Sandeep Seth, vice president, global at SK-II. “It’s a lot of pressure to shop in the skincare aisle. It’s both the pressure to buy things that you don’t necessarily want to buy sometimes, and also the pressure of being judged by the beauty consultants out there. What we want to achieve is to really remove that pressure. That is the end goal.”