The march of Amazon to insert itself into nearly every retail arena continues with the e-commerce giant's latest move to launch its own brick-and-mortar beauty salons.
However, this new initiative isn't limited to simply facilitating transactions at real-world locations, instead, Amazon is deploying some of its augmented reality aspirations to its experiment with in-person beauty customer service.
But what was missing in Amazon's announcement regarding its new beauty salon experiment, and the AR that will help drive in-store virtual try-ons, is the use of the Style My Hair Pro app from cosmetics giant L'Oréal. In images revealed earlier this week, Amazon displayed the app's familiar menu for virtual hair color samples, but no mention was made on the website of how the AR effect was achieved.
The AR app behind the effect is called Style My Hair Pro, and it's an offshoot of L'Oréal's aggressive move into AR virtual makeup and hair color try-ons, which was highlighted by its acquisition of AR startup Modiface a couple of years ago. Since then, L'Oréal has become one of the leading back-end providers of AR solutions for a range of companies looking to offer virtual try-ons in the beauty space.
L'Oréal's Style My Hair Pro app, which is available for iOS and Android devices (country restrictions may apply), allows the user to set up an entire virtual hair coloring sample and lookbook with just a few swipes. The 3D Try On feature lets you use either selfie mode or the outward-facing camera to seamlessly apply color effects to any face framed in the app's window. The Swatchbook feature offers a deep bank of subtle hair color variations to choose from, while the Moodboard feature lets you save your favorite virtual try-on looks as well as browse hair color trends and product launches.
The pairing of Amazon and L'Oréal's ModiFace began back in 2019, when the two companies worked together to give Amazon's online shoppers the ability to virtually try on makeup before making a purchase. Previously, before the L'Oréal acquisition, Modiface was behind a similar AR in-store experience for MAC cosmetics stores in the US.
Amazon's first-ever beauty salon, which will be located in London and directed by beauty salon expert and owner Elena Lavagni, of Neville Hair & Beauty, will offer the AR try-on service to all comers, making the process of switching up one's look even easier now that customers will have incredibly realistic previews.
In addition to the AR service, the salon will be laced with QR codes allowing visitors to view product information and purchase items (via the Amazon UK website) on shelves using just a few taps on their smartphones.
"We have designed this salon for customers to come and experience some of the best technology, hair care products and stylists in the industry," said John Boumphrey, Amazon's UK country manager, in a statement. "We want this unique venue to bring us one step closer to customers, and it will be a place where we can collaborate with the industry and test new technologies."
Despite the current availability of the AR app, it turns out that regular consumers will have to wait to access the beauty salon, as Amazon is first opening the doors to the facility to its own UK-based staffers. But after a few weeks (no date confirmed), the salon will be opened to the general public.
Amazon says "there are no current plans to open any other Amazon Salon locations," but if history is any guide, and this AR-powered beauty salon is a success, we can probably look forward to a bigger rollout in the not-too-distant future.
UPDATE—Wednesday, June 2, 2021: Images of the new Amazon Salon have begun to pop up online and it looks like a full-fledged dive into a real retail beauty play from the Seattle shopping giant.