CES 2024 - gen AI adds to L'Oréal's digital transformation in the beauty tech revolution

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan January 11, 2024
Summary:
L'Oréal's CEO Nicolas Hieronimus on how his firm intends to be the beauty tech leader.

L'Oréal
Barbara Lavernos

You may wonder why we're discussing beauty at CES.

The question was purely rhetorical from Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of global beauty brand L'Oréal as he opened the company’s keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show jamboree in Las Vegas. In practice, the main pitch was was for a piece of consumer electronics that can be found in every home - a new hairdryer, this one a smart device that uses infrared and wind to use less energy. 

That’s fair enough, but as diginomica has observed over the years, L'Oréal has been one of the prime movers for digital transformation in the highly competitive beauty sector for quite some time. 

As Hieronimus pointed out to CES delegates: 

More than 10 years ago, we actively engaged in a digital revolution at L'Oréal, which allowed us to pave the way and become leaders in digital and e-commerce. More recently, we've seen a huge transformation in tech with disruptive technologies that you know very well, such as Web 3.0, cloud, IoT, AI and, of course, generative AI changing the world around us and disrupting business models across many different industries. 

This technophilia has had consequences for enterprise strategy, he went on: 

As a result, in 2018, we decided to embark the entire company on a second revolution to become the undisputed leader in beauty tech.

Transformative

L'Oréal is uniquely positioned to achieve this, he argued:

After over a century solely dedicated to beauty, we have the world's richest database concerning all aspects of beauty from skin and hair knowledge to formulation science and beauty routines, to connecting with our consumers across our 37 international brands, across all beauty categories, in all  channels. We already own 10 petabytes of data on our L'Oréal data platform, supporting all types of AI models, including the latest LLMs [Large Language Models]. 

We've already seen firsthand the transformative power of tech. Tech is helping us form stronger relationships with our consumers, understand them better, and astonish them with trailblazing innovation. Tech is also helping us to empower consumers with elevated services and augment their beauty journeys and experiences at scale. Beauty experiences that are inclusive, that flourish in humanity's infinite diversity and empower every individual to express who they are and who they want to be and to do the experiences that are inspiring and always one step ahead ahead, whether is introducing new cutting edge formulas, AR power, diagnostics, augmenting beauty devices, or developing new ways of bringing beauty, health and wellbeing to people around the world. 

[These are] beauty experiences that are respectful and which prioritize sustainability, safety and quality to ensure we can make a positive impact on people's lives while preserving preserving the beauty of the planets to be true to our purpose to create the beauty that moves the world. And of course, experiences that respect the highest standards in ethics and data privacy.  The end result is beauty for each powered, or dare I say, augmented by tech designed to anticipate and answer consumers expectations and desire with the best of creativity, science and technology. 

AI incoming

Beauty product consumers have a particular problem, Hieronimus noted - too much choice: 

I have to admit that many consumers have a hard time finding the right products, 70% of them feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices available, so they ask friends, watch videos and search online to try and make sense of the sheer number of products on store shelves. They have a decision paralysis that L'Oréal, thanks to beauty tech, has found the perfect solution to. We have created the perfect beauty advisor wherever you want and wherever you are. 

In other words, here comes the compulsory generative AI pitch! This particular iteration takes the form of the L'Oréal Paris Beauty Genius, a virtual personal beauty advisor. This is not a chatbot, insisted Hieronimus, but rather “a fully personalized AI-engine, an AI-powered solution based on an individual in-depth diagnosis”.

Barbara Lavernos, L’Oréal’s Deputy CEO in charge of Research, Innovation and Technology, expanded on this definition: 

The Beauty Genius will act like a personal beauty advisor, available 24/7 in your pocket. It can also help answers questions about your beauty routines and even sensitive topics without having to speak to a real person, such as acne, dandruff, or hair loss. It can also help guide people through these challenging issues and avoid uncomfortable or intimidating situations like recently my own son Max was facing acne issues. 

Behind the seamless experience, it's powered by a combination of the most cutting-edge gen AI, augmented reality, computer vision and color science. We have integrated more than 10 different LLMs and a very sophisticated architecture to get the most personalized beauty routines adapted to each individual. The Beauty Genius is capable of providing personalized diagnostic of both skin and skin tone.

You can also virtually try the product before you buy them. Over the last decade, we have propelled this technology to the highest level of accuracy. It has been trained on an inclusive dataset of over 6,000 images and tested by makeup artists on more than 10,000 product in 50 countries and it is protected by more than 10 patents. When it comes to our skin diagnosis, our algorithms have been trained on over 180,000 dermatologists. 

It’s the amount of underlying real world data that makes the difference, she concluded: 

The level of accuracy proves that we have built diagnostics that transcend just a tool for product sales, and gathered data that can truly bring the best prescription for every person. To elevate the user experience, we analyze hundreds of 1000s of real life conversation between consumers, our own consumer care lines and beauty advisors in stores. As a result, it feels like you're having a real conversation with a genuine beauty expert and not just a faceless algorithm. And despite the sophistication of the tech, there is no latency truly making it a seamless experience for people. 

My take

At L'Oréal, we believe that tech can push the boundaries of what's possible, help us improve the lives of consumers around the world and cater to the infinite diversity of beauty needs and aspirations of every individual. We used to promise beauty for all; thanks to tech, we want to offer beauty for each. 

A keynote high on aspiration and achievement and much more than just a new hairdryer.

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