- Virtual beauty advisers have reached a tipping point, with about half of consumers ready to use them during their shopping for beauty products, according to a study from Automat emailed to Retail Dive. Surveyed customers — 18-to-65-year-old women who have Facebook Messenger on their mobile phones — said they'd prefer messaging over voice chat systems, but they have equal preference for live and automated advisors.
- Customers prefer to buy beauty products in store, but they do most research online — including when they're in the store. While shopping in stores, 71% of consumers use mobile phones to research products online, the study found.
- The study also found that 70% of consumers are overwhelmed by beauty-product choices, and 66% prefer to be left alone while shopping in the store. Most consumers surveyed said they want virtual advisers directly from brands, and they want accuracy and usability most of all in the tools.
Brands stand to gain from consumers' interest in virtual advisers for beauty-product shopping, with the ability to tap into a tool that appeals to frequent purchasers and could boost the brand's image in shoppers' minds.
"This creates an opportunity for beauty brands to provide assisted service online and offline not only where real human advisors don't exist today, but even where they are available...," the report noted. "Best of all, virtual beauty advisors especially appeal to the young, digitally engaged, frequent beauty purchasers that brands want to reach the most as part of their digital strategies."
The three favored channels for virtual beauty advice were the brand or retailer website (43%), Facebook Messenger (37%) and the brand's Facebook page or newsfeed (36%), according to the report. Most respondents said virtual beauty advisers are innovative, useful, provide customizable advice and exciting — all attributes that a brand would want to associate with.
The study also found that 50% of those interested in virtual beauty advisers buy beauty products two or more times per month. But customers' attention to brands could detract from retailers' direct input. The report noted that attention that could turn to brands with virtual beauty advisers "is currently being directed towards Google, beauty retailers and Amazon as opposed to the brands themselves."
The fact that consumers want to interact directly with brands, then, is an "extraordinary opportunity that brands have to use virtual beauty advisors to drive direct consumer interaction through their owned properties as opposed to having product information continue to be disseminated through intermediaries like Google, beauty retailers, and Amazon."
Retailers can make the most of their brand relationships, though; Amazon for example, has made efforts to partner with indie beauty brands to attract sales, and beauty retailers in general have been going strong in the midst of other retail sectors' decline. The fact that most beauty consumers still prefer to shop in stores is good news for them.