Daily Insights

Beauty’s Smart Store Revolution

By: Liz Flora | Aug 26, 2019

In China, stepping into a beauty store feels like walking into the future thanks to a range of innovative digital features being adopted by brands studied for Gartner L2’s China: Omnichannel Insight Report.

For example, YSL Beauty opened its largest flagship globally in Guangzhou in June, equipping the expansive property with smart-store features. These include a digital skin diagnostic tool, unmanned lipstick vending machine, a LOVE card customization machine for users to create messages to stick on the brand’s interactive LOVE wall, lipstick customization, VR try-on screens, and the option to share digitally created makeup looks on social media. 

Beauty brands are also teaming up with China’s top tech giants to develop their smart store technology. MAC Cosmetics, for example, partners with WeChat for its interactive experience center in Shanghai. In addition to (naturally) accepting WeChat Pay, the store features QR codes to MAC’s WeChat Mini Program. Through the WeChat Mini Program, visitors can access the digital interactive areas of the store, including a virtual lipstick shade try-on mirror, customizable 3D-printed eyeshadow palettes that are paid for and picked up using the Mini Program, and foundation shade matching via an infrared touch screen. 

Brands are also teaming up with e-tailers for in-store digital features: Alibaba’s Tmall has been especially enthusiastic about brand partnerships across sectors with its “New Retail” omnichannel technology. The e-tailer launched a Tmall Experience Center in Shanghai in July, featuring beauty labels including Bobbi Brown and Make Up For Ever. It previously teamed up with K-beauty brand Innisfree for a co-branded Tmall smart store. 

Tmall competitor JD.com has also gotten in on the beauty smart store boom, partnering with J-beauty brand SK-II for its Future X smart store in Shanghai. Like YSL Beauty, this also featured a digital skin analyzer called its “Magic Ring” skin age tester, which is featured on the brand’s WeChat account and can be reserved online. The store also has a digital wall for visitors to submit their own art and allows customers to check out at a cashier-free counter with JD.com bracelets. 

Most beauty brands’ smart stores in China tend to be single locations opened in Tier 1 cities, but some are developing more widespread digital transformations: SK-II expanded some of its Future X features to pop-ups in eleven Chinese cities, for example. As China’s digitally connected younger generation remains crucial to global beauty brands’ bottom line, physical stores are likely to see rapid omnichannel advancements across China in the future.