Rewriting the beauty code of the future

Asmita Dubey, chief digital and marketing officer, and Camille Kroely, chief metaverse and Web3 officer at L’Oréal Group, talk about the actions that L’Oréal has taken with regard to the metaverse and how these fit with the company’s mission and broader digital transformation agenda. They also share what they have learnt about changes in user and creator behavior, and how they see the future of beauty evolving.

An edited version of the conversation follows.

How critical is digital in driving innovation in the beauty sector?

Asmita Dubey: We believe that the future of beauty is physical, digital, and virtual, and we are shaping it with science, technology, and creativity. We have already been exploring new business models like social commerce, marketing in the digital age and augmented-reality (AR) beauty, which is why we bought ModiFace in 2018. Through this technology, we have already had more than 1 billion try-ons using our virtual makeup and hair color.

Beauty technology is transforming beauty. For example, look at Lancôme Skin Screen, a skin diagnostic tool. It aggregates 13 different skin concerns using 15,000 images. Here we bring together AI, image analysis, and a century-old knowledge of our skincare expertise.

In addition, we recently unveiled two exclusive technologies. HAPTA, our handheld, ultra-precise makeup applicator device, allows us to expand beauty needs to people with limited hand and arm mobility. The other is L’Oréal Brow Magic, the first at-home electronic brow applicator that delivers customized brows.

The metaverse has been a big focus of your digital transformation. What have you learned and what’s next?

Asmita Dubey: Our mantra is to seize something as soon as it starts. In that sense, we are making inroads into Web3 and metaverse beauty, because digital transformation and consumer behaviors are fast evolving. We are moving from products to services, from digitalization to virtualization, from 2D to 3D beauty, as well as from “look-down” smartphones to “face-forward” devices, which are growing and getting better in terms of technology.

We are also changing from social following to new, empowered communities, and from digital transformation to data transformation, as AI is becoming more prevalent and is almost in everyday use.

Camille Kroely: Indeed, it’s really about cracking the new beauty codes. The way we approach this is by understanding what the metaverse means for beauty and what they have in common.

Beauty is about self-expression and, in the same way that digital has unlocked possibilities for people to express themselves, virtual is an astounding new way for people to do that. Avatars, for example, are people’s digital identities, and the way they express and represent themselves.

We have done studies to understand how Gen Zers are approaching the metaverse. Gen Zers are not digital natives, they are already gaming and metaverse natives. Out of them, 57 percent feel that they can express themself more openly when they use digital identities—avatars that they can customize the way they want.

We have also run a study with McKinsey in China, Europe, and the United States to understand what beauty consumers care about and what experiences they expect in the emerging metaverse. The study, in fact, confirms our intuition in this field and the growing interest we are seeing.

The first thing we notice is that two-thirds of people interested in beauty are already excited about the metaverse. They are eager to explore fresh opportunities, virtual worlds, territories of expression, and new virtual experiences, as well as avatar customization.

Second, there is a strong interest in the possibilities of metaverse commerce. People are ready to spend money on a monthly basis to invest in beauty opportunities and brands, specifically brand-led virtual experiences.

How does the metaverse, especially the immersive experience side, impact your brands?

Asmita Dubey: The metaverse is an immersive, brand story-telling approach, which allows brands to explore their expression in this new world. It is also about new epicenters of influence—how the influencer and creator economy is evolving looks very promising.

Moreover, if we look at Web3 values, our ambition is to be diverse and inclusive, which is very much in line with what our brands want to achieve. This is about creating a completely new ecosystem of partners, as well as new business models. Our brands are looking at the metaverse through all these lenses.

Camille Kroely: We’ve identified streams of opportunities in which we are in test-and-learn mode, with various champion brands that might be more fitted to explore in the metaverse. For example, on the brand story-telling side where you can bring value through self-expression, we have L’Oréal Professionnel and Maybelline in partnership with Ready Player Me, the number-one platform for avatar creation in the metaverse.

The idea here was to bring these two brands into hair and makeup to create new looks for people who are more creative, pushing the technology, and are also more inclusive. The truth is that with hair and makeup, there is not that much available today for people to express themselves. However, creators don’t necessarily have the scientific or hair knowledge to express the way they could be represented in virtual reality. So we have makeup and hair artists who have worked with 3D creators to create looks that push the platform’s technology.

As Asmita mentioned, the metaverse is also about building a new ecosystem and offering our brands new possibilities to express themselves. We’re now partnering with OpenSea, the leading marketplace for NFT and digital collectibles, to explore loyalty on-chain. We are also in partnership with Meta, and with Station F, one of the world’s largest business incubators for start-ups, for us to help accelerate start-ups. To grow creativity and inclusivity in the metaverse and to help our brand tap into new opportunities, we have just selected five start-ups that are now in Station F.

How do you think the metaverse can influence beauty in the real world?

Camille Kroely: I believe we will move from consumer journeys that are already off- and online, to off-chain and on-chain on the metaverse. We can see that the metaverse and Web3 are already impacting creative codes of real life. If you take, for example, the way people do their makeup—they can already get inspiration from the metaverse and 3D creators.

Think retail as well—the way retail design is being shaped today is already being impacted by these creative codes. For instance, we have an augmented products program where we equip products with a QR code. The consumer can scan the code and access virtual experiences and services. In this way, we are already bringing the physical and digital together with real products.

GORJS photo
Example of virtual beauty look from GORJS announcement
GORJS photo

The metaverse and Web3 are not just technological changes. They are part of a cultural movement by people and creators, and at L’Oréal we have already engaged with creators. For example, a few years ago, we started working with and empowering “glammers”—gamers who also love the Equal at McKinsey, the beauty.

We are currently working on a project called GORJS, which is launching the world’s first beauty decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). This is to help 3D makeup artists launch their own collections of makeup visual artistry. It’s a completely new model that we are testing, really leveraging the power of creators and communities.

Digital communities are coming into our lives, becoming new influencers and new models for consumers. We believe that metaverse commerce will impact the way people shop in real life and other aspects of real life.

How are you working with the new set of creators and artists across the virtual and physical worlds?

Asmita Dubey: New skills are needed—some may be more technical, others more creative. For example, there are skills such as understanding blockchain 3D production capabilities, or how to manage token-gated communities, or to do smart contracting. There are also skills that are more data driven and involve AI.

At L’Oréal, we have a strong base and history of upskilling, and already have almost 65,000 marketeers who have been upskilled on marketing in the digital age. What we are doing now, as we move to Web3, is introduce new skills that are applicable to the metaverse. Upskilling is something that never stops.

Camille Kroely: Upskilling is now part of our roadmap. In fact, one of the first things that we did with our executive committee members was to train and upskill them so that they can keep learning by themselves—such as opening their own wallets, customizing their avatars, testing the platform, and going on Roblox. We learn by doing things ourselves.

How do you ensure that the L’Oréal Group brands maintain their brand DNA when they’re showing up in these new ways in virtual experiences?

Asmita Dubey: Let’s take an example to illustrate how we’re keeping brand DNA in mind when we tap into new communities and consumer needs. Maybelline is the number one makeup brand in the world; it brings its consumers on-the-pulse, hassle-free, high-performance, and diverse makeup. So it’s natural for the brand to be the first one to try AR and VR makeup looks. That is why Maybelline has partnered with Ready Player Me to bring avatar looks to consumers and users in virtual experiences.

Ready Player Me avatars
Examples of virtual beauty looks on Ready Player Me avatars
Ready Player Me avatars

What would be your advice for executives thinking about the way forward for their companies and their sectors?

Camille Kroely: As executives at L’Oréal, we believe we have a responsibility to make sure that the metaverse and Web3 have a positive impact. We have had to consider a couple of things. First, we have had to think about how we include these by design when working with different industries, as well as when shaping this future of beauty together.

Then we have had to consider how we can unlock growth and value for the business in the emerging new world. Finally, we have had to think about the impact on the organization. We discussed capabilities and transformation; how will they impact the way we work, our processes, our organization, and how can we ensure we are ready for that shift.

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