Increasingly, there is talk of how brands are adopting new technologies both in and out of store. Who's doing it well, who isn't, this brand did this... etc. It's a dense topic of conversation as we see ourselves propelled ever further into a digital age. With a few notable exceptions, almost every retailer now has a digital presence to run alongside their brick and mortar business, as well as there being a seemingly infinite number of purely eCommerce based companies, that we have grown to know and love. Although there is a clear disparity in terms of online competence, becoming omnichannel is hardly newsworthy in 2017, with corresponding apps, Instagram pages and whichever other digital means of contact is trending this week truly cemented into the marketing mix. How retailers combat the growing world of online to ensure that their physical stores remain relevant is a real source of interest across the board. This can be a simple as equipping staff with iPads for more efficient stock enquiries but many retailers are beginning to go above and beyond to maintain interest and capture the attention of the digital-savvy millennial market. One particular sector that appears very much in their honeymoon period with instore digital experience is beauty and cosmetics, as they help to drive the digital conversation forward further still.

Many brands are testing out new technologies, usually beginning in their flagship stores. One such example is Molton Brown, who have applied augmented reality to the promotion of one of their perfume ranges at their Regent Street store. This is made possible through their 'Magic Mirror'. The mirror was designed to "encourage a sense of wonder" and "immerse" customer's within the backstory of the different scents. The concept is simple, customer's stand in front of the mirror, select a scent and the mirror displays an animation informing the participant where the ingredients are sourced from. Transporting them to the likes of Sichuan, Seville, Tahiti and Assam whilst the mirror captures their reaction, and provides them with a video to share across their social channels afterwards as well as a 30ml free sample. The store saw a 12% footfall increase during the mirror's time there, as well as a 10% increase in sales as the rest of the stores saw a decline of 1%. It will be touring across Molton Brown's other UK stores throughout the year.

Another store incorporating interactive technology is the new Wah Soho Salon, also based on Poland Street, London. The nail salon spreads over two floors and includes an immersive VR area, where guests are encouraged to don Samsung headsets and virtually apply 9 of their designs to their nails before committing in real life. The experience has been created in collaboration with DVTK and can be used by anyone who visits the store and not just those that have an appointment, while inviting staff offer their assistance. In addition to the headsets, customers are also able to print off designs, order nail polishes online and send their nail choices directly to the artists - it's a truly interactive space.

L’Occitane has incorporated VR heavily within it's Shinjuku, Tokyo branch. Asia is a key market for the French brand, with 50% of its revenue generated within this area. The brand worked with tech specialist teamLab to create the instore installations including a digital gallery. This space has 4 digital walls as well as a table displaying Provençal scenery that alters throughout the day to reflect the change in daylight. There are also butterflies and birds that seemingly fly from the walls to the table and around the room. Other installations include a "Flower Table" that uses a similar concept to that of Molton Brown's mirror and educated users of products origin. The difference here, the user must place the product onto the table in order to begin the animation. Finally, there is the "Fragrance Wall" that will expel different scents as consumers pass the different signages while the display shows an animation of the corresponding flower petals cascading down before revealing the person in front of it. L’Occitane hopes that all this will help to bolster a positive image of the brand and ultimately drive sales.

Luxury beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury also made waves in 2016 with the first VR fragrance campaign starring Kate Moss. Launched during Fashion week and in conjunction with the new Nokia OZO camera, the brand encouraged celebrities and influencers alike to experience the film directed by Antoine Wagner via virtual reality headsets and share their experience online. "The Scent of a Dream" encourages users to see "how it feels to be handed the key to universal attraction from the dream-like Kate Moss" and is an example of how marketers are taking the emotional promotion of perfume into the future and embracing the theatre of scents.  This could not be put more aptly than by director Wagner who stated he wanted users to "have a new experience in which you can smell and understand the perfume through your eyes".

Estée Lauder has grabbed the interactive trend firmly by the hand for their first brick and mortar "Estée Edit" store on Carnaby Street, London. The Edit range has always been centred around attracting a new, millennial audience and this is evident within their new flagship. The store oozes interaction and boasts a 'Selfie Wall' where customers can pose with friends, or by themselves, and have their photo taken in the interactive mirrors. You are even able to adjust the light and colour of the image depending on the range you're most interested in before sending it to your phone to be uploaded on Instagram. You can print it off and take it home with you as well. In addition to getting your photo taken, you're invited to interact with the brand further through the screens and headphones placed throughout the space showing different videos to provide you with insight into the world of Estée Lauder. The use of technology extends beyond the big screens, the staff are very engaging and use devices to help you establish just which colour foundation is right for you. Taking three readings from different points of the face to ensure the most accurate match. 

There are pro's and con's to the inclusion of technology and some brands are embracing it far more than others. Though for some, the idea of being colour matched by a machine is very exciting and may logically seem more accurate - especially when in artificial lighting. Others argue that it removes the artistry of make-up, with one artist that Elite spoke with claiming that a machine can never be as accurate, especially if you are planning to colour correct or contour the face in any way. The main tool seemingly being leveraged, in different ways, shapes and forms, is content creation through digital interaction. By creating an instore experience, brands are inviting consumers to engage with them in new and interesting ways and to share this across their own social platforms. By recording the interaction, consumers can share with limited effort on their part and help to further establish a word of mouth network for the brand - marketing without having to promote yourself. 

Makeup and skincare are very personal purchases, and although an increasing amount of research regarding products is done online interaction is key to helping consumers on their way to a purchase. The buyer now goes into knowing what they want at least 70 percent of the time, so it is imperative to have both a positive online presence as well as an engaging and relevant store. Sephora have created a new concept space in San Francisco using the 'TIP' mantra - teach, inspire and play. The space features education centres equipped with iPads, USB ports, and WiFi, in addition to makeover and skincare stations where consumers can get a customised prescription for the beauty look of their choice. Sephora have implied that this is a trial run for how their stores may run in the future, and though it is far more set in real reality than virtual, technology is still there to assist.

With constant innovations taking place, we can only speculate what it will be like shopping for beauty products in the future, but these brands are definitely making attempts to lead the way.