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Sephora is using AR to help all the Barbie girls in the Barbie world

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(BUSINESS) Sephora make-up chain is diving into the world AR to help customers shop before purchasing.

Augmented reality taking over reality

Along with virtual reality and artificial intelligence, augmented reality (AR) is one of the most talked about topics at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive.

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Companies are starting to make some serious investments in AR technology, creating innovative new ways of interacting with customers.

New face of AR

While AR has famously been used for interactive marketing and for gaming apps like Pokémon Go, other companies have incorporated AR into their apps and stores in ways that genuinely help make customers make better purchasing decisions.

A need in cosmetics

If you’ve ever tried to buy makeup from a drugstore or the Internet, you know that there’s a high risk that you’ll end up with a truly tragic shade of lipstick, or a foundation that doesn’t match your skin.

The beauty industry has always faced the challenge of selling products that are difficult to sample before purchase.

At a department store, cosmetic counters allow customers to try on makeup before buying, but with more and more people shopping online, it’s time for a high-tech solution.

Sephora’s dive into AR

By investing in AR, cosmetics company Sephora has given customers an excellent way to learn more about products, and even to try them out, virtually, before purchasing.

Their mobile app uses facial recognition technology to provide a fairly accurate estimation of how different products will look on your face.

The app also provides step-by-step makeup tutorials customized for your face shape and skin tone.

Making the choice easier

For Bridget Dolan, vice president of Sephora’s San Francisco-based Innovation Lab, AR provides an opportunity to educate and engage with customers who might otherwise have a hard time choosing which products to buy online.

“Our time, money, effort and energy goes into teaching clients. To achieve new looks, you need to try new products, and if we can make you feel confident, you’ll be more engaged overall,” says Dolan.

Banking on potential

The app is made possible through a collaboration with AR platform Modiface. According to CEO Parham Aarabi, in the early phases of developing their technology, Sephora saw Modiface’s “preliminary vision and its potential, and ran with it.”

By collaborating with a strong brand, Modiface was able to advance the technology further and faster.

“Brands need a champion who has the vision and who sees the long-term possibility – that’s Bridget and her team. They’re really invested in getting the augmented reality right.”

The versatility of AR

The Sephora – Modiface collaboration makes it clear that, as Dolan explains, applications of AR can be more than “just fun.” They can provide interactive experiences that educate customers and pave the way for sales.

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