L’Oréal Australia trials virtual reality shopping

With e-commerce purchases continuing to surpass in-store purchases, Glossy has reported that the Australian divisions of Lancôme and Kiehl’s are attempting to mimic the many benefits of physical retail in their e-commerce strategies.

Because even though online purchases of beauty and health products have flourished in Australia (growing more rapidly than any other category, at 29% year over year as of 2018), according to L’Oréal Australia CMO, Matthijs van der Putten, L’Oréal-owned brands have experienced challenges.

The brands’ web pages lacked standard back-end infrastructure and services, hugely due to the fact that L’Oréal Australia is much smaller than the company’s U.S., Europe and China counterparts. It had no live chat function, a slow shipping policy and an outdated aesthetic. This, van der Putten said, hindered the customer experience, which is why the company has focused on revamping its websites over the last few years.

Among an array of other improvements and trials, one feature that Lancôme and Kiehl’s have been offering is Inside, a back-end customer service program that uses a digital rendering of a store. Customers have their own avatars, enabling customer service representatives to better see how consumers are feeling and where they are in their shopping journey before even approaching them.

To make it even easier, it’s simple to judge these things. For example, if someone is seen with a suitcase, it means they are visiting the Australian site from another country. If the avatar itself is blue, it means it’s their first visit, while yellow means a return visit and green means the shopper is logged into an account. Additionally, avatars have faces, which show staff whether a customer is happy or angry, based on their website activity.

“What’s different between the online and the physical world is that the service is very different,” Powerfont co-founder and CEO, Hadar Paz, who worked with L’Oréal to develop its customer service, said. “Often a website is a boring catalog, and it’s up to a customer to make the call on their own about purchasing a product.”

L’Orèal Australia currently has 30 people in its call centre, and five of these people are trained to use Inside. By June, according to van der Putten, Inside will also be available to Armani Beauty and YSL Beauty – following Lancôme and Kiehl’s success in the virtual reality world. Since its introduction in 2018, both brands have seen a 430% growth in purchase rate when a customer chats with a representative, with 21% of customers using the tool make a purchase.