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Influencers can upload makeup tutorials directly to the Il Makiage website using an online portal developed by the retailer’s in-house tech team and reportedly get a 25 per cent cut of any transactions that result. It is just one example of how Il Makiage is disrupting the beauty industry through technology.
The brand has also developed a quiz that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help customers find the right makeup for their skin, and it recently acquired Israeli startup Voyage81 for over US$40 million to further enhance its product recommendation capabilities.
“My sister and I sought to create one of the most inclusive, prestige beauty lines for all, while leaning heavily into technology,” Holtzman, the brand’s CEO, told Inside Retail.
“Out of the gate, we decided to build a digitally native beauty brand since we truly believed that the beauty category was ready for digital disruption.”
Il Makiage is backed by L Catterton, which invested US$29 million in the business in 2017. The brand launched in the UK and Germany last year and recently opened a local warehouse in Australia to facilitate faster shipping. After generating over US$100 million in revenue in 2020, it is rumoured to be exploring the possibility of an IPO.
Here, Holtzman discusses the important role technology plays in the brand’s success.
Inside Retail: Your website relaunch in 2019 sounds like it was a big turning point for the business. What did the relaunch entail?
Oran Holtzmann: In 2019, we launched Il Makiage’s new e-commerce platform and business model, providing beauty lovers with a highly differentiated and all-encompassing beauty experience – linking inspiration, education, trial and purchase within a singular site.
To fix the disconnected consumer journey, where consumers live online but try to purchase offline, Il Makiage’s in-house tech team spent two years engineering a seamless, automated process for beauty purchasing, solving one of the biggest problems plaguing the US$532 billion beauty industry.
Instead of creating videos in-house, we generated a new business model via deep, mutually beneficial influencer partnerships to showcase their beautiful, creative content.
IR: Your tech team has also created an algorithm that helps customers find their right foundation through a quiz. How does this work exactly?
OH: As part of our tech-first approach, Il Makiage built the PowerMatch algorithm, an AI algorithm that utilises machine learning to precisely match beauty complexion products (foundation, concealer, etc.) with over 90 per cent accuracy, without ever seeing the consumer’s face. We know how complex it is to find the perfect shade, so by utilising technology, we could provide the solution that consumers clearly were looking for.
For more than a year, our data science, R&D and engineering teams have combined the results of millions of data points to create the initial algorithm. To date, over 25 million users have taken our PowerMatch quizzes which, using machine learning, continue to improve every day.
IR: Where does this focus on tech come from?
OH: We knew that technology would be the key to improving the beauty e-commerce system, so we’ve invested heavily from the beginning in creating a tech-driven consumer brand. From our unparalleled online user experience, to our massive tech and engineering teams, to the acquisition of Neowize in 2019 and then our recent acquisition of Voyage81, tech is at the core of everything we do as a company.
The US$40 million acquisition of computer vision company Voyage81 adds cutting-edge vision technology to our existing deep learning capabilities. This acquisition will enable Il Makiage to use Voyage81’s patented hyperspectral imaging systems to further enhance our machine learning technology and aligns with our commitment to continue innovating and revolutionising the beauty and wellness industries at-large.
We definitely attribute our growth to our investment in proprietary technology, product formulations and online user experience. Since we started, we have shifted millions of customers online.
IR: What’s next for the brand?
OH: On top of our continued global growth of the Il Makiage brand, we are gearing up for the launch of two stand-alone brands, the first of which is in the wellness category and is expected to drop in a few months.
Additionally, the implications of Voyage81’s technology for the beauty and wellness industries are endless. The software is capable of mapping and analysing skin and hair features, detecting facial blood flows, and creating melanin and hemoglobin maps from a simple smartphone camera photo. The technology, combined with Il Makiage’s current AI algorithms will leverage users’ personal smartphone cameras to provide unparalleled online matching capabilities for our current users and our upcoming homegrown digital beauty and wellness brands.