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Beauty Tech takes hold in Africa

Raymond Chimhandamba
By Raymond Chimhandamba

Content creator for FMCG and retail industry in Africa. Founder and Director, Handas Consulting

Posted on Monday, 9 March 2020 10:17

A contestant has her make-up applied at the backstage, during the Miss World South Sudan beauty pageant in Juba
A contestant has her make-up applied at the backstage, during the Miss World South Sudan beauty pageant in Juba, South Sudan, July 21, 2019. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu

In recent years, beauty technology has been the driving force behind innovation in the beauty sector, leading to several acquisitions of beauty tech businesses by major beauty players.

In 2018 L’Oreal declared that it wanted to be the “number one beauty company”, and has been driving the activity of beauty technology to a new level in the intervening period.

L’ Oreal is a key player in Africa. But it is not the only one to have integrated tech.

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Beauty meets tech

Sephora’s Virtual Artist, is a virtual try-on app that helps consumers to try on different shades of eyeliner, eye lashes and lipstick without actually putting them on their skin.

L’Oreal’s Le Teint Particulier prepares individualised foundation for your specific skin type, choosing from 20 000 different shades to come up with a foundation shade that is ideal for your specific skin. It comes at a whopping cost of £80 for a 30ml bottle.

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And it is an answer to actual needs from women consumers. According to the BBC, 50% of women complain that they cannot find the right shade of foundation.

Women of colour want more choice. It is not a surprise therefore when the market voraciously took up to these apps.

By Feb 2018, Sephora’s app had 200m downloads, according to Tech Republic and was responsible for a growth of 11% in revenues.

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Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), voice-activated applications and smart mirrors are delivering innovation and personalisation for beauty giants.

Influencers and bloggers are distributing it within their communities. The age of instant gratification has created a demanding consumer.

The age of selfies and Instagram is also creating newer and more eager advocates of the apps and the brand.

Beauty meets mobile

Consumers are more attentive and more personal to mobile screen time compared to the TV and the computer. According to Econsultancy, 61% of the consumer’s online time is on the mobile phone.

Econsultancy also shows that 50% of online shopping is via mobile. Customers want brands that engage them online.

AI improves customer service and automates repeat orders. Automated subscriptions and appointments entrench repeat purchases, increase attendance, brand loyalty, traffic and conversions while maximising profits and reducing stock outs, by building predictability into stock-holding.

Social Media drives earnings

Social media drives earnings for brands. Celebrities have converted their followers and fans into raving buying customers.

  • According to Adimo news, Rihanna’s Fenty brand earned $72m in the first month, by converting her 66m Instagram followers into buying customers.
  • Kylie Jenner did the same with her 121m followers.

Consumers consider influencers and online communities to be more authentic than the models in glossy beauty magazines. Make up tutorials are the most shared beauty content on Youtube, according to Predictspring. This fuels brand loyalty.

The click and collect trend drives the omnichannel concept. The loyalty created by the repeat purchases gives the consumer access to a tiered reward system that invites select customers to exclusive in-instore events, completing the loop between the brand’s digital and brick and mortar spaces.

Beauty comes in small packages. Technology leverages off this unique nature. Inventory holding only requires tiny spaces. Micro-fulfilment allows robots to electronically receive orders and make accurate and fast deliveries.

Relevance to Africa

The UN says, “The World Bank and African Development Bank report there are 650 million mobile phone users in Africa, surpassing the number in the United States or Europe. In some African countries, more people have access to a mobile phone than to clean water, a bank account or electricity.”

According to Geopoll, in South Africa, nine out of 10 people have a cell phone.

  • In Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal, an average of 80% of the population have mobile phones. In Tanzania, three quarters of the population have mobile phones. In South Africa 51% of the population have smart phones. In Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria and Kenya, between 30-35% have smart phones while in Tanzania, 13% of the have smartphones.

Transsion’s Tecno and Intel brands own 50% market share in Africa, according to Tecno cameras are optimised for African complexions. Transsion has also optimised the key-board for Ahmaric characters in Ethiopia. Transsion, a Chinese company, have not sold a single phone in China, opting to focus on Africa, using low price as their strongest weapon.

With cell phone prices and data reducing in Africa, the technology that is today exclusive to Europe and USA will, with time, trickle down to Africa. Feature phones still offer advantages and relevant benefits in the beauty space in Africa today.

  • The USSD functionalities of the feature phone are still useful in driving automated alerts, loyalty, subscriptions, appointments and other reminders.
  • Mara group are manufacturing smart phones in South Africa and Rwanda while Egypt’s smart phone, the Nile X has ambitions to penetrate the rest of Africa.

Avon Justine, South Africa’s biggest beauty company, recently launched the Avon app, which saves reps time by automating a number of functions, while allowing reps to harness the power of their networks through social media.

The trend has started.