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Mobile momentum? Beauty apps that ‘fail to create value’ will fail to succeed

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Beauty apps must reconsider design and plug consumer skin care needs says What's In My Jar founder

Related tags beauty 4.0 Beauty apps mobile technology beauty tech Beauty brands Skin care Consumer trends

Beauty apps have fast become the go-to tool for mass consumers looking to better understand products and routines, but industry has made some obvious design mistakes and needs to re-shift thinking to grow long-term engagement, says Maria Semykoz, co-founder and CEO What’s In My Jar.

In CosmeticsDesign-Europe’s fourth Beauty 4.0 Podcast​ – a digital series looking at how technology and innovation will shape beauty’s future – we catch up with Maria Semykoz, co-founder and CEO of tech startup What’s In My Jar.

Maria Semykoz, co-founder and CEO of What’s In My Jar
Maria Semykoz, co-founder and CEO of What’s In My Jar

In this 27-minute podcast, Semykoz talks about the rapidly advancing beauty app space, what beauty brands must consider when designing apps and where the true opportunities lie in growing beauty engagement and long-term use amongst consumers. 

Beauty NPD exploding but beauty advice needs to catch up

Last year, What’s In My Jar launched two consumer beauty apps – a ‘Sunscreen Finder’ tool​ and a ‘Sensitive Skin Advisor’ tool​ – to plug knowledge gaps and overcome what it defined as confusion in the skin care category.

The overarching goal of these two apps, Semykoz said, was to make “high quality, evidence-based skin care advice accessible to people; we want to make it available at scale using data technology”.

She said that in the last couple of years, new product development and innovation in beauty had skyrocketed, propelled by e-commerce and D2C models, but investments in consumer advice around product use and routines had, by contrast, “very much stayed the same”.

And this, she said, was a gap that consumers felt and a gap that could be plugged by beauty apps.

Digitizing experiences – the next frontier in Beauty 4.0

“The next frontier of the digital world is digitizing experiences,”​ Semykoz said.

For beauty brands, this meant building and creating brand equity in a digital world; not just transferring offline equity to digital, she said. And apps were a tool where beauty brands could achieve this, if designed correctly, she said.

Current usage numbers across beauty apps remained low – a reflection that the “wrong branch”​ had been taken by industry and app designers, Semykoz said, and many branded apps had proven unsuccessful because “they just fail to create value”.

Many app designers had simply followed tech advances in face recognition technology – developing apps that scanned skin profiles, identified wrinkles or spots and acne – but she questioned whether this was what consumers were looking for. Instead, consumers wanted guidance on routines and information on the most suitable products for them, she said.

So, what was industry missing? And where were the consumer need gaps that could be plugged by a successful beauty app?

“We don’t need to re-invent the wheel,”​ Smykoz said. It was instead about finding aspects of the beauty business that had already proven successful offline and transferring this, and scaling it, via an app. Success in the space needed beauty brands and independent companies to provide “best-quality consumer advice”​ around skin care products and routines and, importantly, not be used to plug just one brand or line of product.

Beauty 4.0 Podcast – more insight on beauty app development

For more detail on the future of beauty app development, with detail on the opportunities and challenges facing industry, listen to our 27-minute podcast above or access our podcasts by subscribing via Apple Podcasts​ or finding us on Spotify​.

This podcast was recorded on February 9, 2021.

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