Taylor Disher, a 22-year-old marketing student in Toronto, recently found a useful way to shorten her beauty routine. Rather than try on sticky layers of lip gloss in a drugstore aisle, she leisurely tested 20 different shades of gloss on her train commute to school using an iPhone app called MakeUp.
“I’m not a big makeup person, but the app looked kind of fun,” said Disher, who downloaded MakeUp from the Apple App Store several weeks ago. Using its facial recognition technology, she was able to apply rounds of pixelated gloss onto her pixelated lips (on an uploaded photo of herself) until she found a perfect posy pink.
“The next day I went to the drugstore, matched the color to two glosses,” she said. “One had too much shimmer, so I bought the other and now I wear it all the time.”
Enter the world of virtual beauty.
It’s a calculus that ModiFace, makers of MakeUp, and countless other beauty-related app developers for iPhone and iPod Touch devices are hoping will have mass appeal and translate to lucrative partnerships.
“Beauty-related apps are a high growth market,” said Sunil Verma, a founder of Mobclix, a mobile ad exchange network.
“Seven to 10 million iPhone or iTouch users have already downloaded a beauty-related app or indicated they are very interested in doing so. And we’re just starting to see big brands get involved, which will be huge,” Verma said, citing data his company had collected.
Not surprisingly, appearance-oriented apps resonate well with 14-to-17-year-old girls who are experimenting with makeup and flirting with romance. But, Verma said, there is plenty of growth in the area for women 18 and over.
“We’re seeing a lot of single professionals and mothers downloading these apps,” he said.
Apart from beauty apps that fall into the category of entertainment, there is a health element as well. “We see this segment of apps as one of the fastest growing components of the category of health and fitness, too,” Verma said.
While some of the earliest applications offered users the opportunity to replicate the looks of famous faces like Angelina Jolie’s, some recent apps are more utilitarian. They allow users to rate their own photographed faces (and compare one’s own score with, say, Megan Fox’s) but they also can offer easy access to tips and tutorials of what to buy when standing in a Sephora with its dizzying array of choices, or how to apply a particular eyeliner.
Increasingly, recognizable beauty brands are entering the market. Lancome and L’Oreal Paris already have apps. And another member of big beauty, Avon, and its little sister brand, mark, entered the apps market this fall with apps packed with custom videos, popping graphics and tightly edited content on the latest fall trends.
“We look at it holistically,” said Annemarie Frank, the director of digital and strategic alliances at mark. “We wanted to highlight our fall trends for our target market, who is someone very much living in a digital age. So what better way to deliver to her the hottest trends and how to incorporate them into her own life than on her phone?”