YouCam company’s surprising tie-up with Alibaba and the world beyond AR makeup
Perfect Corp, the company behind the augmented reality (AR) makeup app YouCam Makeup and AR makeup solutions for retailers, has announced its partnership with China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba. Brands that sell their products on Alibaba-affiliated shopping sites — such as Tmall and Taobao — can now use Perfect Corp’s AR makeup tools and related services. We take a look at the company’s strategies, technologies, and future objectives behind its decision to partner with Alibaba.
Along with consumer-targeted services, such as YouCam Makeup, Perfect Corp also offers brands a platform for omnichannel virtual makeup experiences. For instance, YouCam for Enterprise gives client companies access to all of Perfect Corp’s services while YouCam for Web gives access with an online subscription, with partial restrictions.
More than 200 brands around the world now use these business services, including in China where they are offered via WeChat mini-programmes.
Footprint and ecosystem acclaimed by Alibaba
Today, the AR makeup market is increasingly competitive, with global tech companies jostling for supremacy. Think Google and cosmetics giant L’Oréal with their subsidiary ModiFace. So it’s curious that Alibaba, one of China’s most successful companies, has chosen to partner Perfect Corp.
The CEO of Perfect Corp’s Japan branch, Yorinobu (Rob) Isozaki, says its partnership with Alibaba materialized because of “our ecosystem and AR technology that can faithfully reproduce makeup and create a more natural look”.
Since Perfect Corp’s launch in 2015 in Taiwan, the company has focused on spreading its footprint, the extent to which its business has infiltrated markets. It has zeroed in not just on apps and services but also on providing support. Client brands can efficiently use its system anywhere — from e-commerce sites to department stores — while consumers can experience the same quality of service no matter which channel they use.
As Isozaki explains, “the brands give us the color data (of their products), then once that’s registered in our service, it can be output anywhere — in stores, on their homepage, on e-commerce sites, in our apps and in articles written by the media. Also, we’ve built up an ecosystem that allows color data to be shared with department stores and drug stores. Rival companies are going to have a hard time keeping up with our system.”
Perfect Corp is now expanding its services using Amazon Web Services in Japan and other countries except China, where it uses Alibaba Cloud via a simple system transfer. Brands already using the YouCam service can easily use it in China, as long as they’re contracted. Leading brands such as Estée Lauder are already leveraging on this aspect of the service.
Some 30 brands now use Perfect Corp’s AR makeup system on China’s Tmall platform, and the company’s near-term target is for over 200 brands in China to adopt the service.
After AR: using AI for even better refinement
While Perfect Corp focuses on capturing its share of the global AR virtual makeup market, it is also looking beyond AR makeup and developing new solutions.
Up until 2018, Perfect Corp’s goal had been to “spread the freedom of selection for users as much as possible” by offering virtual makeup functions that use AR technology. In other words, it had aimed to help users on their shopping adventures — inducing them to try one more colour than they usually would have, mix and match with other products and lead them to new purchases. Isozaki now believes this form of AR makeup has become a kind of “infrastructure”, nothing more, and is developing AI tools that make brand and retailer recommendations more efficient.
One such tool is the new AI Smart Shade Finder. Built on the detection and classification of around 90,000 skin tones, this tool can precisely narrow down a range of personalized cosmetics, such as a particular foundation.
“If we can provide our client companies the skin tone data of users via this tool, they will be able to better recommend to those individual users the colors, price ranges, and coverage that best suit them and that show the special qualities of the brand,” says Isozaki. “At Perfect Corp, we want to support brands’ efforts in personalization and creating added value.”
In other words, Perfect Corp wants to leave aspects such as personalization and specific product recommendations to brands and retailers.
However, Isozaki is still eager for Perfect Corp to grow further in the beauty industry using other technologies apart from AI. “From here on, we want to try and challenge ourselves at Perfect Corp to contribute to the industry’s ecosystem through different types of state-of-the-art technologies — not just AI — and maximizing the user experience on smartphones.”
Text: Denyse Yeo
Original text (Japanese): Jonngi HA