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08/25/2021

Sephora Applies New AI Technology for Inclusive Color IQ Relaunch

RIS talks with Sephora about the AI tech developed in-house to help all its customers find their best foundation match, as part of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion commitments.
Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor
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Sephora's proprietary skintone system spans beyond its current foundation assortment with five times the number of skin tone colors than it had before.

Sephora has unveiled its latest endeavor to help all its customers find their best foundation match, as part of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) commitments. The beauty retailer will relaunch its in-store Sephora Color iQ foundation matching service, featuring new artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

The move is a significant overhaul to Sephora's former technology, the retailer tells RIS. The relaunch, which will be rolling out late September, was developed by Sephora's team of in-house experts, who redesigned every single aspect of the system, from the user experience to the back-end systems. The system was made "smarter" with AI technology, which Sephora didn’t have prior.  

“At Sephora, our priority is to always keep our clients top of mind, and we’re thrilled to relaunch Color IQ with new AI technology to make foundation matching easier and smarter than ever," Nelly Mensah, senior director, store experience & digital product tells RIS. "We know how challenging finding the right shade can be. We’ve created a new and inclusive color matching technology in-house with which we’re able to match an infinite number of skin tones accurately thanks to computer vision and personalization AI."

Current shade matching in the industry only accounts for depth and undertone, while Sephora's new Color iQ technology accounts for depth, undertone, and saturation to recommend the best products that closely match customers' skin tones.  This not only helps Sephora match more accurately, but also allows the retailer to match a more diverse range of skin tones, e.g. more muted or olive-toned.

One of the biggest changes Sephora implemented includes how the skin is scanned with a special lens that leverages AI (computer vision). This new way of scanning accounts for attributes such as redness, freckles, hairs, etc. While the tech was developed in-house, Sephora worked with a third-party vendor who provided the scanning hardware.

The new Color iQ leverages a cutting-edge proprietary algorithm that provides customers with a dataset of 10K-plus skin tones, suitable across all shade ranges. Sephora currently offers 8k-plus foundation SKUs, and with the help of this AI-based tool, the retailer's in-store beauty advisors can help shoppers of all skin tones find their perfect match in minutes.

"Our proprietary skintone system strategically spans beyond our current foundation assortment with five times the number of skin tone colors than it had before," says Mensah. "Ultimately, our goal is to continue to offer our clients the seamless shopping experience they have come to love and expect from us.”

In addition to the upcoming Color iQ relaunch, Sephora has also now opened applications for Sephora Accelerate 2022. This program creates a foundation, network, and ecosystem for brands to launch and thrive, and will continue to focus on Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-founded and owned brands as part of Sephora’s commitment to increasing BIPOC representation in its assortment. The program will continue to offer a robust curriculum to Accelerate members, which includes mentorship, merchandising support, potential funding, and investor connections with the goal of providing founders support for their launch and long-term growth at Sephora.

Sephora also unveiled its first-ever Black-owned brands campaign to further recognize and celebrate the contributions that Black culture and Black innovators have made to the beauty industry. The campaign follows the launch earlier this month of a short statement film called “Black Beauty is Beauty” and highlights Black-owned brands and founders, including PATTERN by Tracee Ellis Ross, Briogeo, adwoa beauty, BREAD BEAUTY SUPPLY, Fenty Beauty, Forvr Mood, PAT McGRATH LABS, LYS Beauty, Danessa Myricks Beauty and Fashion Fair.

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