L’Oréal Group’s technology incubator has partnered with neuroscience company Emotiv to help customers find the best fragrance according to their wishes.
L’Oréal has partnered with Emotiv to launch a new headset device that helps consumers make accurate and personalized choices around their favorite scent. The Emotive headphones will be available for the first time in YSL flagship stores in several undisclosed countries, starting in late 2022 and expanding throughout 2023.
The company’s tech incubator has released devices for makeup, skincare and hair, but fragrances are particularly tough, according to Guive Balooch, head of the L’Oréal tech incubator. When someone is shopping for a fragrance, their olfactory sense can run out quickly, preventing them from actually smelling a perfume. It is one of the reasons why perfumery counters sometimes offer a plate of coffee beans to smell, as a sort of olfactory cleanser like a sorbet between courses.
“This is the technology that meets humanity,” said Balooch. “It is a difficult process to find the right fragrance and we hope to help you [customers do so] with this technology “.
When visiting a YSL store, customers will receive fragrance advice wearing an EEG-based multisensor headset that measures neuron responses and matches them with fragrance preferences. EEG, which stands for electroencephalography, non-invasively measures electrical activity in the form of brain waves on the scalp. The headset uses machine learning algorithms that interpret the EEG. While wearing the headphones, customers smell the fragrances of the proprietary perfume families, while the headphones accurately detect and track their behavior, preferences, stress and attention level in a real-world context. EEG technology has become more consumer-oriented in recent years; it has been applied to meditation, sleep and play.
To realize this fragrance experience, L’Oréal and Emotiv have developed 14 distinct fragrance groups, called accords, such as “woody” and “floral”. These agreements correspond to YSL Beauty’s fragrance portfolio of approximately 45 perfumes. Customers answer an eight-question quiz that asks qualitative questions about which textures, materials and types of fragrances they prefer. Next, the questionnaire will suggest 4-6 agreements and a customer will put on the headset to smell them. The EEG earphone shows a neuroemotional map to the consumer via a digital pad. It highlights the decreases and increases in brain wave activity and how they correspond to emotions such as happiness and calm. Customers are then shown up to four recommended fragrances based on their emotional neuro map, helping to eliminate a paradox of choice.
The fragrance was a new challenge for L’Oréal’s technological incubator. To provide recommendations, he had to translate an emotional and qualitative experience into a quantitative algorithm. Balooch said the incubator worked with Emotiv on the technology for 15 months. Among the challenges was the fact that fragrance accords weren’t an early part of the design. Initially, the gadget’s fragrance recommendations did not match the score across the test groups, so the team consulted with in-house perfumers and fragrance creators, leading to the conclusion that agreements are important for improving algorithm recommendations.
This in-store experience also allows YSL Beauty to provide a level of personalization without altering its fragrance assortment. According to L’Oréal surveys, over 77% of consumers want their fragrance to bring emotional benefits. Through a blind test, L’Oréal also found that people link various emotions, including happiness and relaxation, to their olfactory preferences. And more than half of consumers aged 12 to 34 said they choose a fragrance based on their mood. A sub-category of perfumes, called functional fragrances, first emerged around 2019, claiming to offer fragrances as mood enhancers and stress relievers.
“There are thousands of fragrance options and we know it can be difficult for consumers to navigate the vast number of fragrances and choose what is right for them,” said Stephan Bezy, international gm at YSL Beauty. “Through this immersive system, we have been able to provide 95% of people with the right fragrance, customized according to their needs and desires, which is vastly superior than without this technology. It’s a huge first step in this category. Once we know which fragrances make people feel happy, energized or other emotions, we can customize the fragrances even more. The potential is limitless. “
This is the second L’Oréal technology incubation device that YSL Beauty has adopted. The first, called Perso, is a customizable lipstick dispenser for home use. Notably, the Emotiv headset is intended to stay in stores and is not available for purchase. It also doesn’t require customers to adopt a new daily habit, unlike typical beauty tech devices.
“There is a huge potential for innovation when it comes to fragrances, especially with the wellness trend. Fragrances are an emotional process. It’s about trust and how we feel. It’s not just about how we look, “said Balooch.” We are in a sea of choices and options in the world and we need to know which ones are right for us. The only way to do that is through technology that really works. “