It has been nearly a year since Hue, the technology company that blends AI technology and an online community by pairing users with similar skin tones and types, was awarded the Project Connect grant for its innovative approach to bridging the gap between technology and human touch.
The purpose-driven company addresses the lack of representation in beauty and works to bring inclusivity to the market through its community of “Hue Twins,” who are real people that share the same skin tone, skin type, purchase history or beauty preferences as the beauty shoppers they are connected with. Hue is the first company to use a predictive algorithm to match a beauty shopper to real people like them through its Hue Twins concept. Consumers are matched with Hue Twins by taking an online, in-depth questionnaire that covers a wide range of beauty-relevant attributes, including makeup and skin care preferences, hair color, eye color, and specific skin characteristics.
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“For one shade, there could be Hue Twins from different ethnicities and genders — such as a Latina woman and an Asian man — which drives a powerful narrative around skin tone and inclusivity,” said Nicole Clay, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Hue and former director of marketing at L’Oreal. “We believe inclusivity in beauty means more than 50 foundation shades — seeing people of different ethnicities, genders, and ages matters, seeing people with acne or rosacea matters.”
Currently, the Hue Twins community includes over 1,300 microinfluencers across all ages, skin tones, skin types, gender identities, and more. According to the company, the community is continuing to grow rapidly, sometimes doubling month over month. Hue is tapping into the millions of beauty microinfluencers, citing data that microinfluencers are capable of generating 22 times higher conversion rates than other types of influencers, given that consumers trust “real people with smaller audiences that the creator engages with more authentically.”
It’s a sort of “Netflix for beauty,” said the three founders of Hue, referencing the way users receive recommendations through a percentage match based on “people like you.” For example, a user could see that “86 percent of your Hue Twins recommend this product.”
“Hue’s mission is to empower every beauty shopper to find the perfect products for their unique skin tone, skin characteristics, and preferences. Since winning the Project Connect grant, the company’s vision has progressed beyond makeup,” said Janvi Shah, cofounder and chief executive officer of Hue and prior product lead on Google Photos. “We see a huge opportunity to bring the concept of shopping with real people like you across all categories such as skin care, hair care, and more. Using our predictive matching algorithm and Hue Twins, Hue is bringing the best of technology and social shopping to beauty brands and retailers.”
Sylvan Guo, cofounder and chief operations officer of Hue and former lead of performance marketing teams at Tubi, told WWD she would break down the benefits of Hue Twins content in three ways. First, providing education and reviews for the consumer on the brand’s website as a conversion driver. Second, UGC content as a top-of-funnel awareness driver. And third, UGC content for performance marketing as a sales driver.
“From my days in performance marketing, we used to say content is king, and getting authentic and well-performing content is really hard for brands,” said Guo.
This month, Hue launched its empowering solution with Credo Beauty and Lawless beauty.
With both Credo Beauty and Lawless beauty, Nicole Clay, cofounder and chief marketing officer of Hue, told WWD there was an amazing partnership because of a shared commitment to inclusivity and a willingness to innovate. In consumer feedback, taken from hundreds of customer tests, over 90 percent of shoppers said they feel more confident that they had found the right shade using Hue.
“Skin is deeply personal, and Lawless is proud to partner with Hue,” said Michael McNeil, chief marketing officer at Lawless Beauty. “The team shares an unwavering commitment to excellence, diversity and inclusion while delivering a consumer experience that is second to none. I look forward to continuing our partnership and am proud to be a part of their beta launch. [Hue’s founders] are visionaries, and I cannot wait to see how they continue to influence the industry.”
“Working with like-minded entrepreneurs has been one of the most rewarding parts of building Credo,” said Annie Jackson, cofounder and chief operating officer of Credo Beauty. “In this case, we are partnering with a women-founded company that is bringing to life both complexion inclusivity and real, authentic engagement in the beauty community, which is totally aligned with who Credo is. The technology Hue has created is fun and relatable, and we are incredibly excited to unveil this partnership to the Credo consumer.”
“Before Hue, we were searching for fresh ways to help consumers do the seemingly impossible — shade match online,” said McNeil. “In a sea of complexion quizzes, AR makeup filters, and shade charts, Hue has been nothing short of a breath of fresh air.”
And for Lawless Beauty, McNeil said, the magic behind Hue is multifaceted.
“Hue has finally generated a way to easily determine whether a complexion product is right for you based on multiple real-life users who share your skin tone and skin type,” said McNeil. “[And] Hue is the only shade-matching solution I have seen where consumers of multiple ethnicities and skin types are represented within the same shade. It is the only truly diverse and inclusive shade matching solution on the market.”
According to Guo, the partnerships are already seeing strong engagement across both e-commerce sites.
“The Hue app is one of the most-clicked parts of the product page, and we’re seeing a significant lift in sales, driven by increased conversions from customers who find their Hue Twin match,” said Guo. “What is most compelling is that Hue Twin assets on social media are performing better than other content pieces on social channels, and we’ve had overwhelmingly emotional reactions from the beauty community because the content is seen as so authentic.”
Sheena McIntyre, director of private label at Credo Beauty and brand director at Exa Beauty, applauded Hue’s unique approach to shade matching. “The idea of a Hue twin is smart because when customers can see how a real person like them looks in the product they are shopping for, it gives them the confidence to check out online. With 43 shades of Foundation at Exa, we knew we needed to offer a customer a more representative tool to find their shade match. We know Hue will help drive conversion, increase customer loyalty, and most importantly, innovate the beauty space.”
From launching with the new partners, Clay said it has become clear that the “biggest secret in the beauty industry is that no one has solved shade matching — every brand has this issue. Conversion rates in complexion are low, less than 1 to 2 percent on average, while return rates often exceed 15 percent, with the majority of returns due to poor shade matches. There is a huge opportunity to get it right for both customers and brands.”
Bringing the partnership between Credo Beauty and Hue straight to the consumer, the companies will soon hold in-person events in six cities (Dallas, Chicago, Boston, New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles), which will invite shoppers and influencers to try the Hue shade-matching experience. These participants will be invited to join the Hue Twin community.
Looking ahead, Guo, Shah and Clay said they are excited to partner with more color makeup and skin care brands.
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