Beauty Boost: Duty-Free Shopping Now Includes Virtual Makeovers


Illustration by Barbará Malagoli

APEX Insight: Trying on makeup or accessories with the help of technology gives customers on the go a glimpse of what could be their reality.

Way back in 2014, a description of the shops in the then newly renovated Queen’s Terminal at London Heathrow Airport made mention of the Sunglass Hut store, which had a “magic mirror” that allowed customers to try on frames through virtual technology. 

That mirror was part of a series of in-store photo kiosks featuring the brand’s Social Sun software, which not only lets customers try on sunglasses, but makes it easy for them to share photos of themselves sporting the shades on their social networks and get input (or snarky comments) from friends. Other brands are now using similar technologies, says Raymond Kollau of Airline Trends, “It is about time more airport retailers start experimenting as well.”

Last fall, a month-long Lancôme holiday pop-up shop in Terminal 3 at Singapore Changi Airport invited travelers to test eye, lip and cheek makeup using an augmented reality (AR) makeover app called Virtual Mirror. Promoted as a worldwide travel retail exclusive, the AR makeup app also lets customers try looks created by Lancôme experts.

Flagship stores for Lancôme and Chanel in the recently opened Terminal 2 at South Korea’s Incheon International Airport are using virtual and interactive technologies to demonstrate new products as well. 

Those perusing duty-free offerings in airports will likely soon have more – and more sophisticated – AR experiences at cosmetics counters: Lancôme’s parent company, L’Oréal, which owns 34 international brands, just bought ModiFace, a Canadian AR and artificial intelligence company that focuses on the beauty industry.

Once in the air, passengers may soon be able to continue sampling and buying cosmetics using virtual reality (VR) systems, much like the ones being tested by Qantas and Air France for entertainment.

“Imagine shopping for duty-free products and booking hotel rooms or buying tickets for a show that you just witnessed, all in 3-D.” – Nikolas Jaeger, Inflight VR

The captive audience on board an aircraft paired with VR technology opens massive opportunities to drive ancillary revenues, Nikolas Jaeger, founder and CEO of Inflight VR, says.

“Imagine shopping for duty-free products and booking hotel rooms or buying tickets for a show that you just witnessed, all in 3-D,” Jaeger says. “For cosmetics in particular, buying from virtual shops in VR and trying them on before you buy them in AR can be quite a powerful combination.”  

“Beauty Boost” was originally published in the 8.3 June/July issue of APEX Experience magazine.