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COTY Leans Into AR To Drive Sales

By Vishal Badiani, Creative Strategy Lead in MENA, Snap Inc.

From a business perspective, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being most acutely felt by retailers, and the brands that so heavily rely on them to drive sales. Not only are customers less willing, in some cases even less able, to visit malls and stores, but the way they interact with products and shop assistants has changed – the intimate and informative in-store experience has been completely disrupted, and this is affecting sales adversely.

COTY, one of biggest beauty players in the world, was the first to recognise this. Their core business is fragrance and make-up, with more than 77 brands including: Gucci, Burberry, Bourjois and Wella. The beauty brands, namely Bourjois, Max Factor and Rimmel, rely heavily on selling through different ‘physical’ or bricks-and-mortar stores, such as Sephora, Lifestyle and Faces; they also sell online via Namshi, noon and Amazon, but the overall share of online sales has historically been relatively small.

Like the rest of the beauty category, COTY knows that beauty sales in-store depend on visibility and access to tester products, which a beauty assistant often explains and promotes. However, testers are no longer allowed in-store, in an attempt to limit opportunities to spread the virus. So how can shoppers buy, if they’re not able to try? They asked Snapchat if there was a way to re-imagine trial, which removes the need to physically touch or interact with a tester, POS display or beauty assistant.

The solution not only delivered a safer and comparable experience, but thanks to Snapchat’s reach across the region, was far more scalable too. It centered around Augmented Reality (AR), a technology which Snapchat has been pioneering for over 9 years. AR is often misunderstood and dismissed by naysayers as a fad or gimmick, but we predict a future where AR interacts with the physical world around users, and overlays useful information onto the world. After all, why should we have to stare downwards and type through our thumbs when we want information, if we can keep our heads up, and simply point our camera at whatever we’re interested in?


COTY decided to lean into this expertise and vision to develop in-store AR product trial experiences. 17 lenses were developed for Bourjois, Max Factor and Rimmel. The attention to detail in matching the actual product was key. Highlighting different products to create different effects with 8 different shades available on the Lipstick or Foundation Lenses. And finally, the fact that we had our beauty advisors as ambassadors, with snapcode keychains and highly-visible in-store displays. All the Lenses became widely available and shoppers can unlock the Snapcodes across the MENA region in retailers like Lifestyle, Carrefour and LuLu Hypermarket.

“It was an amazing way to get around the try-on challenge and blend the digital and in-store experience, and the results so far have been outstanding, especially in Saudi Arabia where Snapchat has the highest potential reach for our core target. The next step is to use the lenses to also support our online sales.” – Alice Bézirard, Media Leader at Coty Inc.

In short, we enabled shoppers to test COTY products, on their own faces, by simply pointing their phones at in-store Snapcodes. And the results are speaking for themselves. 18% of total sales came from customers who used the AR lens.

The conversion rate was very high with 62% of those who used the AR lens ending up buying a product. The activity also scaled, with over 350K people reached within the first 3 months, thanks to people using and sharing their AR experience. COTY expected the Lenses to represent 5% of sales, across UAE/KSA – but it’s actually more than 10% in UAE, and 4X times higher in Saudi. AR is not only how COTY is now actually converting shoppers, but it’s also creating a special experience which is both memorable and encouraging sales of shades they may not have tried otherwise.

“We are delighted with the results, it was crucial to continue to adapt and respond to the challenges of COVID-19 in order to deliver the best experience. For others looking to try AR, I would say, keep it simple. Less is always more when it comes to Lens experiences. And pick a platform where you can reach your audience in the right frame of mind, at scale – for us, that was definitely Snapchat. If you’re not seeing ideas like this, you need to push your agencies to start thinking differently and proposing the right ideas for the new reality.” – Alice Bézirard , Media Leader at Coty Inc.

Here’s the detailed Case Study:

Re-inventing product trial in a post-lockdown world.

Product trial is the most important part of the in store-purchasing journey for make-up. In a post-lockdown world, one key challenge emerged: how can we re-invent the trial experience to ensure consumers can test the products in-store without posing any health concerns?

The Solution:

Partnering with COTY, who have beauty brands like Bourjois, MaxFactor and Rimmel, Snapchat created 17 unique Lens experiences bringing to life different products using AR. Making it easier than ever to try on mascara, foundation or lipstick. Snap codes were applied to their respective products in-store and all a future customer had to do to “try it on” was to scan!

The Results:

The AR experience was very successful where 18%2 of the total sales came from customers who used the AR lens. The conversion rate was high with 62%2 of those using the AR lens ending up buying the product. The activity also saw scale with over 350K1 reached within its first 3 months thanks to people using and sharing their AR experience.


1. Play time, Total Reach based on Snap Inc. internal data, May 15, 2020 – August 15, 2020.
2. COTY Middle East FZCO Internal Data, August 2020