Last year, L'Oréal launched an app called Makeup Genius to let women virtually try on cosmetics. Hold your smartphone up to your face like a mirror, and the face looking back might have deep red lips and dark eyes for the red carpet, or subtle shades for the office, depending on what products you choose. Even if you move around, the virtual makeup stays in the right places, like looking in a real mirror.
China has been a massive market for the app, bringing 4.7 million of its total 14 million downloads. That's partly because of the size of the country's internet population: 668 million people, with 594 million of those going online with mobile devices, according to official figures from the China Internet Network Information Center. And it's also because it allows curious young women to try out heavier makeup, which is still uncommon in China.
"Girls in China can be shy to apply makeup if they are at the counter or if they are going out with friends -- they don't want to put on very dark lipstick, very dark eye shadow," said Asmita Dubey, chief marketing officer for L'Oréal China.
"There's no culture of makeup passed down from mom to daughter that has been there for years, so for a girl like that to get a virtual experience and try some new looks, that's something she wants to do," said Ms. Dubey, honored as one of Ad Age's 2015 Women to Watch China for promoting innovations in mobile marketing for China's No. 1 skin-care player and second-biggest advertiser.
Outside China's most developed cities, where foreign makeup brands can be hard to find in shops, the app also offers a chance to experience the brand and buy online, Ms. Dubey said. Shoppers can share the looks on their social media through all-purpose app WeChat or use their smartphone to purchase any of the products on Alibaba's e-commerce platform, Tmall.
Ms. Dubey previously led the L'Oréal team at Mindshare Shanghai, where she was managing director of Team L'Oréal. She was hired by the client two years ago to head L'Oréal's marketing efforts in China. Before that, she had worked at agencies in India and China for 16 years.
As China's leading skin care marketer, L'Oréal had a 12% value share in a fragmented category last year and was also the top cosmetics company, with a 32% share, according to Euromonitor International. In competitive categories, where local and Korean brands are getting stronger, L'Oréal is successfully tapping into China's e-commerce boom.