Shashank Merothiya

Shashank Merothiya

Recent Posts

Shaping the future of Beauty Brands with Augmented Reality

Posted by Shashank Merothiya on Jun 19, 2019 4:49:00 PM

With large scale closing of stores across the US, it’s easy to believe that brick and mortar stores are in decline as online retail takes over. However, a closer look at the customer behavior reveals that:

  • 20% are online-only shoppers
  • 7% are store-only shoppers
  • 73% of shoppers use multiple channels in their shopping journey

 

This clearly implies that it is no longer about the channel being used. The line between online and offline retail is blurry, as customers are willing to switch to different channels depending upon their need and the experience they get.

That’s where the idea of ‘new retail’ comes in, bringing in a whole new level of experience for the customers by blending the digital and in-store retail experience.

One segment that’s heavily involved in leveraging the ‘new retail’ experience is the beauty industry. And their technology of choice to drive this is Augmented Reality (AR).

How Does AR Fit into the Beauty Space

Augmented reality involves blending the users’ real-time video with digital overlays to create new experiences. And that fits in perfectly with the beauty industry’s need to create a customer experience where people can try out as many products as they want, before making their final choice.

AR-enabled virtual makeup app lets buyers experience the product look on them with just screens in front of them. Eyeglasses, lipstick, eye shadow, nail colour, jewellery, even clothes - customers can try and buy entire collections without leaving the try-on screen.

virtual makeup app

Global beauty brands are currently offering a whole host of new buyer experiences powered by AR:

  • Sephora’s virtual try-on experience allows buyers to try out entire combinations of different products to view the final effect
  • Individualized hair and skin analysis based on real-time video or pictures clicked on an app, as offered by brands like Olay and Clinique, enable personalized product recommendations
  • Real-time assistance from make-up experts as users try on different products in the AR app, to suggest the right combination of products. Or even how to apply make-up products in real-time.

All of this is made possible by several significant developments around facial recognition, feature tracking and computer vision. These combine to create the advanced AR applications that almost all global beauty brands are currently investing in.

Major brands like L'Oréal and Ulta Beauty have invested heavily in AR beauty tech and acquired Modiface and GlamST respectively. Both these are tech firms that specialise in AR-powered virtual makeup app solutions, that are now working exclusively to create a whole range of proprietary AR solutions for these brands.

PerfectCorp, especially with their YouCam Makeup app is another AR giant dedicated to the beauty space. YouCam Makeup is currently powering AR virtual try-ons for several brands, alongside a few other well-known names like Memoni, FaceCake, and Holition.

Why Virtual Makeup Apps? What are the Gains?

Yes, AR is the newest kid on the block when it comes to creating exciting buyer experiences. But investment in AR based beauty tech is not simply because it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do, but rather driven by current market trends and consumer preferences.

Case in point would be data from PerfectCrop, that shows that users of YouCam Makeup app are:

  • 1.6 times more likely to purchase beauty products, as compared to those who don’t use the app
  • Spending 2.7 times more money on beauty products, compared to those who are not experiencing virtual try-on

So here’s a close look at what beauty brands stand to gain with their investment in AR:

Targeting Millennials

Millennials and Gen Z would rather take their beauty advice from a Youtube or Instagram influencer, than from a make-up advisor at a retail store. That’s reflective of the fact that they choose to trust people they have a relationship with (albeit online) or sample everything before buying anything.

Given that this demographic is digital-native, AR-enabled virtual makeup apps are the perfect way to engage them. After all, trying out entire collections without reaching out for even a tissue box, is a super convenient customer experience. And it also leads to an increased probability of purchase, as well as higher spending on cosmetics.

Brands like L'Oréal are using AR to strengthen their digital platforms and engage with millennials and Gen-Z on social platforms of their choice. As a result of this digital engagement, L'Oréal reported 50% revenues from online product sales in certain markets.

Bring Digital Experience to Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Retail success today is all about the consumer experience. While the millenials and the Gen Z are quick with the apps, there’s still a large consumer segment that does go down to the store to buy beauty products. And even for them, being able to try out the products, especially on their own skin type and tone, remains an important determinant of their final purchase.

 

 

Enabling AR mirrors at the beauty stores can offer this set of consumers the same ease and convenience in terms of sampling different products. This, combined with personalized beauty assessments and tips from in-store beauty advisors can become a novel experience for buyers. The physical store thus offers a more simplified virtual try-on experience for customers who are not that tech-savvy, while driving a similar increase in purchase and spending.

Personalized Beauty Advice

Neutrogena's Skin360 or Clinique’s Clinical Reality app can quickly analyze close up images for your skin to give you recommendations for skin care routine and products.

Beauty brands are also using AR to showcase the actual impact of a product on the users’ face or skin after months of usage. Watching your own possible transformation with the use of a particular product, rather than a generic before/after image, takes beauty personalization to a whole new level.

Because product recommendations and impact are showcased in the most customized and immediate manner, it acts as a powerful push, significantly increasing the probability of purchase.

Leveraging Individual User Data to Upsell

The increased use of AR virtual makeup apps allows beauty brands to collect data on consumers across several parameters. Skin type, tone, product preferences, make-up styles and past purchases are important data points for brands to leverage. Knowing this gives them the ability to prompt the right products to their users, that are based on their own usage history. Showcasing new launches and offers on products that are most relevant to a particular user drives increased spending on beauty products.

Challenges to Expect for Brands Investing in AR Beauty Tech

The whole concept of a virtual makeup app revolves around giving buyers a product sampling experience that’s as close as possible to the real experience. So the AR application and how it feels to the user has to be absolutely flawless, if it is to be highly adopted by users.

Two common challenges that most brands have faced so far are:

The Lagging Lipstick

AR applications have to capture video, overlay makeup at the right places on the screen, track moving features, and ensure that the overlay closely follows the right feature, all in real-time. If this is done well, you get the perfect lipstick and winged eye-liner that stays in place as you look at your face from all angles.

However, it is one of the most difficult aspects to perfect, in any AR application. If not done well, you are left with lipstick that lags behind on screen, even as you move your face. And that just breaks the whole illusion.

Getting the Right Product Sample

It’s important to get the colour and feel of each product across multiple skin types and tones just right. So the images used to create overlays have to include all different possible combinations, as well as reflect the right product texture-shimmer, glossy, matte and more.

Collating all those images is a massive undertaking, but absolutely critical if you wish to offer a great virtual try-on experience.

But challenges aside, the gains from AR-based virtual makeup apps are real, and very significant. And with an optimistic 700 million consumers using virtual try-on experiences, it’s high time your brand offered AR beauty tech to buyers. In a market where consumers are generally loyal to particular beauty brands, especially when it comes to skincare, offering engaging AR applications can be crucial to maintaining that loyalty. That, and to sustainably increase their market share.

Looking to create compelling AR-based virtual try-on experiences?

Srijan is already working with brands like Estee Lauder, leveraging the most advanced beauty tech to create custom solutions. Just drop us a line, and our team of experts will be in touch to explore how we can help.

Topics: AR/VR

xAPI: Toward ROI of Enterprise learning & development

Posted by Shashank Merothiya on Aug 29, 2018 3:24:00 PM

Enterprises spend on training in many ways. Offline, online, through learning management systems (LMSs), coaching, mentoring and so on. But often there’s no real way to track how the training has impacted the business. And if someone doesn’t seem to have learned what they were trained for, they are slotted into more training sessions. And it just continues.

But that’s now changing because enterprises now are measuring many activities and have a lot of data at hand. That can be put to use for training. 

Unleashing Data to Enable Learning

Take the example of cleaning a washroom by a janitor. The company can track when he came in, and when he signed out. And if there are sensors attached to the various soap dispensers and cleaning machines, there’s data on whether the right levels of soap were maintained, or if the machine was operated at the right settings. To gather customer feedback, you can have simple button presses to capture a Happy or Sad rating.

What has that to do with training?

Let’s say the time taken to clean a particular washroom is 10 minutes on an average. By looking at the time each janitor spends, you know who is likely to rushing through the job, and who is taking too much time. Map that to customer feedback received, and you have more realistic data to go with. And you also have information on soap levels and machine settings.

You have all this data that can tell you which janitor is doing a great job, and which one’s not. And so, who needs to be trained? And in what area, and for what purpose.

Let’s say Paul, a janitor, doesn’t ensure soap dispensers are kept at the levels prescribed. Instead of putting him through a training module that teaches him “How to Clean Washrooms”, you just create a micro-learning module for him: maybe a video that shows him exactly how to check for soap dispenser levels, and do the refills. And it’s made available on his phone. So he doesn’t have to be called in for an-person training, or log into a straight-jacketed LMS.

Did he check the module sent to him? How many times? Did he see the video? Did he see it on mute? You have data on all this, which enables your learning system to tell him what he is learning/missing.

All this can be automated, except for the micro-learning module creation, of course. So for a company that has tens of thousands of janitors across the world, training now becomes more personalized, and far more impactful.

xAPI, the Enabler

That’s the power of xAPI, or Experience API. It’s a standard that defines how you can interface any application with a system that stores learning data. So in the example above, you are interfacing the application that captures soap dispenser sensor data to pick up instances that pertain to learning, store it in a learning record store (LRS) which is then pulled in by the company’s LMS.

Any activity that can be observed or recorded can be mapped into your LMS through xAPI. So potentially anything that an enterprises has deployed by way of IT setup can be used to extract data that can be used as inputs for further learning needed. This can be the ERP, collaboration platforms, helpdesk systems, performance management systems, and so on.

That changes how the way you look at learning & development, doesn’t it? No doubt, it is a great idea to have all learning modules up on the LMS complete with quizzes and assignments, and scores to ensure people spend time on what they need to know to do their job well. But with xAPI coming into play, you don’t have to force-fit everyone into the same training module. Someone with some prior experience in the job can take an assessment test, and if she clears that, can be put on to the job right away. And then the data being captured on her work, can be reviewed to see what areas she needs to work on so she can deliver the business impact the enterprise is aiming for.

Yes, that’s right. The entire learning focus now can be zeroed in on business impact. So it could be about increasing sales or improving the bottomline. It could be ensuring safety at all times. The enterprise moves from, a broad based training scope to laser-focused micro learning moments that can reflect in the business results.

With xAPI, enterprises now have a way to measure how their learning and development efforts are tangibly impacting the topline or bottomline.

Srijan is now helping enterprises with delivering these systems that will put them squarely on the road to L&D ROI. Our teams are also working with enterprises to revamp their existing learning systems and make them more effective. 

Wish to drive greater ROI from your enterprise learning systems? Let's start the conversation and explore how Srijan can help. 

Topics: Drupal, Enterprises

Enterprise Learning Management System - The possibilities

Posted by Shashank Merothiya on Aug 22, 2018 4:09:00 PM

Enterprises have spent tremendous efforts into building learning management systems, evaluation applications, performance management and employee management systems over the past decades. These have brought in significant improvements in learning, productivity and streamlining processes.

 It is now time to unleash the power inherent in these various systems and applications, often disparate and silo-ed. It’s now time to make sense of what happens in one system, to power the information residing in another, so that the right learning can happen for the right person in the right way. It’s now time to make this happen and be firmly on the road to mapping all this to business impact: increase in sales, improvement in margins, adherence to safety, and so on.

Here's a closer look at why an integrated enterprise learning solution is important

 

Srijan is enabling one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of quality cosmetics to do this by helping them take baby steps into the world of xAPI and microlearning. Srijan started off with handling performance issues and integrations to enable better productivity, and then embarked on developing proofs of concept related to xAPI. Here’s how the journey is shaping up.

Improving the LMS performance

The Company has a number of brands and each brand has its own set of products. A few years ago, the Company had decided to build its own learning management system (LMS), as it had very specific requirements and were looking for an open source system that would be flexible, customizable and scalable enough to meet the learning requirements across the enterprise. So Drupal was chosen as the backend. The frontend was built in ReactJS. Srijan was brought in to first deliver support on the LMSs. Srijan handled performance issues and is currently enabling the migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.

Integrations to the LMS

The Company was moving from an H5P content authoring platform to Articulate facing challenges with authoring content and then uploading it to the Drupal LMS. Srijan helped them with the transition by building modules for Drupal to consume and render Articulate content. Srijan worked on integrating Articulate, a content authoring tool, to the Drupal backend and then having it appropriately render on ReactJS. Now the authors can work in Articulate and not have to worry about uploading to the LMS and have intense testing to see if the content is getting rendered correctly or now.

Integrating a Learning Record Store with Drupal

The Learning Record Store is at the heart of an xAPI setup. It stores the data about learning and achievement for each employee. When a user interacts on the LMS, the interactions can be captured via the xAPI protocol and stored in the LRS. Srijan completed a POC for this as well for the Company.

Some of the interactions being captured include:

  1. User interacted with the content
  2. User experience content
  3. User passed
  4. User failed

Some of the more complex interactions that can be captured involve the following:

  1. User mutes a video
  2. User skips a video
  3. User read part of the content etc

Integration of Articulate Content in Drupal with LRS

Articulate already supports xAPI, so once the content authored in Articulate is exported into Drupal, the content is rendered with the xAPI-driven data capturing in place. This is then pulled into the LRS. Srijan developed this POC to demonstrate how the LRS would get populated with interactions on Articulate content.

Creating a Microlearning Platform

The Company has data about an employee of two different systems. One is the LMS, and the other is the evaluation system. Both have Drupal as the backend and the frontend built in ReactJS. There is a middleware Java layer. The Company operates in various countries of the world, and has several Regions managing these countries. Each brand in a region has its own LMS, and each region has its own evaluation system.

So far, an employee gets evaluated by her supervisor and that information is stored in the Evaluation system. And it may or may not get translated into training specific to the employee’s performance. For example, if her evaluation report says she needs to improve her Communication skills, she could be asked to go through the Communication module again. Or be put into another Communication offline training.

However, in such a system, there is little attention on what her real learning needs are. It could be that she is very good with some parts of Communication, and not so much with other parts. Figuring out which parts, and then designing the right learning module for her becomes key in these ways:

  • The employee doesn’t have to waste time learning things she already is well versed with
  • The employee can be asked to simply get her learning for the specific areas, through snackable content like short videos, interactive quizzes, animations, etc.

 

How do we get to this?

Create a quiz to identify the proficiency level of the employee on the learning platform. This can be done by pulling out questions from various proficiency levels. People who do well with the questions, can be given questions from higher proficiency. This identifies the specific area the employee needs training on.  

The e-learning authoring team can then look at the existing content and create snackable pieces of content that will work well for this employee. It could be a short video, a small example, an animation, a flash card, and so on. This content is made available on the learning platform which serves content in micro formats. Hence it is called a micro learning platform

The platform can then have the algorithms in place to see how this content is being consumed. For example:

  • Did the employee complete the module?
  • Did she view the video fully? If she viewed it in mute, then an alert can go to her to remind her to view it with speakers on.  
  • Did she view the graphic?

And so on.

Once the module has been completed, the trainer can evaluate her again and see if the proficiency level has improved.

All this information is being captured and stored in the LRS. This can be used to get insights to what she has learnt, how well has she learnt it.

Srijan has built a microlearning platform as a POC for the Company to see how all this works. It is also built using the Drupal-ReactJS stack. Once this is approved, it can be scaled up, and eventually integrated with the LMS. 

The Road Ahead

The next POCs that Srijan will do involve creating the reports in and out of the LRS. Once there is enough data in the LRS, Srijan will also be working on creating advanced reports about the learning performance.

The analytics can give insights for each user, brand, region and group. So there’s information about who consumed what kind of learning, and this can be scaled up across the enterprise. Map this to data around business impact, for example, sales. And you would be able to showcase this on a dashboard using xAPI pulling data from LRSs and the ERP system tracking sales numbers for each region/brand.

The Company can also get analytics about the learning content being produced. For example, if there’s a module that people are dropping off from mid-way, what could be the reason? If a video is being watched on mute by nearly all viewers, is there a problem with its audio? The content authoring team can thus identify which pieces need modification, so better consumption can take place among learners.

We've been working closely with global enterprises to modernize their learning ecosystems, whether it's by upgrading existing systems or intertwining them with emerging technologies like xAPI, chatbots, VR and more.

Wish to drive greater ROI from your enterprise learning systems? Let's start the conversation and explore how Srijan can help. 

Topics: Enterprises

Wireframes: The what, why and how

Posted by Shashank Merothiya on Jul 13, 2016 2:04:00 PM

What is a wireframe?

A wireframe is a stripped-down visual representation of key elements on an app/website/product in development. It is used by UX designers to define the hierarchy of items on a page and communicate what the items on that page should be, based on user needs. Wireframes also show how users flow through the interface.

Wireframes might vary in their level of detailing, but should generally reflect the designer's ideas about the placement of elements on the page and where the user can interact with the site.

Why do we need wireframes?


A wireframe’s function is to display necessary page elements in an orderly arrangement. Wireframes are useful for a number of reasons:

  • The wireframe is used as a reference point for functional specifications. A developer can refer to the wireframe when he needs to check for functional aspects like what elements would be there and what content is required.
  • Wireframes give visual designers a basis to begin creating screens. Designers generally use wireframes as a basis for all the creative designs that they will come up with. Without a wireframe, it becomes difficult to explore an idea without having to change and chop a lot, which can often be difficult in Photoshop.
  • Wireframes can be vetted by stakeholders to gain consensus, before moving them to graphics, and finally, coding. All placements can be mostly frozen at this stage.
  • This makes it much easier to communicate the functionality that is going to be built to stakeholders, without also having to wrestle with visual design elements or branding at this stage. It also works as a good way of reducing risk by allowing revisions at an early stage, ensuring that the subsequent design time is well spent.                                                                                                                                                                                      Why do we need wireframes?

An example of how a wireframe helps portray basic elements in a UI


How to create wireframes?


The best way to start with wireframing is to sketch using pen and paper. You do not need to be an artist to sketch well. However, if using software is a must, or if a designer categorically fears putting pen to paper, like me, then worry not. There are many tools available to ease the pain and do a great job!

You can try a lot of software applications that have been designed to make the process faster through reusable common UI components. Tools like Balsamiq, Lucidchart and IndigoStudio do the job well.

Keep in mind that the goal of this exercise is NOT to DESIGN a page but to wireframe it. The time should be spent on providing a practical representation of the page rather than making it pixel perfect. A tool that can help achieve that goal in the shortest amount of time qualifies as a good one.

Content


Lorem Ipsum might work well in some scenarios, but it should also be kept in mind what sort of information the user would need to see on the page, and what type of language should be used for calls to action. The content may not be the final version, but a close approximation will help with designing the layout well. Many designs fail because there is either no content taken into consideration, or too much—and in fact the real content could turn out to be entirely different.

Content

                                 This is generic and doesn’t allow me to tackle the large content-set issueWith real content, I can now solve the problem of large content sets

                                With real content, I can now solve the problem of large content sets


Layout


Does the page need to be responsive? Will a grid system be followed? What are the resolutions on which the site will display?

These questions should be answered in order to create a layout that works for the users. There is no point getting into a situation where the layout itself doesn’t work. The wireframe will not serve any purpose then.

What is a “good” wireframe?


A wireframe is only useful and valuable if its form matches its function as well.

Incidentally, it is often assumed that there are MANY versions of a good wireframe, but for good designers there aren’t too many good options. In fact, the basics of a good wireframe almost always boil down to the following aspects:

  • It should represent the layout and positioning clearly
  • It should not be overpowered by design elements and should only display elements as they should be laid out
  • It should clearly state what content will be displayed
  • It should have call outs in order to describe interactions or different states on the UI
  • It should clearly state the actions on the page
  • It should state the exit points from the page

What is a “good” wireframe?                              Bad Wireframe                                                                         Good Wireframe

Endnote

 

Wireframes are the starting point of any good design exercise. They help the client prepare a mental model of what he/she is going to get later. Wireframing is the first step that helps clarify the thought process, leading to a better and cleaner design.

Wireframing is certainly not rocket science, but if a few principles are followed religiously, it could make the difference between an exceptional designer and a good one. ;)

Topics: User Experience and User Interface

Discussion

Write to us

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms Of Service apply. By submitting this form, you agree to our Privacy Policy.

See how our uniquely collaborative work style, can help you redesign your business.

Contact us