I don’t get hot under the collar very often. I take things, pretty much, in my stride. With my accumulated years comes experience…it’s easier to observe the latest ‘thing’ taking its natural course – either becoming adopted far and wide or fizzling out and we all settle back in to the previous status quo. But when I see a contrivance that preys on a person’s vulnerabilities in order to sell something to them, I do then feel the heat building around my collar.

Jumping to conclusions is not my style. We named our new publishing company, Percolate Media, as a nod to how we approach making business decisions. Naturally we make a few snap “let’s do it” and “nope, not us” choices along the way, but looking into subjects and researching is important for us, as esprit evolves.

SO. I was recently asked to acquaint myself with an app. To do this I was required to spend about five minutes inputting some details about my skin’s current state; an instantaneous, automatic diagnosis delivered a product prescription and from this the brand could courier the items over to me to use and improve my skin. An efficient service. To a member of the beauty industry. My ‘user experience’ done and dusted. I slept on it.

I woke up with an uncomfortable feeling lodged in my gut. This feeling began the night before when the app delivered its instant, personalised result on the state of my skin, followed by the customised prescription of products to buy. OK for me with the courier on its way. But for the general public using the app – a younger millennial or Gen Z – they need to click onto the products and place their order to receive the products through the post. I had become uncomfortable in my gut early in the five-minute, so-called diagnostic process. It hit when I received the two-word description of my skin’s state along with a low grading (the lower the better). Not bad. But it seemed blunt and a little impersonal.

As I note earlier, I can take things in my stride. But what about the general public…a consumer? Imagine them in the privacy … aloneness…of their bathroom, and they get a diagnosis that hits them in their gut, like mine did. And then add to this the prescription of products that ‘will empower them to take control of their skincare concerns’ … for around $100-$120.

Really? Is that what we’ve come down to in skincare analysis? While the app does make reference to not taking away from professional services and consultations, what is the point of it then? To make a fast buck. Rather than empower a person, it just may trigger a jolt in confidence or even a mental health issue.

With our digital age, these impersonal connections are easily possible, but are they the way we, as an industry, want to take them? With a diagnostic app there’s no hand holding, no eye contact, none of the nuances of face-to-face conversation, no tone of voice, no brain busily processing all this and making up its mind, no intuition and no emotion. This dance of mental processing and physical touch that builds trust, or otherwise, is a key part of our Beauty Advisor consultations that are the soul of our relationships with the people we call our valued customers.

Technology should evolve of course, but today’s global, grumbling distrust of a few brands’ and social sites’ business models, is brewing for a reason. Apps and social media are engineered to prey on our feelings about community’s approval. They are built to capture people’s eyes and have slotmachine-like features geared to be addictive. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are indicators – ‘a like’ or an emoji heart – that we get addicted to counting. Pretty harmless when compared to an app suggestion of a personalised prescription that sees you reaching for your credit card to buy over a hundred bucks worth of products that will last you a month or so, before you repeat your purchase. What if your app customer hasn’t got a credit card or can’t afford it? Bittersweet.

Long live the human touch…the faceto-face consultations that our stalwart Beauty Advisors, Pharmacy Owners and Assistants enter into every day. Tens of times a day they guide a kind of show and tell as their Livin’ Doll shares her personal information. And then, only then, does she receive her personalised prescription which will be introduced to her with products being applied to the back of her hand. Only through this touchy-feely, two-way experience does your guest transition to a paying customer. To be treasured.

Andrea xx

Feature image courtesy of iStock

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