Leadership

L’Oreal CEO: Beauty’s future will be more about technology, quality, formulation and individualization

Marlene Awaad | Bloomberg | Getty Images

It's fair to say that digitalization has shaken up industries across the globe as of late.

The technological age brings both advantages and disadvantages, whether that is concerns over automation or the shift of consumer spending to different sectors — it's a movement that's keeping business leaders on their toes.

Chief executive of cosmetics giant L'Oreal Jean-Paul Agon welcomes digitalization with open arms, telling CNBC that he remains optimistic on what technology can bring.

When it comes to predicting where the future of the beauty industry is going however, Agon admits that it's difficult to know specifically what's coming, yet in any case, he wants L'Oreal to stay informed and ahead of the curve.

"We really believe at L'Oreal in science and technology," the CEO and chairman told CNBC, explaining how the cosmetics giant is currently spending a considerable amount of money on research and development.

"I think the future of beauty will be more and more about technology, about quality, about formulation, about individualization, about digitalization, about responding to specific needs."

Jean-Paul Agon, chief executive officer of L’Oreal SA
Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Jean-Paul Agon, chief executive officer of L’Oreal SA

Speaking on an episode of "The CNBC Conversation", the chief executive explained how the company had transformed over the past five to 10 years, when it comes to digital.

According to Agon, L'Oreal was "the first in 2010 to perceive the digital tsunami" that would transform the beauty industry.

"We have moved very fast, transformed the company very fast. We are considered today as the most advanced, digitally advanced company in the beauty industry and we want to keep this advantage," Agon said, adding that the cosmetics group was "working on all fronts" to maintain its speed.

Commenting on two specific developments, L'Oreal's boss discussed how consumers were becoming more interested in products containing natural ingredients, in addition to the rise of personalization.

"We are even launching some new products that are, I would say, almost 100 percent natural. Natural ingredients, natural formula, has biodegradability, recycling and recycled packaging," Agon explained.

When it comes to personalization and digitalization, not only has the group acquired a number of brands to expand its portfolio in international markets, L'Oreal has also showcased a number of products that are customized to consumers' tastes.

"I think that we're entering into a new world and it's going to be fascinating." -Jean-Paul Agon, L'Oreal CEO and chairman

At the 2017 Viva Technology conference, L'Oreal unveiled Lancôme's Le Teint Particulier custom made foundation, technology which "precisely matches" the make-up to a person's skin tone. The French corporate also showed off the world's "first" smart hairbrush, the Kérastase Hair Coach. L'Oreal recently introduced Makeup Genius, a virtual makeup tester app as well.

And it's not the only one seeing these topics as popular trends to look out for. In Mintel's "Global Beauty and Personal Care Trends 2018" report, the market researcher pinpointed a number of subjects that would end up having an impact on the industry going forward.

"The beauty and personal care market will experience a fundamental shift during 2018," said Vivienne Rudd, director of global innovation and insight for beauty and personal care at Mintel, in a statement published in November.

"In the coming year and beyond, the beauty industry will navigate the conflicting demands of the 'naturals-hungry' consumer with shrinking natural resources and it will be through harnessing biotech advantages that a new generation of enhanced natural products is created."

L'Oreal SA Looks To Africa With New Hair Care Research Laboratory
Waldo Swiegers | Bloomberg | Getty Images
L'Oreal SA Looks To Africa With New Hair Care Research Laboratory

In addition, Mintel predicted that personalization would "reach new heights" as brands try and embrace total inclusivity.

Looking at ethics, the research firm said it would be vital for companies to have a personality that's "genuine" to consumers, while digital technology would try and make shopping more personal to customers.

Although the digital age puts some industries on edge, Agon has found the past three years to be "the most exciting" of all the 40 years he's worked at the company because of the emergence of new technology.

"I think that we're entering into a new world and it's going to be fascinating. And it's true that at L'Oréal we really want to be the pioneers of this new age, this new world," said Agon.

"So in terms of digital, in terms of artificial intelligence, in terms of fast prototyping, in terms of everything, we want to be leading the front."

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