How computers can make you look good – Ipsy
Last Monday (14th of September) the beauty products start-up Ipsy of YouTube celebrity Michelle Phan raised about 100 million dollars.
Even though being an online celebrity with almost 8 million subscribers (Youtube, 2015) gives you a great edge in starting up a beauty company, it was not because of Michelle that they raised this dazzling amount of money. For a long time already, beauty and fashion startups are trying to create software that learns and anticipates on what people want to wear. Ipsy believes the future is super-intelligent software that knows your tastes so well it will send you products that you’re guaranteed to like. (CNET, 2015)
Customers are paying a monthly $10 subscription fee to receive a so-called ‘glam bag’ full of beauty products. The fun thing about Ipsy is that the content of the bag is customized for the individuals. Customers have to fill out a quiz with 12 personal questions (think of skin color, eye color, etc), after which software will analyze their answers and determine which beauty products they probably like. Customers can review their products online, which is taken into account for their next order. (Ipsy, 2015)
You may recognize this kind of business model, because Netflix did exactly the same in the movie industry, by offering recommendations based on what users liked to watch. I think we all know what kind of movement they have started. (CNET, 2015)
Ipsy is not the only company trying to use software to recommend products in the beauty industry. Competitor Birchbox is also shipping boxes of beauty products for a $10 monthly fee. The only thing that sets them apart except the boxes they arrive in. is the market they are aiming for. Birchbox is more aimed towards body/skincare and Ipsy is distributing make-up. (Brooke, 2015) With worldwide revenue for beauty care products expected to grow towards $461 billion in 2018, the market may be large enough for both.
Even though raising $100 million dollar and having three profitable years shows us that the algorithm they are using is getting pretty good, it is not fool proof yet. Problems range from products for the wrong skin color to inaccurate product descriptions. (Penninipede, 2013) Ipsy’s CEO says that there are still a lot of problems to work out: “That’s where the algorithm is not foolproof”. (CNET, 2015)
Author: Sven Sabel (354240ss)