Take any aspect of popular culture and any place that we consume it and you’ll find, without a doubt, that we are an image obsessed generation. Physical advertisements, magazines, television, social media, wherever you look, it’s all about how you look. Instagram is about the editorialisation of one’s life, the perfect maneuvering of every aspect in a room or space to fit perfectly with the image the person is trying to portray. At the middle of all of this are people with a specific style that their followers often emulate or attempt to filter into their own lives. Scrolling through social media can be overwhelming in this sense, particularly if you’re not sure what your sense of style is or where to begin with it. The most important thing to remember is that copying others is never something that will lead to happiness, and that ultimately it isn’t really important if you’re wearing this season’s most on-trend shoes or keeping up with whatever that person with 500K + followers is currently donning. It’s about finding a style, or simply clothes, that you feel comfortable in, and what we’re looking at today is whether a Bot is something that can help you with that.
Sometimes we get shy or embarrassed to ask someone about style, fashion or beauty advice because it can make us quite vulnerable to hearing criticisms or heading information we simply weren’t ready for. Discussing these issues with a Bot is potentially easier because there is significantly less shame in asking a program if you should wear a certain item of clothing than asking a friend or family member. Sure, there shouldn’t be any shame and many of us have friends and family we can easily discuss these matters with, but many of us don’t, or simply don’t feel comfortable doing so. We scoured the Bot world and experimented with a few of the most prominent beauty and style based Bots to determine whether it’s a technology worth using, or whether the whole concept is just adding to our image obsessed society in a negative way.
This question itself is difficult to answer because it depends on personal interpretation of negative, if you’re just looking for a Bot to help you make fashion and beauty choices then it’s simply about whether the technology works, but if you’re looking for a Bot that does so in a friendly and useful manner and simultaneously has a positive impact on your mental health, then the search could be a little bit more complex.
Brand Based Approach
Just about everyone under the sun has heard of Sephora at this point but just incase you missed it for whatever reason, it’s a French cosmetic brand which now has more than 1700 stores in 30 countries and stocks almost 300 brands. With an estimated revenue of more than 1.9 billion euros in 2012, it’s safe to that that it’s become somewhat of an institution. So with those numbers in mind, this brand’s Bot is definitely worth considering for beauty advice and tips, but does it do so in a useful manner that has a positive impact on the user? What it definitely does do, is show the intelligence of the brand in its attempt to move forward. Most big brands and businesses around the world should be coming up with clever Bot strategies at the moment, to ensure they aren’t left behind.
Back to the Bot at hand, available for Kik, you can chat to Sephora via the platform to receive tips, video clips and picture tutorials for eyes, lips, face hair and nails. They’ll also give you product recommendations for any of the looks you like. It also aims to act as a “shopping assistant” when you’re in store. Instead of talking to a person, you can give the the name of a product, like “Nars Blush” and it will respond with reviews and ratings. So it’s fairly simple in concept. There’s no sending images of yourself, there’s no receiving yes or no answers to whether you should or should not wear something or dye your hair a certain colour. It’s basically just an advanced and interactive way of shopping at Sephora, and that all comes down to personal preference. H&M has a very similar Bot, only it obviously focusses on fashion more specifically than beauty.
Amy is another angle on the whole concept of style Bots, as it’s a more broadly focussed approach – not brand specific like Sephora. Yes Sephora offers a whole range of brands in store, but it’s more about directing people to shop in their specific outlets. For those using Facebook Messenger, Amy (by Adoro) calls itself your “Personal Style and Fashion Shopping Assistant” and is ready to give you styling tips based on the occasion you’re shopping for. This is where Bot/Stylist technology is heading. You’ll be able to ask a Bot for advice, receive tips and follow through by purchasing actual, tangible items like beauty products and clothes. It’s up to customers to decide whether they want to hear advice from a Bot or a real person, and which they would trust more. What can a Bot really deduce from images? If you, for example, sent your picture to a Bot and asked it something like “would I suit a darker hair tone?” or “which shade of foundation should I use?” will it really be able to give you solid, knowledgeable and accurate advice? Ultimately that depends on the back end of the system. If they have high level image detecting and scanning technology then actually there’s a good chance it would be able to give you a solid answer, then point you in the direction of where you can get a good deal on products and clothing. It’s all about consumerism, after all (to an extent).
Summary: At this stage, Bots can help you to find clothes and beauty products and give tips on trends/where to find a good deal. Not yet at the stage of being able to specifically give personal suggestions and advice, this is certainly where the technology is heading and it isn’t a distant concept to expect Bot counsel on hair colours, makeup choices, styles and fashion suggestions.