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L'Oreal turns to Google as coronavirus spurs virtual make-up shift

PARIS (Reuters) - Shoppers searching Google for cosmetics will be able to try them on virtually through a deal with L’Oreal, as the French group looks to make up for lost store sales caused by coronavirus lockdowns by expanding online.

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Maybelline maker L’Oreal, which returned to comparable sales growth in the third quarter when coronavirus restrictions eased, has sped up some of its web initiatives as a result of the pandemic, its digital chief Lubomira Rochet said.

“There’s been an acceleration in all our partnerships due to COVID-19,” Rochet said in an online presentation on Thursday.

The Google partnership relies on technology designed by ModiFace, a Canadian augmented reality specialist acquired by L’Oreal in 2018, and will also extend to the U.S. group’s YouTube video sharing platform, Rochet said.

People seeking lipsticks or eye shadows by L’Oreal brands, which include Lancome and Urban Decay, who come across their adverts on Google or YouTube can then try them online.

YouTube is one of the go-to sites for cosmetics users who often seek out make-up tutorials online, or want to learn from others how to curl their hair.

L’Oreal, which already had a ModiFace partnership with social media site Facebook, has seen usage of virtual make-up tools rise fivefold during COVID-19 lockdowns this year, and the conversion rate from an advert to a purchase was three times higher with the try-ons, Rochet said.

Consumers used it to mimic hair dye colours in particular during coronavirus shutdowns, Rochet added.

Many countries in Europe including France and Belgium have now re-entered lockdown, forcing beauty chains and hair salons to close, and hitting travel retail sales.

Online sales of beauty products, especially in China, have made-up for part of the losses and Rochet expects half L’Oreal’s sales are likely to come from the web within the next three to seven years, up from around a quarter now.

Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Alexander Smith

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