Personalized skincare has so much appeal. The skincare industry is overcrowded and incredibly noisy in terms of constantly emerging trends, companies, products, and aggressive marketing. How can you navigate through the seemingly endless options available to pinpoint the products that are best suited for your skin?
As a dermatologist and media expert, I pour over science and studies behind new skincare innovations. I serve on advisory boards, attend the most cutting edge industry conferences, and personally test products. My patients ask me all the time to make specific, personalized skincare recommendations and I love to share that information because it makes a real difference when your products actually work to meet your needs.
I am always interested in learning about innovations in this area that can help people to better educate themselves as to which types of products will be most beneficial for their individual needs. That’s why I was so intrigued when I learned about HelloAva.
I met the company’s co-founder, Siqi Mou at a beauty event in NYC. Siqi – who happens to be strikingly beautiful, warm, and incredibly forward thinking – explained to me that the concept for this innovative company was born in her business school class at Stanford and it has gained momentum and grown exponentially in the past few years.
The concept is akin to a Stitch Fix for your face and uses the tagline, “the Brains Behind Your Beauty.” I was excited to learn more about this platform, which merges artificial intelligence with live skincare consultants, to personalize your skincare selections. Siqi and her team have gone to great lengths to make this process streamlined, accurate and productive and to set themselves apart from predecessor “online skincare consultant” brands that lacked “wow” factor. So, I asked Siqi to share her insight, journey as a young entrepreneur in such a competitive space, and more about HelloAva with you guys!
DWB: I remember you explaining to me that HelloAva was initially created as part of a business school project. Can you share more on how this project evolved from its initial stages to the incredible new company you now run?
SM: Yes, indeed. It started as a class project in this class called “Lean Launchpad” at Stanford graduate school of business, which taught you how to test out an idea lean before going in 100%. Originally we wanted to make customized skincare products but after interviewing over 300 women during this class, we realized the bigger pain point is “not being able to identify what works for me” and over 90% of the women we talked to expressed that they had to go through trials and errors to identify what works. We want to eliminate that process and help people get to their “perfect match” faster. So we decided to change the idea and instead build a platform to use big data to help people identify what works for what kind of people, and then lead customers to the right set of solutions more efficiently.
DWB: I’ve heard you describe HelloAva as the “Stitch Fix” for your face. Can you share more on that analogy?
SM: Stitch fix matches you with a personal stylist and uses both AI and human expertise to personalize clothing choices for you. We are trying to do that for a different vertical. The challenge is that for beauty products, customers cannot just try them and return what they don’t like, so we show them what they are getting before we ship the products out. This way users can read more about the products and make more informed decisions before they receive the products. What’s very unique about our service is that we always highlight why certain product is good for the user based on personalized information, and everyone’s content is different and 100% customized. Say if someone has dryness and dullness as key concerns, we will highlight what ingredients in the matched products will solve for those needs.
DWB: HelloAva is such an innovation because it merges human intelligence (read: real live skin care consultants) with data science to pinpoint the best products for your skin. How does this work?
SM: Yes, exactly. We realized the best user experience should neither be 100% robotic nor 100% human. The former makes it a very mechanic and sub-par experience, and the latter makes the process less efficient and objective. We want to blend the best of both worlds. So the machine does the initial selection based on our proprietary algorithm and data science. Then the human experts (all licensed estheticians) jump in to talk to our users a bit more to learn more about her/his lifestyle, preference and what she/he wants to optimize for, and can make modifications accordingly. This process is also a supervised learning system so that as human modifies product choices, the machine learns from expert input and gets smarter and smarter overtime. It also applies the same logic to similar users in the future.
DWB: I know streamlining communication is very important to your brand. For example, simple, clear text messages are the key way that Ava communicates with your customers. Can you tell us more about this ease of communication that you’ve created?
SM: We’ve realized that skincare is an ongoing life-long journey and one’s skin changes over time, so she/he constantly needs help. If we can always be there for her/him to help find the right set of the products, adjust different routines based on seasons, and prepare her/him for different events and occasions, that personalized attention is what the user really needs. And what’s the easiest way to achieve that? Become her/his skincare best pal and communicate with them via text messages whenever she/he needs.
It’s so easy, smooth and stress-free.
DWB: I know we’ve also spoken about the fact that your platform works around the products that your customer already uses and loves. Can you explain how that works?
SM: Yes, if a customer tells us she/he loves certain products and wants to incorporate those into her/his new routine, we can do that and add that into her/his regimen. It’s a very simple process, we will just identify what’s the gap in her/his routine and complement it with new products to make it better. However, if a user is not so sure about her/his products and wants to try new things and revamp the routine completely, we can do that too. We are always customer centric so we do whatever the customer wants.
DWB: What has this experience been like for you, co-founding this emerging company which has gotten so much media attention?
SM: You are too sweet. It’s just the beginning! We have big dreams to disrupt the beauty industry and bring in much more effective and efficient ways for customers to choose products and make this process personalized and easy. And the best way to do that is through technology! We live in a world with so much great technology but if you think about the way beauty e-commerce functions, the user experience is still pretty broken and antiquated. People are still complaining about all the trials and errors they had to go through in order to find out what works. Using technology to improve on this experience is not only desired but rather, demanded by the new generation. It will truly become a game changer in elevating the way people discover, experience and shop for beauty products.
DWB: What is one word of motivation/advice you would give to young entrepreneurs?
SM: We need to take a chance on ourselves. One of the best advice I got from business school was what my professor from a startup class old us “If not now, then when? If not us, then who?” There’s NEVER going to be a perfect time if you keep dwelling on it. You just have to do it!
I am going to be completing my very own trial with HelloAva, so stay tuned on my personal experience and, to learn more about HelloAva, click here: https://helloava.co/