Eric Gruen and Olay Skin Advisor team

Associate Brand Director, Global Olay, Procter & Gamble

Supernova Award Category: 

Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Humanity

The Company: 

Because transforming skin starts with understanding skin, the Olay team focuses on understanding how different skin types behave and change over time through in-depth studies of skin appearance and biology across the world. Using this understanding, their skincare formulation expertise and proven performance testing, Olay scientists design and develop skin care products that deliver immediate and long-term noticeable benefits. This results in over 80 million women globally trusting their skin to Olay.

The Problem: 

Olay's growth from new product launches in the early 2000s had plateaued. Through research, the team learned that one of the biggest barriers for growth was product choice confusion. In addition, consumer paths to purchase were changing with over 50% starting online and more consumers expecting personalized experiences during the process. Consumers said: "Show me you understand me, and teach me something new!" and "My beauty care should be about ME and not my products!" The team realized they could no longer just offer superior products for sale. Thinking through their changing world, they asked themselves, "What if we could deliver expert skincare consultation in the palm of her hand? What if we could make her feel smarter, not overwhelmed?" The team set their goal: Connect with her when and where she's deciding, even be a bit of fun.

The Solution: 

Through a selfie and seven questions answered, Olay Skin Advisor gives her a quick, easy personalized skincare consultation via a browser-based app. While image capture and analysis, skin diagnostics, and identifying key needs for personalization were strengths in the organization, app/software development was not. As the team knew the ability to connect directly with customers through technology would be critical to the new world they faced, they decided an in-house team -- complemented by technology partners -- was the right direction for developing this, and likely future, solutions.

The Results: 

Olay Skin Advisor provides a precise skin analysis and personalized product regimen recommendation to users across 10 countries. The advisor has served almost 5 million consumers already, and has been customized for retail partners to serve their consumers directly. From almost 2 million possible product regimen combinations, Skin Advisor selects the most suitable personalized regimen. Over 90% of recommendations are unique each week. Approximately, two thirds of all regimen recommendations have been given 5 times or less. Along with the regimen recommendation, consumers are given the reasons why each product fit their personal skin care needs and objectives. The metrics below demonstrate how this has been a big win for engaging consumers. 

In addition to this win for consumers, delivering this internally developed software app provides a great example of cross-group collaboration that exemplifies digital transformation. Data and product objectives came together from across different organizational functions and geographies. The solution was live in all major markets globally within 9 months -- record timing. 


Published metrics include:

  • Almost 5 million consumers reached globally
  • 3x lower bounce rate versus traditional .com sites
  • >5 minutes per session and 5x the page views versus traditional .com sites
  • 2x conversion rates on ecommerce sites versus traditional ecommerce sites
  • Delivering higher activation for Millennials, a key target demographic

In addition, in P&G's recent earnings announcement, Skin and Personal care reported this result: "organic sales increased by double digits driven by continued strong growth of the super-premium SK-II brand and Olay skin care."

The Technology: 
  • Cloud-based architecture (AWS globally)
  • VisID = P&G developed Skin Age and aging area detection: deep learning technology
  • Nara Logics Synaptic Intelligence
Disruptive Factor: 

Image recognition and even age detection has been around for awhile, but no one yet used that to diagnose your aging areas to support your skin care needs. Your skin age tells you one piece of information, and the specific aging areas tell you another (what is your best area, what needs more attention). This is the first disruption that Olay Skin Advisor tackled with custom-developed deep learning image analysis.

The second... added information about what products she uses now, how many and when, as well as what areas she cares most about. Across the 7 questions, over 215 million different possible answer combinations exist. That is 218 million unique skin care need and usage combinations. No one has ever mapped out the different possible answers to these needs -- until Nara Logics Synaptic Intelligence engine did. 

The ability for both of these technologies to scale quickly across geographies is the third disruptive factor. Both technologies proved flexible enough to handle new data without extensive and expensive customization for each area.

Shining Moment: 

The shining moments are in the user feedback:

  • 91% agree the Olay Skin Advisor experience felt personalized
  • 94% of women agree the products recommended were right for her
  • 88% were still using the products recommended after 4 weeks

Based on this feedback, the team is accomplishing what they set out to do... putting a trusted skin care advisor in the palm of her hand.

About Procter & Gamble

Olay is a worldwide leader in skin care. Olay continues to hold to the philosophy it was founded on: to maintain a deep understanding of women’s changing needs and to combine products that fit their needs with the latest advances in skin care technology. The result—superior product performance. It brings healthy, beautiful skin to more than 80 million women on five continents.