We spoke to Nu Skin about its ageLOC Me product, in order to understand how businesses can pull together disparate technologies and suppliers to provide a seamless customer experience.
Award-winning Nu Skin says that its ageLOC product is the result of a four-year R&D project, into which the company sank $30 million. It claims that the product and service rely on constant analysis of consumer trends and new product launches. The ageLOC dispenser itself is the subject of five or more global patents. Describing itself as a 'global direct selling company', Nu Skin says it operates in 53 markets worldwide.
The Nu Skin ageLOC Me is the winner of The Techies 2016 award for most innovative product in retail. The judges liked the innovative and fresh thinking that created a product which adds consistency, convenience and ease to your daily skin care, whilst locking in consumers to specific products. We decided to take a deeper look at Nu Skin and the ageLOC me to find out how it works from a technological basis.
We spoke to Mikael Linder, President, EMEA, to find out how the company came up with- and realised the concept, and what the future holds for Nu Skin and the ageLOC Me. (Find out more about The Techies 2016 here.)
How does ageLOC Me work?
Here comes the science bit.
The ageLOC Me is described by Nu Skin as a 'customised skin care device'. It is, in essence, a hand dispenser designed for all of your skincare lotions and potions. Your skincare regime, if you like. The cleverness is in what stocks up the ageLOC me, how that is selected, and how that is subsequently delivered.
Straight out of the box ageLOC Me comes with a reference set of five skincare products. After using this combination, users take the ageLOC Me Skin Assessment by answering a few questions about themselves, their skin and their preferences. The test is available on the nuskin.com website and also as the mobile app which is central to the product. This generates a personal skin care code, which is used to order a custom set of products. Nu Skin tells us there are around 2,000 possible combinations, so it should be possible to find the perfect match for everyone.
Dispensing of products is touchless and therefore hygienic. More importantly, it uses each customer's specific combination of products in combining three powerful serums to create each dose. It then tracks each dose in order that it can remind you to place your next order, whilst automatically delivering a precise dose of serums and moisturisers depending on the order in which the customer requires them, and the time of the day.
The ageLOC devices takes the time to learn when the customer takes doses of serum, subtracts the earliest and latest and then average the time when the remaining five doses were taken. It then reminds the customers, by flashing for 30 minutes or until the device dispenses the regimen, to take their night or morning regimen.
Basically, the customer goes to the ageLOC dispenser, and gets the correct face cream every time. They are then prompted to take their dose at the optimum time. And in return Nu Skin gets unbeatable customer loyalty.
So how did this happen? We spoke to Nu Skin to find out.
ageLOC Me: the inspiration
Nu Skin's Mikael Linder told us that its big brains developed the idea for ageLOC Me when they noticed three important and converging trends: the increase in popularity and usage of anti-aging products; a trend toward product customisation; and the growth of the beauty devices industry. Combine this with the advent of apps and smartphone technology and Nu Skin felt it had the technology to deliver a customised regimen of selection and product usage that wouldn't require the end user to go to too much trouble.
The genesis of the idea occured in 2011, in what Nu Skin describes as 'a small room in Santa Monica, California'. Linder told us that several Nu Skin executives set out to change the anti-aging skin care market. They wanted to create a new approach to skin care that would allow people to customise their regimens, addressing their individual skin care needs and concerns, but without requiring from them great technical knowledge or time-draining consultations.
ageLOC Me: getting technical
Nu Skin told us that following that ideation in 2011, ageLOC Me was publicly introduced in October 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. According to Linder this timeline was always intended.
That it took so long is down to the fact that ageLOC Me is a smart device that combines new technologies in a unique way. Nu Skin had to combine third-platform technologies, protect its product via patents, collaborate with partners, and indulge in endless rounds of user testing before it was able to unveil the final design.
Iteration was key. Nu Skin told us that there were several iterations for each of the components of the design. Each iteration allowed the company to identify ways to make the product better. Often things look good on paper but until you try it out you do not know, Nu Skin told us.
Another reason for the four-year development process is the broad scope of professionals involved in the product. Nu Skin says it worked with global leaders in engineering, design, manufacturing and packaging to bring together the ageLOC Me. 'Make sure to put together the best development team possible,' Linder told us. 'Never skimp on the people and they will deliver the best product.'
A team of coders developed the app to help users select the best formula combination for the users thanks to a team of leading formulation chemists who put together a unique set of skin care formulae. This resulted in what Linder describes as 'a smart device knowing the precise amount and combination of products to dispense morning and night'. (See also: 22 best mobile app building platforms and tools 2016.)
The company also needed to build a physical device small enough to sit non-intrusively on a vanity shelf. But the device needed to be big enough to be able to weave multiple serums together in microlayers for greater efficacy and dispense them upside down without dripping. Each team roll was crucial to the success of this product, says Nu Skin.
Developing a product: key lessons learnt
No development project ever goes exactly as expected, and Linder told us that the ageLOC Me project was no exception. He told Techworld.com that only as ageLOC Me developed did they start to find what works and what doesn't work.
Linder told us that keeping the team flexible to address lessons learned along the way was crucial to the development of a successful product. The other tip the company gives is that of feedback: Nu Skin says that ageLOC Me was made possible only thanks to the feedback from users they integrated at every step of the product development cycle.
Each part of the ageLOC Me system has been tested in multiple ways, Linder says. The formulas were tested through the company's Nu Skin 6S process to ensure the right formulae were available.
Extensive marketing testing was conducted. The device itself was tested mechanically and electrically according to engineering best practices. The software was validated through several testing procedures. Additional testing was completed to ensure the device meets the regulatory requirements for each of the markets where the device is sold. (See also: 13 best free project management software programs 2016.)
And with each test the company folded the feedback into the next iteration.
Managing suppliers is one of the great challenges of any product thaat seeks to make simple what is inherently complicated. Linder told us that the company sourced a great manufacturer who has taken on the responsibility to coordinate all the supply support for the device. It is important to use suppliers who have a good program in place to build relationships with the sub tier suppliers and the ability to audit their quality systems.'
One final lesson learnt was the importance of keeping track of decisions made, and remaining focused on the goals and established requirements for the ageLOC Me product. Keeping your eyes on the prize, as it were, whilst iterating. Iterate, iterate, iterate.
ageLOC Me: how it works today
Together with the device and products, customers receive in one box a quick start guide to help them set up their device and information to guide them into their ageLOC Me journey. After 14 days of product experience with a reference set, they take the ageLOC me skin assessment by answering questions about their skin care concerns, environment factors and personal preferences, which determines a customised set of products from about 2,000 combinations. Thus they eliminate the guesswork about their skin care needs.
Then, after ordering their customised set of products online and receiving it, they simply place their hand in the opening in the device, and a precise dose of anti-aging serum is dispensed followed by a precise dose of day or night moisturisers. The device also automatically reminds them when the products should be taken thanks to a flashing light. They can retake the assessment if their needs change or to adapt to location, season, etc.
At any time customers can access further information about their product experience via various deliverables and channels (website page, targeted email campaigns, social media, and more).
ageLOC Me: now and the future
So, we asked Mikael Linder, what actually happens when a customer places an order or changes their regime? According to the President when a customer places an order, he or she will receive his or her ageLOC Me system within a few days. They get one ageLOC Me device, one ageLOC Me Reference Set made of three serums, one day- and one night moisturiser, and information on how to use the device.
The ageLOC Me Reference Set enables the user to learn about his or her skin needs and preferences. After 14 days of trialing the product, the customer takes the ageLOC me skin assessment via the app, answering questions about his or her skin care concerns, environment factors and personal preferences. At the end of the assessment, he or she will receive a personal skin care code, which he or she uses to order online via the app or nuskin.com his or her customised set of products.
At any time the customer can retake the assessment if his or her needs change or to adapt to location, season, weather and so on, and thus order another customised set of products suiting his or her needs at the right time.
The product is still relatively new but Nu Skin feels that it is set for success on an ongoing basis. Linder believes its ageLOC Me product offers a unique experience by combining a unique set of technologies and suppliers in a smart way, and providing a product that customers really want. Furthermore the company cites its award-winning performance in The Techies 2016 as evidence of the recognition technology peers are giving to Nu Skin, and is a sign of success to come. (See also: 10 tips for starting a business without funding.)