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#AsiaeCommerceAwards 2021 highlight: Watsons’ make-up tool takes the guesswork out of buying cosmetics

#AsiaeCommerceAwards 2021 highlight: Watsons’ make-up tool takes the guesswork out of buying cosmetics

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Watsons wanted to capitalise on the emerging trend of shoppers moving to online retail permanently. To do so, Watsons launched the Foundation Finder, a digital tool within the existing Watsons app that revolutionised the way women shopped for foundation. The tool not only provided a uniquely Watsons experience but also allowed Watsons to connect with their digitally savvy audience. This impressed the judges and the team clinched the gold award for Best eCommerce Innovation at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Asia eCommerce Awards 2021.


The restrictions brought about by the pandemic forced many to shop online for the first time, creating a new generation of online shoppers. Yet, even as COVID-19 concerns begin to ease and offline stores reopen, many consumers continue to shop online having experienced the advantages of online shopping such as convenience and greater accessibility. Clearly, the radical shift in shopping habits are here to stay. With normalcy returning, so did the demand for cosmetics. As Asia’s leading health and beauty retailer, Watsons needed to ensure that they could capitalise on these emerging trends and engage their young, digitally savvy shoppers.

Watsons realised that while foundation products formed a core part of its make-up strategy, shoppers found it challenging to purchase foundations both online and offline. For example, in physical stores, consumers tend to try out foundation samples on their hands instead of their faces, resulting in an inaccurate colour match. Buying foundation online posed an even greater challenge as there was no way for consumers to try out both the colour and texture of the products. Watsons faced the challenge of addressing these issues for its customers.


Watsons arrived at an innovative solution and launched the Foundation Finder, a tool found within the Watsons app to help its customers find the perfect foundation. Co-created with a team of professional make-up experts, the Foundation Finder utilised advanced facial analysis technology and shopper insights on mobile phone usage to recommend the most suitable product in three simple steps.

Step one: Take a selfie
The advanced facial analysis technology within the tool would identify skin shade. By using a live, unfiltered photo to analyse true skin tone, the tool is able to provide the best recommendation.

Step two: Share preferences
Users can answer a few simple questions to determine skin type and needs. These questions include the user’s skin type, top skin concerns, product benefit that the user is looking for as well as preferred make-up style.

Step three: Getting the perfect match
A list of recommendations would appear according to users’ skin tone and preferences. However, many beauty shoppers may opt for a lighter or darker shade depending on their make-up style. Users can also receive professional tips provided by professional make-up artists based on their choices.

As the Foundation Finder tool is embedded into the Watsons app, shoppers can purchase the recommended products immediately. Shoppers can also enjoy an instant discount with a promo code at the end of the experience. For users who still want to try out the product before purchase, they can simply present the results to any Watsons Beauty Advisor at a physical store.

watsons foundation finder tool

The Foundation Finder aimed to provide users with the benefit of always finding their foundation shade accurately as well as a hygienic and convenient way to shop for cosmetics, especially in a pandemic situation.


The Foundation Finder tool was launched in Watsons Malaysia in July 2021. To drive awareness and adoption of the app, Watsons took a deliberate phased approach to gradually build awareness among its different shopper segments.

Phase one: Beauty-tech enthusiasts
With over 15,000 monthly shoppers using the existing Watsons #ColourMe Virtual Try-On tool in Malaysia, the company wanted them to be the first to try out this cool new feature. Users would find a “NEW” notification in the #ColourMe tool that would encourage them to try out the Foundation Finder. After their experience, they would be asked to share feedback which was instrumental in guiding the team in optimising the experience for the next wave of users.

watsons phase 1 foundation

Phase two: Loyal app users
In the second stage of the launch, Watsons started giving the Foundation Finder strong exposure within the Watsons website and mobile app. This led to a surge in usage as fans of the mobile app would immediately learn of this new tool and try it out.

watsons phase 2 foundation finder

Phase three: Watsons members
The next step was to target Watsons members by informing them about the tool via eDMs.

watsons phase 3 foundation finder

Phase four: All beauty shoppers
Lastly, a strong digital marketing drive was put in place to generate buzz and engagement in the entire market. This included leveraging on influences to demonstrate the use of the app and posting it on their feeds across social media platforms as well as investing in digital ads on Facebook. 

watsons phase 4 foundation finder


The Foundation Finder attracted widespread attention in the beauty industry, with the news being covered in over 50 media outlets. The tool also attracted more than 36,000 users with 96% rating giving the tool a five-star rating. The creation of such a purposeful tool allowed Watsons to not only engage its tech-reliant customers but also provide them with a unique shopping experience. 

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