At-home beauty receives an e-commerce makeover

From an AI named Madi, to AR tools that allow customers to experiment with hair colors, learn how Madison Reed is transforming the way consumers purchase hair color products.

When Amy Errett first launched a beauty brand to sell salon-quality hair color products that featured ingredients with integrity, the male-dominated world of venture capital wasn’t exactly lining up to provide capital.

“The first couple of years that I started this,” Errett said, “I had a lot of my Valley VC friends who are like… ‘What are you doing? What a weird category…’ I’ve had VCs say to me -- more than 10 of them ‑‑ ‘Women color their hair at home?’”

Despite the disbelief of Silicon Valley elite, Errett launched Madison Reed in 2013 and quickly proved that not only do women color their hair at home, but they are also in desperate need of a high-quality product that doesn’t contain ammonia, parabens, or other potentially toxic chemicals. In January the company announced raising $51 million in Series D funding.

Although Madison Reed started as an e-commerce business, Errett is always looking for ways to meet customers where they are – even if that means branching out into brick and mortar. They have launched Madison Reed Color Bars at six locations in San Francisco and New York, with plans to expand to 40 locations by 2020. And the company has also inked an exclusive partnership with Ulta Beauty, bringing their products to the retail chain’s more than 1,110 locations in 50 fifty states.

“Our goal is to meet the needs of our customers wherever it is most convenient for them, be that at home, in our Color Bars or at a top beauty retailer such as Ulta,” Errett explained. “We are truly channel agnostic, which is a first for the hair color industry, as is our creation of a prestige hair color sold directly to consumers.”

Simply because Madison Reed is starting to move into the traditional retail space that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on innovating across their e-commerce channels. The company’s in-house engineering team has developed a chatbot named Madi that helps recommend the right hair color; introduced algorithmic learning to send notifications to customers based on how frequently they dye their hair; and is using AI to better understand what their customers need and want.

And a newly introduced Augmented Reality tool allows visitors to Madison Reed’s site to experiment with their hair color without a drop of dye. The technology allows customers to preview the company’s array of different hair colors simply using their phone, tablet, or desktop’s built-in camera.

“Our goal is to eliminate any fear factor and enable people to choose a new hair color with the confidence of having already witnessed the end result,” Errett said.

Much of Madison Reed’s success is because they make it as easy as possible for customers to have beautiful, naturally looking hair, through logistics, location, pricing, and technology. One way they’ve made checkout easier is by letting customers save time by purchasing products with their Amazon account through Amazon Pay. Now it’s more convenient than ever for shoppers to get professional hair color at home, covering those persistent gray hairs without worrying about the periodic table of chemicals that might be contained within.

Take Madison Reed’s color quiz.