PARIS: As part of its bid to seek a more direct relationship with its customers, cosmetics giant L'Oréal has developed and launched a free app that allows users to try out make-up products via an iPhone or iPad.

Launched in May this year, the "Makeup Genius" app has already been downloaded 250,000 times in France and is also available in China and the US before being rolled out to other markets, the Financial Times reported.

It effectively turns a customer's mobile device into a virtual mirror, so allowing the user to swipe through the L'Oréal Paris range of cosmetics, to experiment with the look, to share the results, and to seek advice.

L'Oréal's face recognition technology is so advanced, the app shows what the make-up looks like even when a customer moves their face or smiles into their device.

For L'Oréal, it hopes to gain direct access to its consumers, build engagement, gain feedback, and generate loyalty.

"Digital recreates a content and a relationship with the consumer that we have never had in the self-service world," said Jean-Paul Agon, LOréal's chief executive.

"People go into a store, they are faced with a wall of products and by definition they don't get any advice when it's self-service. We can create the digital beauty adviser that will help them choose," he added.

While retailers may worry that L'Oréal's new app could go some way to cutting them out of the consumer loop, Agon insisted that its main purpose is to provide a service.

"For customers who want to, they will be able to buy directly online. But I think it's going to stay marginal," he said, pointing to the L'Oréal Paris e-commerce site, which has made sales of only €1m in France since its launch a year ago.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc