Bluemercury Founder Barry Beck On His New Flagship, Makeup For Men & Their AI Mirror – Forbes

It seems hard to imagine now, but when Bluemercury opened its first store in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. in 1999, beauty products could only be purchased at department stores or drugstores. The game changing brand now has 145 stores nationwide and just opened a new location at the New York Hilton Midtown—which is also their first flagship. They’re planning to disrupt the beauty world again; Bluemercury Founder Barry Beck tells us all about it.

Why did you decide to open at this location? I’ve always loved midtown; it’s home to some of the world’s greatest iconic brands. I always wanted a store here and I just couldn’t figure out a way to do it in a way that was really consistent with my mission of being the friendly neighborhood store where you can get expert, honest advice. This answer came to me when I had lunch here at the New York Hilton, and I realized that it’s a place for convening some of the greatest minds in the world. I began to do a little research and I realized the Hilton is the largest hotel in New York City. I fell in love with Sixth Avenue and it was the answer to where I was going to put my store. This store is so busy—it’s busier than I ever thought—so this is really working.

Why did you create a flagship store now? We’ve always been this cult secret, a store that you tell your best friend about, and I think we’re transitioning now to a national brand and a household name, an iconic luxury brand. Being here at the Hilton with so many international people and tourists coming in, we’re now being catapulted to an international stage and international brand, and so we’re going to use this as our hub for four things. First, it will be our technology innovation hub, it’s going to be our hub for piloting all of our natural ingredient products, we’re going to launch all of our new proprietary products here for our brands M-61 Powerful Skincare and Lune + Aster Cosmetics, and our fourth thing is a big trend we’re seeing with men’s.

Courtesy of Bluemercury

Barry Beck at Bluemercury’s artificial intelligence mirror.

What’s the trend with men? Two years ago they were coming in and buying shaving cream, shower gel, and shampoo. Our stores aren’t overly feminine, so there’s lots of men (shopping here). But there’s a big change going on right now. I’ve been studying the data, and one of the things we’re seeing is men are coming in for the first time and actually buying in the makeup category. So what are they buying? Concealers, bronzers and tinted moisturizers. Why? Because men are realizing now that looking good extends beyond a nice watch and great apparel. They are on more than they’ve ever been before in this selfie world. Our male clients are on CNBC, doing a Ted talk, and they realize that their image is going to be around forever. And so they’ve got to look good and they’re buying in the makeup category, they’re buying an eyebrow gel and all these other products. So we’re pioneering a men’s facial here. It’s got an optional soothing beard treatment and it’s really cool. All of our men’s treatments are going to be pioneered in the flagship location.

Courtesy of Bluemercury

Bluemercury founder Barry Beck

What does your naturals pilot entail? Millennials are the largest generation of vegetarians in history and so I think they’re trying to understand what natural means to them. Am I vegetarian, am I vegan, am I gluten-free? I’m trialing here at the flagship store a naturals program. We’re bringing the world’s best natural ingredients but we’re using the Bluemercury editorial lens, which is very thick. Our customers come here and really learn about our products; they take samples home and understand which natural products are working best for them, which ones are effective, which ones smell nice to them, which ones have the packaging that they like. We’re piloting all of our proprietary brand products here, for M-61 Skincare and Lune + Aster Cosmetics. M-61 has been a runaway success for us.

Is that why you created your proprietary brands? I created M-61 because we saw the trend: Our clients were coming in and saying I love my doctored ingredients and products, they’ve got salicylic acid, and glycolic acid—these things really work for me. But I’m looking at the ingredients and they’ve got parabens and sulfates, and these are really dangerous and I don’t want them in my products. But, on the other hand, our clients were saying I really want something natural, but the products smell bad, the packaging is terrible, and they’re not working. So I started out on a research project and I wanted to find a way to bridge a gap between the incredible doctor ingredients and the natural ingredients. I put together a list of 100 banned ingredients and everybody knows that if they are on that list they can never be in a Bluemercury product. It was very hard, but the result is M-61. We created Lune + Aster Cosmetics because we wanted something that would be easier for our customers. For the Bluemercury client, who is educated, decisive and affluent, the most precious luxury is time. And so we wanted products that would get them out the door feeling polished and powerful in minutes. The result was Lune + Aster, which is a vitamin-infused on-the-go makeup line that’s simple to use.

Courtesy of Bluemercury

The new Bluemercury Flagship store at the New York Hilton Midtown

How does the new Artificial Intelligence Mirror work? This mirror is completely different than anything anyone has done. You can take any product in the store, scan something underneath, and get all the information about the product, including reviews, videos, different views—all of the information. If you want to order the product, we’ll deliver it to you in under an hour. Right now delivery times are running 30 minutes or less to anywhere in Manhattan. What we’re pioneering now, hoping to get up in the next 30 to 60 days, is we’ll put a beacon on your phone and will deliver product to you on a bike anywhere in Manhattan, so if you’re on your way to an event, and we’ll meet you on the corner. The other thing I’m pioneering is a complete social media shopping experience, which is going to give a new meaning to the term peer pressure. You’ll be able to try on a product in store and we’ll beam it right out to your social network and you’ll be able to have your friends give real time opinions. We’re finding the white space and it’s working. Our stores are busy and we’re always pioneering.

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