Sonia Khemiri Podcast Transcript

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Headshot of CEO Sonia Khemiri

Sonia Khemiri Podcast Transcript

Sonia Khemiri joins host Brian Thomas on The Digital Executive Podcast.

Welcome to Coruzant Technologies, Home of The Digital Executive Podcast.

Brian Thomas: Welcome to the Digital Executive. Today’s guest is Sonia Khemiri. Sonia Khemiri is at the forefront of revolutionizing the beauty retail landscape through the innovative use of VR, AR, and AI technologies with Boutique NYC and its extension Boutique Verse.

With a Master of Science in finance and extensive experience across several industries, Sonia brings a unique blend of entrepreneurship, tech, enthusiasm, and financial acumen to the beauty industry in e commerce. Her mission is to transform the online beauty shopping experience and beyond making it as immersive and personalized as the physical retail environment.

Sonia is the Founder of her own beauty brand in New York city. and the co-founder of BoutiqueNYC, the first ever beauty 3D storefront and disruptive retail marketing platform for more than 40 brands and 15, 000 consumers. In December 2023, Sonya launched Boutique Verse, offering an immersive VR environment on Oculus, iOS, and Android.

This app harnesses VR as its core technology, supplemented by AR and AI elements to enhance the user experience.

Well, good afternoon, Sonia. Welcome to the show!

Sonia Khemiri: Oh, thank you. Thank you, Brian. Thanks for having me!

Brian Thomas: Absolutely. I love this. Generally, you know, Sonia, before we hit the record button, we talked about the kind of the space you’re in.

And I interviewed lots of technologists and CEOs out of Silicon Valley. But what’s really cool is this is probably my first interview in the beauty space. You obviously have some technology that we’re going to talk about. So, I appreciate you jumping on and making the time. And I’m going to jump right into your first question, Sonia.

What initially inspired you to integrate it? Virtual reality, augmented reality, and AI technologies into the beauty retail industry through Boutique NYC and Boutique Verse.

Sonia Khemiri: Well, it’s a mix of inspiration and challenge. Our journey started really in 2020 during the pandemic. Well, we really needed to be innovative.

And instead of just simply replacing a physical store, which was the plan initially with a regular website, we launched the VR interactive store that was linked to our website. And it was the first in the beauty industry. And that’s what started us in technology. The vision from the start, Brian was to really bridge the gap between the physical and the digital shopping experience.

Technology since then really evolved tremendously in VR and AI, which led us really to take a leap of faith last year in 2023 because I am bootstrapping here, and we created BeautyVerse. BeautyVerse, it’s a really in beta test now. It’s a really advanced prototype and the platform, this one. Integrates VR, AR, and AI to enhance the online shopping experience.

And the drive behind this is because more than 70 percent of consumers, if not more than 70, maybe 80, consumers still go to physical store for beauty products. And there’s many reasons behind that. Among them, the one that we really solving here is the tactical experience, the ambience, the vibe of the store, and mainly in beauty is really the ability to speak with a beauty expert live, like really a person, not a chat or a video, like really connect with a person.

and receive products immediately. There’s a few more problems online that, you know, we, we don’t solve mainly, but these are really the problem we solve of online shopping. And the breakthrough that came with BeautyVerse with the developers, Is the social aspect that we bring in the online shopping because, and this is very new, I am very excited about it.

And even our beta tester, we’re very excited about it because customers can go shop with friends, talk to an avatar beauty expert. A real person behind an avatar sees live shoppers in the VR store. If there’s a hundred shoppers in the store, they will see them. They can talk to them if they want, but obviously we don’t do that in real stores then.

But if they want, they can. And they try on product under the expert guidance. And all this is in the VR environment. This initiative aims really to make the online shopping communal one, and, you know, with the power of AI, it will make it extremely, extremely personalized. That’s the inspiration and challenge we have.

Brian Thomas: I love the story. And it seems like the last several years have been hundreds of podcasts here. And guess we’ve talked about how the pandemic. Change the way we do business, but it also accelerated some of that technology and innovation, which obviously is shown here in your product and platform. So, I appreciate the story really do Sonia.

And the next question I have for you is how does virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. Specifically enhance the shopping experience for your customers and maybe you could share any feedback you’ve received from users of the Boutique Bursts app.

Sonia Khemiri: Yeah, sure. I mean, VR, AR, it’s and now the AI is boosting these technology also the VR.

What it does, it really transformed the shopping experience by bringing the 3D dimension, the environment, and it makes it really possible to immerse in a virtual world in a 2D screen, but also in a 3D environment. VR goggles are not yet mainstream. We are all aware of it, but there’s a vision pro coming up and it will evolve tremendously in the future, I believe.

But we have in the beta test, we have our iOS and Android app that will still deliver this immersive experience. The customer, what they can do, they can engage in a virtual environment with the product, a 3D product, where they can really see it in details. We can go as deep as we want in that. They can speak with an avatar beauty expert, walk in the store, and they can shop with friends.

That’s the VR environment. It’s really, it’s a sense of presence, like Zuckerberg said. The augmented reality on, on the other side for beauty, it facilitates the virtual try on, and in our case is guided by an avatar beauty expert. And this provides really a realistic preview of the color cosmetic makeup and also the skincare analysis.

And this will really boost the buyer’s confidence and satisfaction and there’s less return in our case in terms of feedback. We are in beta test and we are doing it mainly with our community. It’s the feedback. The excitement is really the social aspect. It’s because they can go with friends, with their sister, they’re not in the same state, not in the same city.

They can walk around; they can try on products and speak together. It’s really the social aspect that makes them extremely excited. And it’s integrated to our e commerce platform. Then it’s not like a new thing. It’s something new that is linked to the website. And it really the journey from an exploration to purchase really easy.

Then it’s, it’s really the social excitement that came up in the feedback mostly, and we’re, we’re still gathering feedback.

Brian Thomas: Yes. I love this. You know, basically you’re bringing the product or really the store to the person’s home, which is just awesome. And I like the fact that there’s a social aspect to it as well.

Cool. But I love it when you can actually kind of try on the product, you know, or test out the product virtually, which obviously does lower those returns. So, I appreciate that really do. And Sonia, Boutique NYC is described as a disruptive retail marketing platform. Can you discuss some of the innovative marketing strategies you’ve employed to attract and retain over 15, 000 customers?

Sonia Khemiri: You know, 15,000 for some companies is not a huge number, but it’s a huge number considering that we are bootstrapping so far now we are starting really to raise funds. It’s pretty new with boutique verse, but the 15,000 consumer we have so far was a bootstrap. Then we needed to be very creative in our marketing strategy.

What we did mainly in the beginning is that technology is what we have created. The fact that we were the first in the industry, what we are creating, brought the customer to us. But since then, we hosted many events we did online, but we did many, many in store events with our collaborators.

In these events, we brought experts from many industries, from many categories like skincare, makeup, but also dance psychologists. It’s really about beauty inside out. Then it’s many experts that bring a lot of knowledge and our way of marketing is really by email campaigns where we engage with customer and it’s pretty personalized communication.

We also collaborated with micro influencers, and we had really strategic partnership with the brands we have on our platform, which really amplified our message to build a strong and engaged community. With BeautyVerse, however, because it’s in beta test and that’s what we aim to do is to create these online events, but really in a Almost like a real store.

It’s not like in a two discreet where we are together in the 3D environment. And we can speak about subjects that really touch us, where we connect very close, like in a real store. And we aim really to leverage AI to suggest not only tailored products specifically to them, but also to be their beauty companion.

You know, when they. They want to go somewhere, and they don’t know what makeup to do and what style. We’re going to be their companion and that’s what AI will enable us to do in terms of marketing. Then it’s really about personalization and treat every customer like a super VIP. This is our blend of marketing strategy, and we obviously aim to do this with the funding we’re going to raise to have really a huge and bigger impact because so far our impact, you know, is in this community and to make it really even stronger. That’s the goal.

Brian Thomas: That’s awesome. And you’ve done great getting 15,000 customers. And then you talked about the technology, how you can personalize it for your consumers, which is awesome. I just love that we can leverage the power of technology and serving 10, 000 customers at once. For example, that’s always the really exciting part of some of this AI technology that’s out there now.

So, thank you. So, yeah, the last question I have is based on your experience. How do you see virtual reality, augmented reality, and AI evolving in the beauty industry over the next five years? And what are the next big trends we should look out for

Sonia Khemiri: in the next five years? I would love to predict what’s happening in five years, but I really see it’s a transformation.

We see what’s going on with AI. I mean, everyone has some trouble following everything happening in AI. And I think this is the first thing that it’s a revolution happening, but for the beauty industry, mainly like in the focus, what I see, I see the way we shop online is going to be transformed a hundred percent with the help of VR, AR, AI, all of that.

All the technology will change tremendously, but it will go beyond beauty especially in e commerce. For me, really, my focus is e commerce and beauty. That’s really my, my thing. And these technologies will really blur the lines, what I see between digital and physical store. I think we will have difficulty making the difference between reality and the virtual reality.

The product recommendation will be tailored to every customer with an unprecedented accuracy with the help of AI. Augmented reality on the other side will improve in realism, and it’s not going to be really on in color cosmetic only. It’s going to be like really in all beauty product related and the AI will really push it for to, to, to be that accurate to the point where I believe customer want really need to go to a store to try a product.

Of course, the tactical, like, really, I mean, there’s some senses we cannot bring online, maybe now, but in five years, we never know. We never know what senses can be there online. Then the try on would be very accurate. In terms of VR and mixed reality, I think it will extend tremendously in terms of VR mixed reality.

People are still like, I believe, I don’t believe it’s not like AI. It’s happening now. VR is happening and MR is happening now, but not the same scale of AI. But I believe it’s going to, with the help of AI, it’s going to go much faster than what we think. And this will really blur the line between reality and, and virtuality.

I anticipate digital avatars that will be very close to who we are in real life. The environment will be very close or even better. It will be like a lifelike interaction, interaction with people, interaction with products. And it will really closely mirror the real-world experiences. That’s what I think it will be.

And these technologies are expected to become seamlessly integrated in our everyday routine. That’s what I really see in this. I think the most important thing is to be aware of what is digital and what is real and be careful not to spend too much time in the digital world because sometimes it could be even better to be in the digital world and do everything in the digital world and in the e commerce and in beauty when we shop.

I think it’s really like the, the mix of digital and physical that we want to really make the difference and the personalization will be so accurate that everybody will be a VIP when they shop online. And this without the vr, I think in terms of personalization, every e-commerce has the obligation to do that because otherwise survival will be difficult a little bit online.

That’s what I see as a trend. And you know, it’s not only me, 70% of major retailer are using AR, VR or AI separately. Now they’re not really. Bringing them all together because the big companies are pretty busy you know, solving their own problems, but you know, L’Oreal bought ModiFace lately, Sephora, they have an app, you know, for a makeup application.

Oil of Olay. I think they have a skin analysis app. You know, everybody in beauty, the major players, they have integrated in CELO, not all together, but they are integrating it because they know they cannot survive online without this technology, because it’s going to make it so personalized and they will know their customer much, much better.

And they will give them the product that they need. On our end, We just don’t want to give what they need as product. We want to be their companion and we won’t be the only one to do that in terms of being the beauty companion. But in terms of VR, AR and AI, I believe we will be the ones who lead this.

And that’s why we are looking really for major investor to be with us in this because we not only want to offer this for us. As a prototype, but for other e commerce in beauty and many other industries, because that’s where it’s going.

Brian Thomas: Thank you so much, Sonia. I appreciate that. We’ve extrapolated quite a bit, obviously your opinion on what the future might look like in the next five plus years, really do appreciate the insights, all the great gems you’ve shared with us tonight and Sonia, it was such a pleasure having you on this evening and I look forward to speaking with you real soon.

Sonia Khemiri: It’s the same. Thank you so much. I’m very excited that I shared this with you, Brian.

Brian Thomas: Bye for now.

Sonia Khemiri Podcast Transcript. Listen to the audio on the guest’s podcast page.

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