How hair care company Prose personalizes beauty

Co-founder Paul Michaux on using tech to customize product and customer connections

After stints at Procter & Gamble, Christian Dior and L’Oréal, Paul Michaux landed as co-founder and vice president of product at hair care company Prose. The company launched in 2017 with hyper-customized products like shampoo and conditioner, created for each customer after they answer questions about beauty routines and preferences, lifestyle and even geographic location.

Michaux spoke with NRF about the company’s commitment to personalized beauty, customer engagement and technology.

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Prose founder Paul Michaux
Paul Michaux,
Co-founder and Vice President of Product at Prose

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Could you outline the reasons for creating Prose?

Prose was created as an antidote to mass haircare — which consists of a few narrow products intended for as many people as possible, designed for “the masses.” We know personalized beauty works better for three main reasons. The first is product performance: We believe creating hyper-personal beauty makes better beauty.

For example, an individual’s environment is going to have a big impact on one’s hair because of the water hardness, pollution levels, UV index and more. That’s why we ask for customers’ ZIP codes in our consultation.

The second is around values, specifically inclusivity. With personalization, we think about the individual and their specific needs and goals. This allows Prose to step away from the stereotypes developed by the traditional industry. We understand that everyone’s hair and lifestyle is different. Our products will always reflect that mindset, by being made for each unique individual.

Third is the environment. Mass production has caused the beauty industry to have a waste rate of 20 to 40 percent. By making made-to-order products, we’re able to ensure that 100 percent of our products are being used, as the product is not developed until after the transaction.

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What else makes Prose different?

Prose is one of the leading beauty-tech companies in the United States. We are focused on powering truly personal care through hyper-personalization, by producing made-to-order custom products through proprietary technology.

The industry has traditionally created hair care products by hyper-segmenting consumers’ needs into categories such as damaged, frizzy, colored and so on. This outdated approach is overly simplified and does not allow for individuals to truly address all of their hair needs and goals, leaving customers with an army of products that are ineffective.

We developed a proprietary algorithm that uses 85 different factors to determine a blend of ingredients and creates a formula for customers that is 100 percent unique to each individual. With over 79 trillion different possible permutations, Prose has become the most personalized beauty brand in the world.

When traditional beauty products are not purchased, they sit on the shelves in stores until they are thrown out to make room for new products. Prose’s business model challenges this old notion. We waste less than 3 percent compared with the industry average of 20 to 40 percent. 

Has customer acceptance of Prose surprised you?

Since the beginning, we have always included our customers in our evolving journey. We knew our customers were ready to have an online experience that was more in-depth versus very transactional.

Our biggest surprise was how much information they were willing to share about their hair. Even after the consultation, we still have customers emailing our experts to talk more about the condition of their hair and scalp, as well as their unique products. We love that our customers are engaged and want to build relationships with us.

What’s selling well, what’s new and what’s coming next?

We have some new product launches coming soon but you’ll have to wait to find out more details. Our Custom Shampoo is our bestselling product, though our Custom Hair Oil has the highest customer satisfaction rating.

We developed a proprietary customer feedback loop called Review & Refine, which allows us to analyze customer feedback and optimize products in real time. With this tool, our chemists are able to ensure all of our customers’ needs and goals are consistently being met, further supporting our 100 percent satisfaction guarantee to ensure “good hair days'' become the new norm.

Can you tell us more about Review & Refine?

Review & Refine is a proprietary, first-of-its kind technology that has revolutionized and reinvented the customer review process and experience. By using Review & Refine, customers see an instant benefit in leaving a review: Their formulas are automatically upgraded based on their detailed feedback.

Due to the lack of use of technology combined with a non-iterative approach, traditional brand veterans have extremely limited knowledge about their specific customer base. This model has resulted in ongoing product innovations that take up shelf space, and if not purchased, are then dumped into landfill.

In addition, the large number of options causes a ginormous number of ineffective products and an increase in customer frustration, and as a result only 25 percent of consumer product innovations are still alive for years after their launch. Prose has flipped this model on its head by removing the need to produce millions of product units on a multi-year cycle that ultimately benefits no one, and focuses on a new, lean and software-inspired approach that has proven a higher customer satisfaction rate and is better for the environment.

Prose also launched a Membership program. What’s the story?

The Salon by Prose is an effort to offer our customers a digitally focused holistic, customized journey and expand our offering from personalized products to personalized services. The Salon is designed to transform the otherwise routine activity of washing and caring for your hair into a luxurious self-care ritual. Member benefits include one-to-one virtual appointments with our experts, haircare and wellness gifts, complementary products and more.

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