Lush Is Using Machine Learning and AI to Make Wasteful Packaging and Signage Irrelevant

SXSW attendees could use an app to identify bath bombs

Lush showcased 54 new bath bomb creations at its SXSW pop-up. Dianna McDougall
Headshot of Sammy Nickalls

Lush is known for its colorful soaps and bath bombs, but the brand has consistently prioritized going green above all else—and its very first SXSW activation was no exception.

The brand set up its bath bomb pop-up to showcase its 54 new bath bomb creations using absolutely no signage. Instead, attendees could download the Lush Labs app, which uses AI and machine learning to determine what each bath bomb is with just a quick snapshot. “At Lush, we care about sustainability, and we wanted to take that same lens … and apply it to the way we are using technology,” Charlotte Nisbet, global concept lead at Lush, told Adweek.

Nisbet explained that three decades ago, Lush co-founder Mo Constantine invented the bath bomb when brainstorming a packaging-free alternative to bubble bath. (The new bath bombs are being released globally on March 29 in celebration of 30 years since Constantine created the first bath bomb in her garden shed in England.)

“But we were still facing the barrier to being even more environmentally friendly with packaging and signage in our shops,” Nisbet said.

Enter the Lush Lens feature on the Lush Labs app, which lets consumers scan a product with their phone to see all the key information they’d need before making a purchase: price, ingredients and even videos of what the bath bomb looks like when submerged in water. “This means that not only can we avoid printing signage that will eventually need to be replaced, but also that customers can get information on their products anytime while at home,” Nisbet said.


Nisbet said the brand saw SXSW as an opportunity to “demonstrate Lush’s hidden talents.”

“Many people know us as a cosmetics retailer, yet not so many know about our tech innovations,” Nisbet said. “So we were keen to showcase everything we’d been working on and have people … question us as to why a beauty company was popping up in a space heavily focused on new technologies.”

For the past three years, Lush has owned its own tech company, Lush Digital, established to “drive innovation forward across the business,” explained Adam Goswell, Lush’s technology research and development manager. “That includes everything from our hardware to software across our support teams, retail and manufacturing as well as how we protect and look after all of our staff and customers’ data.”

Lush Digital has been investing in technologies like 3D printing, artificial intelligence, image recognition and augmented reality. “Most recently, this has included developing machine learning technology in the form of Lush Lens,” Goswell said.

While Lush Lens is still only in its early stages, the brand plans to roll it out to “seamlessly blend the online and offline shopping experience,” let customers see reviews and add the products they scan to their basket.

@sammynickalls Sammy Nickalls is a freelance writer and the former departments editor at Adweek.