By  on February 6, 2007

Two Mitsukoshi department stores are testing RFID-tagged makeup, lipsticks and lotions from Shiseido to engage various shopper psyches, from browser to buyer and beyond.

The tests conclude next week and incorporate social computing, demand forecasting, computer simulation, clienteling and supply chain management. Radio frequency identification technology has been tested in cosmetics before, but not in such a multipurpose fashion.

"We are implementing a different application on each process consumers go through to buy cosmetics in the store and use at home," Mitsukoshi project leader Akihiko Ikeura explained via e-mail. "We intend to verify how this RFID tag system will improve customer satisfaction [and] sales promotion."

Wave an RFID-tagged tester past a reader in the Tokyo and Nagoya Mitsu­koshi stores and up pops consumer-authored product reviews on that item, a powerful social computing tactic. The reviews, from Tokyo-based iStyle's cosmetics Web sites, are displayed on touch-screen computers from Fujitsu, a key test partner. At Shiseido counters, shoppers access detailed information on seven skin care products through RFID.

The Tokyo store's test takes RFID a little further. There, RFID readers track how frequently lipsticks, mascaras and other cosmetics testers — 49 items in all — are removed and sampled, yielding data to forecast consumer demand. A "virtual real-time makeup system" enables shoppers to "try on" 19 products without actually applying them, through digital photography and computer simulation.

A test within this test involves 50 shoppers and Clé de Peau Beauté sales staff equipped with RFID-reading tablet computers. The computers access customer-specific shopping history that helps personalize the experience while documenting through RFID which items the shopper has sampled. The test includes an in-store, simulated home environment to study how shoppers would use RFID to access product information after leaving the store.

Inventory management benefits will be studied also, and Shiseido will affix RFID tags to 10 products. "RFID is particularly valuable in product categories that see a lot of new product introductions. Cosmetics is one such category," said Marshall Kay, North America RFID practice leader, Kurt Salmon Associates. "Having a means to know the product is getting to the right place at the right time is extremely powerful."

The Mitsukoshi test is sponsored by the Minis­try of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan.

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