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RFID Passes the Sniff Test at Sephora's Flash Boutique

Parisian shoppers say they enjoy using the NFC RFID system to get more info about perfumes they sample while in the store, and to fill a digital shopping cart with the products they want to buy.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 22, 2015

Sephora, a beauty products retailer owned by LVMH, is employing Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID technology to bring a more interactive experience to shoppers at its Sephora Flash boutique. The retailer has added NFC passive RFID tags to the bottoms of perfume testers (bottles that shoppers used to sample fragrances), and has installed readers behind touchscreens to display content regarding a particular product. Shoppers can also use a card with an embedded NFC RFID tag to create a shopping cart that includes items not in the store, along with those that are present, enabling them to buy all desired items during a single sales transaction.

The Sephora Flash store aims to make cosmetics and perfume purchasing easier for shoppers, even if the items they seek aren't available at the store. The company calls this its Click & Collect service.

A shopper places a perfume tester on a designated spot near a touchscreen, so that an RFID reader can capture the unique ID number encoded to the RFID label attached to the bottle's bottom.
The 100-square-meter (1,076-square-foot) Flash store, which opened in October 2015 at 66 rue de Rivoli in Paris, stocks some popular brands and products onsite, but also provides access to 14,000 products from 150 brands that might not be there, via its digital catalog. Sephora's own lab created the RFID solution deployed in-store (the company declines to name the makes and models of the tags and readers it is using).

At the Sephora Flash store, staff members provide customer assistance and transact purchases. However, shoppers can also sample goods on their own via a perfume wall, and can learn more about each product by using the interactive technology.

First, a shopper selects a perfume tester and samples its fragrance. If she likes that product and wants to learn more about it, she can place the tester on a designated spot under which an NFC reader captures the unique ID number encoded to the tester's RFID label. The ID is thus linked, in Sephora's software, to the product's stock-keeping unit (SKU), thereby prompting the touchscreen to display pricing and other product information.

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