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RFID Aids the Customer Experience

IMX, a cosmetics company, is using RFID wands to give customers a high-tech buying experience.
By Bob Violino
Tags: Retail
Jun 26, 2003June 27, 2003 - ExxonMobil's popular Speedpass is all about speed, as the name suggests. Customers pull up to the pump, wave a little wand on their key chain near an RFID reader built into the pump and start filling up. Now, IMX Cosmetics, a custom cosmetics company based in Birmingham, Mich., is using the same type of key chain wand to improve the customer's buying experience.
IMX's Bartholomew

IMX services an upscale clientele at counters located in Barneys New York in Manhattan, Nordstrom in Las Vegas, and Fred Segal in Santa Monica. Customers can create their own custom lip-glosses, which sell for $20 each, using a high-tech mixing machine.

Founder Julie Bartholomew hit on the idea when mixing paint for a home improvement project. But she needed a cool, high-tech way to link customers to their unique makeup formulas, and an RFID keyfob turned out to be the perfect mix of technology and convenience.

Here's how it works. A customer walks up to an IMX kiosk in Barneys New York and selects a color, finish, flavor and fragrance for her lip-gloss. She can choose from 40 different colors, eight different finishes, and a host of flavors, glitters or fragrances. Customers could, for example, create a sheer chocolate brown gloss that tastes like fresh baked cookies.

Once the selections are made, the mixing machine, located next to the kiosk, sets a series of pumps and cartridges in motion to create the gloss. After it’s purchased, the unique recipe is stored in software created by IMX. IMX then gives the customer an MX Stick, a clear plastic key chain wand designed to look like the IMX mixing machine.

The wand contains a Texas Instruments 134.2 KHz RFID transponder. The unique serial number in the chip is associated with the customer's purchases and recipes in the IMX database. So the next time the customer comes in, she can wave the wand near a reader built into the kiosk, see what lip-gloss she mixed up previously. She can also make a new concoction and add it to her recipe list.
IMX's RFID wand

Other vendors could use the RFID self-service kiosk as a way to reduce the number of staff needed to service customers, but that wasn't Bartholomew's goal. She wanted to create a high-tech buying experience. "Customers want to be part of the technology, and RFID gives them the feeling that they are moving into the future," she says.

IMX is also using its software to identify some frequently created mixes. It plans to use those mixes to create prepackaged glosses and sell them at "Grab and Go" counters. By using RFID to help track customer purchases, Bartholomew says she’s satisfying two different demographics: teenagers and twenty-somethings that want something new and older shoppers that know what they want and want to have it made for them quickly. -- By Jennifer Maselli

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