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Estée Lauder Interacts With Customers Via RFID

An RFID-enabled kiosk allows customers of the company's Lab Series Skincare for Men line to view videos about a particular product simply by lifting it off the shelf.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 13, 2009When shoppers at five stores in the United Kingdom and North America browse through Estée Lauder's Lab Series Skincare for Men products, the kiosk on which those items are displayed interacts with them. By lifting a product off the shelf, consumers can activate and watch a video regarding that product that ceases playing when they return it to its proper place. This is part of an RFID-based system created by Lime IT & Media Solutions Ltd., an IT systems integrator and RFID hardware reseller, and Remote Media, a British company that markets a hosted digital signage system known as Signagelive. Not only does the technology provide video displays for customers, it also allows Estée Lauder to track the effectiveness of its displays, by storing data on the Signagelive server detailing how frequently tagged products were taken off the shelf, compared against the store's point-of-sale data.

The system—installed in the first store in October 2008, and now deployed in five locations—is the result of Estée Lauder's efforts to add some excitement to the shopping process, the company indicates. Estée Lauder sought an interactive system that would require as little intervention as possible, enabling consumers to learn more about the products being offered without having to make any effort to obtain that information.

When a customer picks up an item from the Estée Lauder display, the shelf interrogators can no longer read its tag, prompting the system to play a video, specific to the selected product.

The resulting system is installed in four House of Fraser stores in the United Kingdom—two located in London (Oxford Street and White City), and one each in Bristol and Belfast. The system has also been set up at Holt Renfrew, located in Toronto. If the system yields a positive return on investment (ROI), Estée Lauder hopes to expand it to additional stores in Europe and North America, according to Lime IT and Remote Media. Estée Lauder did not respond to requests for comment.

"The whole of this system is based around providing a solution that uses RFID as a mechanism to deliver the content to the end user," says Dominic Lennon, Lime IT's director. "The users do not have to press anything, scan anything or touch anything to get the content delivered to them; the user has only to pick up a product—a very natural human action."

The solution comprises a kiosk with RFID interrogators built into its product display shelves, as well as two 12-inch LCD screens in each of the British installations, and one 46-inch screen in Toronto. Adhered to the bottom of each Lab Series product is a passive 13.56 MHz Texas Instruments Tag-it tag, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. When products are sitting on the shelves, the RFID interrogators continually capture each tag's unique ID number. When a customer picks up an item from the display, the interrogators can no longer read its tag, prompting the Signagelive software to play a video, specific to the selected product, on the LCD screen. In the first two days of launching the system at the first store in October, Lime IT reports, 800 customer interactions were recorded.

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