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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
Additionally, each time a product is removed from and returned to a shelf, that action is also transmitted via the Internet to the Signagelive server, which stores and analyzes the data. Estée Lauder can log onto a password-protected Signagelive Web site and view the number of transactions at the kiosk, then compare that information with sales transactions that took place on the same day and at the same store in which the kiosk is located. Estée Lauder and other Signagelive clients receive a year's worth of free service with the initial purchase of the kiosk and RFID hardware. After that initial year ends, the manufacturer will be charged a monthly fee for accessing that data.

Jason Cremins
In addition to displaying product videos, the system offers other features as well. Sales employees, known as consultants, can place a "Skin Consultant" tag on one of the shelves. When an interrogator reads the tag's unique ID number, it activates a camera that photographs a customer's skin. A magnified image of that person's skin is then displayed on one of the LCD screens, enabling the consultant to analyze the skin type and recommend products based on the results of that analysis. There is also a "Supervisor" tag that store consultants can use by placing it near a kiosk RFID reader, which instructs the system to go into maintenance mode. The consultant can then add a new product to the system, and have a video about that item available for playback when selected.

Remote Media was formed in the mid 1990s as a provider of digital signage and interactive touch-screen systems for ATM machines and other financial services. In the past few years, says Jason Cremins, Remote Media's CEO, the company has been introducing radio frequency identification into its products. "The traditional way to provide media is the touch screen," Cremins says. "That takes a leap of faith to ask the customer to interact with the screen. By using RFID, it becomes incredibly intuitive."

Lennon declines to specify the price for the system in this application, or the cost in general, saying it varies considerably depending on the solution. "We appreciate it's not cheap," Cremins states. "It's going to be higher-end goods providers who will be attracted to the system to justify that cost."

Cremins expects services such as this to become more common as they are further piloted to prove their value, as well as being fueled by the continued price reduction of RFID tags and readers. An unnamed U.K. retailer is also testing the system, whereby a customer picks up a tagged DVD from a shelf, and the LCD displays a video about that specific title. That pilot, underway in two of the retailer's stores, was launched in December 2008.

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