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Technology looks good in Walmart’s beauty dept.

BY Mike Troy

ROGERS, Ark. —Two Walmart stores in northwest Arkansas are experimenting with new technology that adds fun and excitement to the beauty department, along with the potential to increase sales.

Walmart stores in Rogers and Springdale now feature a technology called the “Virtual Mirror,” an IBM kiosk that runs an application from EZface that allows customers to try on cosmetics virtually. The three kiosks are integrated into the shelves where L’Oréal, Revlon and CoverGirl brands are located. Customers look into the digital mirror, which sits flush with the shelf, and press a button to take a photo of themselves using a digital camera built into the display. They then scan in the bar code of the beauty product they are interested in, and the technology applies it virtually to their eyes, cheeks, lips or faces.

The system measures skin tone, facial features and product color to produce a realistic simulation of a makeover, and has the capability to suggest complementary products and specific shades for different skin tones. Customers can digitally share a photo of their virtual makeovers with friends to get their opinions, or they can simply make the purchase.

For Walmart, the technology also addresses a key competitive disadvantage relative to retailers who employ beauty advisers, such as department stores or Sephora, where customers can experiment with different looks. Walmart customers have no way of experimenting with products in-store, short of opening packages, which causes shrink. As a result, sales tend to be limited to replacement purchases or inexpensive items where the cost of making the wrong choice is low.

The ability to experiment with different colors or shades is a powerful consumer empowerment capability because the use of technology can diminish the apprehension that exists about making the wrong selection. The kiosks also have the potential to aggregate usage information that can be analyzed for merchandise assortment purposes, and can be used to display promotional messages.

EZface unveiled the technology earlier this year at the National Retail Federation’s annual convention held in New York.

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Kroger declares quarterly dividend

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI The Kroger Co. announced that its board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of 9 cents per share to be paid on Sept. 1 to shareholders of record at of the close of business on Aug. 14.

Kroger, one of the nation’s largest retail grocery chains, employs more than 326,000 associates, who serve customers in 2,475 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states.

On Thursday, the company announced that its president and COO Don McGeorge was retiring. McGeorge has been replaced by W. Rodney McMullen.

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Walgreens to test diabetes care model

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Walgreens continues to flesh out its revamped strategy to be the nation’s most convenient and accessible provider of pharmacy and health-and-wellness services.

 

The latest plank in that platform is its plan to test a pharmacy-driven outreach and support program for patients with diabetes.

 

Diabetic-care services and product presentations are nothing new in the nation’s chain and independent drug stores; every pharmacy leader knows that diabetes is a major, (often undiagnosed) health challenge and a “gateway” disease that usually subjects its sufferers to a slew of other related conditions involving the circulatory system, the skin and other organs. It’s also no secret that diabetics generate far more in annual drug store sales to treat these related conditions.

 

What makes Walgreens’ pilot program worthy of notice are two things.

 

 

First, with some 6,800 retail pharmacies, 350 in-store and worksite clinics and a network of specialty pharmacies across the United States, the company wields enormous potential power in the healthcare marketplace. If it expands its fledgling diabetes pilot beyond the test stage, it has thousands of “points of care” through which it could offer diabetes support programs and other disease management offerings. It’s a huge potential resource to offer diabetic patients and their employer-based or government-sponsored health plans, not to mention those patients’ overburdened, time-constrained primary care doctors.

 

 

Second, Walgreens is very deliberately positioning its diabetes care offering as a part of a much broader, integrated healthcare platform that links patients in the program to all the company’s health-and-wellness capabilities, said Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson. And it dovetails neatly with the Obama administration’s call for “more preventive care and better access,” in the words of Walgreens’ top manager.

 

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