TOKYO — The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced brands and retailers to rethink how to best sell their products in an environment that has undergone drastic changes in just a few short months. For Japan’s largest cosmetics company, the solution is a store that is heavy on high-tech, digital services that reduce human-to-human contact, as well as an online version of the same store.
Shiseido Corp. opened its first flagship store for its namesake brand in Tokyo’s Ginza district Friday. The opening had been planned for spring, but was delayed due to the pandemic. Yoshiaki Okabe, chief brand officer of Shiseido, described the store as a “hybrid” model combining the digital experience with Japan’s legendary hospitality and customer service.
“What can be done digitally will be done digitally; what cannot be done digitally will be done by people,” Okabe said during a virtual press conference to unveil the store.
The Shiseido flagship is divided into three floors, each with a distinct theme. When customers enter at street level, they will find a variety of stations that encourage different types of product sampling. In addition, special wristbands used within the store enable customers to add products to their virtual cart as they move through the store browsing and sampling products. When they are ready to check out, their products will be brought to them at the cash wrap.
At a station called the Digiskin Tester, customers use a stylus to answer a questionnaire on a touch screen, at the end of which the machine recommends skin-care products that fit their needs and skin type. If they wish to test the products, a staff member will sterilize them before handing them to the customer to try.
The Make Me Up area allows customers to test color cosmetics via simulation. On a mirror-like touch screen, the user can change products, colors and the placement of the makeup in order to get an idea of how the colors will look on their own skin, all without any risk of cross-contamination of tester products. At the digital foundation bar, customers take a digital photo of themselves in order to find their perfect shade from among 30 options.
Also on the ground floor is an automatic dispenser for testing Shiseido’s best-selling Ultimune product, as well as a vending machine for purchasing it without the need for contact with another person.
“We have found that people are tired of being at home and tired of doing everything online,” said Emi Watanabe, Shiseido’s brand manager. “They want to go out, but they want to feel that they are safe when they do so.”
The second level of the store focuses on unique services, including a new style of counseling that is more of a makeup lesson. Trained beauty consultants teach tips and tricks of applying makeup, and guide customers through it as they try it for themselves. There is also a wrapping station where customers can choose from a variety of origami papers, ribbons and gift boxes, as well as an engraving machine where they can get products that are etched with their choice of symbols, phrases, their name and more.
The basement of the store houses Somadome meditation pods for the first time in Japan. Customers can book an appointment online and then visit the store for an entirely solitary, technology-enabled session. Watanabe described the aim of the meditation as “awakening the beauty in you.”
While Shiseido went to great lengths to ensure that its new flagship store would be a place where customers can shop safely and with peace of mind, the company also made the choice to open a virtual flagship on the same day. Customers who view the store online see it just as it is in person, and they can click the different floors and stations to move about, watch dedicated video content, and discover and purchase products.