Uniqlo reads customers’ minds to sell t-shirts

Discussion
Oct 09, 2015

From smart fitting rooms that offer clothing suggestions to touchscreen-enabled robots rolling through home centers to help customers find what they’re looking for, retailers are looking for new ways to use technology to anticipate the needs of customers and improve the shopping experience. The latest experiment on this front comes from Uniqlo and its UMood t-shirt technology.

PCWorld reports that Uniqlo’s UMood system analyzes a customer’s brainwaves through the use of an EEG headset the customer wears. The system displays a selection of images in order to gauge the customer’s neuro-electric responses to each and then uses that information to determine the customer’s mood. The customer is then shown one of the store’s 600 shirt designs, each tagged as evoking a particular mood. Uniqlo’s hope is that the match between the brainwave reading and the mood the shirt evokes will result in a sale.

Uniqlo debuted UMood in one store in Sydney, Australia, and will be implementing it in other stores in that area over the next few weeks.

EEG reader

Photos: Dentsu Sciencejam

The UMood concept may feel gimmicky at the moment — after all, there’s no real promise that the "mood" as defined by Uniqlo’s parsing of its EEG data is the deciding factor in what draws someone to purchase a particular article of clothing. But if measuring brainwaves can even gesture at giving reliable hard data insights into why a customer makes a purchase, it may be a technology that retailers and researchers continue to refine.

The use of EEG technology alongside other biofeedback response monitoring technology is a growing marketing trend in some areas outside of retail that has been dubbed "neuromarketing."

Like its name, the applications that have begun to emerge seem like something out of a cyberpunk science fiction novel. One company called Affectiva recently released an offering called Affdex Emotion as a Service, which allows enterprises and app designers to implement facial expression and emotion monitoring technology into their programs, and then interprets that visual data and converts it into metrics.

Similar techniques are also being used by the film industry to gauge the neurological and physiological reactions test audiences have to film trailers.

What is your reaction to the Uniqlo UMood system? Do you see an opportunity for retailers to use brainwave monitoring as a way to drive sales in stores? Are there other areas of retailing where you could see this technology being useful?

Braintrust
"It is just me or does this seem more than a bit creepy? Will consumers really opt for retailers to read their brainwaves? How about using technology to make a store easier to navigate, and easier to check out, thereby saving consumers’ time?"
"There is some science behind this type of testing, but there are a lot of factors that go into a purchase, making EEG info just another data point amongst many."
"While this is certainly cool technology, there are at least a hundred other improvements that are decades overdue that will make a greater impact sooner than this. Retailers can use this to create some buzz online, but let’s be serious; this is a long shot."

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10 Comments on "Uniqlo reads customers’ minds to sell t-shirts"

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Max Goldberg
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

It is just me or does this seem more than a bit creepy? Will consumers really opt for retailers to read their brainwaves? How about using technology to make a store easier to navigate, and easier to check out, thereby saving consumers’ time?

Ken Lonyai
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

There is some science behind this type of testing, but there are a lot of factors that go into a purchase, making EEG info just another data point amongst many.

Companies that I’m knowledgeable of like Affectiva (facial emotional recognition), Beyond Verbal (voice emotional recognition) and others that use passive techniques can capture similar insights in far less obtrusive and much faster ways.

It’s still a long way from ever becoming widespread, but the passive methods have the most promise for retail and e-tail and are most likely to be adopted.

Ian Percy
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

Yes Max, it is creepy. And it may be even more sinister than that. Desperate? Grasping at straws? Invasive? Violating? Sad?

As Ken points out, there is verifiable technology in play here; the question is, in play for what?

Remember when shopping used to be fun? When it was filled with joyful discovery and anticipation? When you decided for yourself whether you liked a design or color? Well, all that is about to be taken from you apparently.

New rules for shopping: Be sure to be fasting before you go shopping so your blood test will be accurate and then in the rest room, after you fill the little cup, just put it in the drawer and the lab tech will pick it up. After that you get the EEG. The whole thing should take only an hour or so and we’ll be able to tell you what you want to buy. Of course we could just ask you, but what’s the fun in that?

Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

Smart fitting rooms, tailoring or curating customer selections based on patterns hold a lot of promise. Results get even better if you tie smart fitting rooms together with Hointer’s style of execution of delivering samples to personal fitting rooms based upon real-time preference feedback.

But I’m with Max Goldberg on this one … the EEG brainwave system is both creepy and gimmicky from a consumer’s perspective.

While it might be “cool” to put the UMood system on once to see what it is, after the initial trial it will be come like a museum exhibit — been there done that, and I don’t need another t-shirt to prove it.

Larry Negrich
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

It’s all rather silly at this point but that is the genius behind it. Mix tech, limited medical science and some psychology in the form of determining “mood” and voila: cool PR! As this brainwave measurement science improves, utilizing it in a way to determine what a consumer would be most likely to buy provides great advantage to retailers. I can see it replacing the archaic selling technique being used in many retail outlets today of just asking a shopper what they are shopping for.

Brian Kelly
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

First things first, Uniqlo U.S. sales and earnings were below expectations and now it will open 10 fewer stores. So much for UMood …

In this post-Recession world, there is so little new and so many closings, I was hoping Uniqlo would surprise. Alas, t-shirts aren’t enough. Why should it be any different for Uniqlo? It wasn’t enough for American Apparel or Gap.

A branding problem for foreign invaders? Hasn’t stopped Zara or H&M. It is all about relevance. So much for Adam Scott sponsorship …

Sure there is a sucker born every minute (brainwaves?), but there are few among Millennials, who not only are digital natives but also parsimonious natives.

Or as we like to say, “retail ain’t for sissies!”

Tom Redd
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

This is another great way to grab PR space and mindshare. Is retailing really that tough that you need a biofeedback tool? Get new designers and this won’t be needed.

Stupid idea and my mind is too complex for UMood … I have MYMood and it is not for sharing.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

My reaction: Please, no.

The Japanese have a great fondness for gadgetry — at least that’s my perception — so this fits in well with Uniqlo, but I don’t see it spreading widely…thankfully.

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

While this is certainly cool technology, there are at least a hundred other improvements that are decades overdue that will make a greater impact sooner than this. Retailers can use this to create some buzz online, but let’s be serious; this is a long shot.

Kai Clarke
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

This UMood system is a gimmick used to attract attention. There is no proof that we can even determine which brainwaves drive sales, or any double-blind independent studies which can support this. Frankly, taking science and approaching it this way is almost like selling snake oil. Uniqlo, shame on you!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It is just me or does this seem more than a bit creepy? Will consumers really opt for retailers to read their brainwaves? How about using technology to make a store easier to navigate, and easier to check out, thereby saving consumers’ time?"
"There is some science behind this type of testing, but there are a lot of factors that go into a purchase, making EEG info just another data point amongst many."
"While this is certainly cool technology, there are at least a hundred other improvements that are decades overdue that will make a greater impact sooner than this. Retailers can use this to create some buzz online, but let’s be serious; this is a long shot."

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