Shiseido Co., the Japanese firm that sells Laura Mercier cosmetics and Dolce & Gabbana fragrances, sold ¥1 trillion ($9.3 billion) worth of beauty products last year, mostly in traditional stores where customers can sample brands in person.

That's a problem for Masahiko Uotani, Shiseido's chief executive officer. Consumers in their teens and twenties often prefer to shop online, beyond the reach of in-store salespeople. Uotani's solution? To partner with — and even buy up — small startups in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs to gain expertise in artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other technologies.

His ambition is to help shoppers replicate online the experience of trying on cosmetics in a store, and use data from smart devices to create personalized makeup for customers.