A.S. Watson: Offline + Online is the new retail standard

Date : 19 April 2021

Francis Ramos

Senior Retail Analyst

A.S. Watson’s Group COO and CEO of A.S. Watson (Asia and Europe), Malina Ngai, has spoken at the industry event Beauty Tech Live this week.  She has explained how O+O (Offline plus Online) has become the new retail standard in health and beauty.

O+O customers spend three times more than exclusive instore shoppers

Malina Ngai describes O+O as “how customers shop today. The customer journey almost always involves offline plus online….It is more about creating an integrated experience to better serve customers’ needs, that enables them to shop across any channel, anytime, anywhere.”  A.S. Watson is confident with this approach as they can get a bigger share of wallet from O+O customers.  These shoppers usually spend three times more compared with how much an exclusive instore customer spends at A.S. Watson. With this strategy, the group can leverage its 16,000 physical stores and 100 ecommerce platforms in 27 markets in Asia and Europe. 

Digital assets and fulfillment capabilities have been accelerated during the pandemic

A.S. Watson has doubled its development of digital assets to continue engaging its customers.  To cope with the surge in demand from ecommerce last year, it has also increased its fulfillment capacities so that the products ordered can be delivered within hours. Ngai added, “Over the last 12 months, O+O has become more important than ever in terms of keeping customers engaged and ensuring a seamless retail experience.”  The following were cited as examples of how technology has made A.S. Watson enhance the experience of its customers:

Source: A.S. Watson

O+O PAYMENT 

  • Through WatsonsGO, customers can now pay through their mobile apps.  This is now available in Watsons China, Hong Kong and Singapore

Source: A.S. Watson

O+O EXPERIENCES

  • Go-In-Store: where customers who are online can speak to an instore health and beauty advisor through a video call
  • Skin Analyser: this tool was developed to analyse customers’ skin condition and offer product recommendations based on their skin type
  • ColourMe: customers can virtually try different lipstick colours or hair colourants, using augmented reality in Watson’s mobile app
  • Virtual Foundation Trial: a new virtual app to be launched in the second quarter, to help customers find the right foundation that suits their skin tone
  • Endless Aisle: a screen that allows customers to shop, and choose either to collect the products in store or have them delivered

Source: A.S. Watson

O+O DELIVERY

  • A.S. Watson has teamed up with Grab to help customers in Southeast Asia buy what they need online and have the product delivered in under two hours, through Watson’s extensive store network in the region

Social media supplements availability of A.S. Watson’s digital platforms

All of the physical stores of A.S. Watson are now connected to their digital platforms.  In addition to its own mobile apps and websites, customers can also order products for delivery or pick-up through social messaging platforms such as WeChat and WhatsApp.  In Watsons China, shoppers can even seek personalised recommendations from in-store beauty advisors through Enterprise WeChat.  By offering such service, the beauty advisor can customise the promotions she would recommend with the help of artificial intelligence, order products from its cloud service MyStore (which is a WeChat platform tailored specially for Watsons), and delivery to customers can be done within an hour.

Physical stores will continue to play a role in the omnichannel retail experience

The group has also emphasized that traditional stores need to evolve to cater to the needs of today’s health and beauty customers.   It has been mentioned in this forum that A.S. Watson plans to open 1,000 new stores this year, highlighting that “retail is not dead; it just needs to be better for our customers.  Converting more customers to O+O members will be our core growth strategy in 2021 and beyond. We will be laser focused on customer lifestyle and their expectation on shopping experience.”

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