A.S. Watson Eyes O+O as the New Standard for Retail

Skin Analyser is a device to analyse the skin types and condition, and offer product recommendation

Using augmented reality technology, ColourMe provides virtual makeup and hair colouring trial in Watsons apps

Via Go-In-Store service, customers who browse online can speak to an instore beauty or health advisors on video to get consultation

WatsonsGo allows customers to buy in store via payment on mobile app

A.S. Watson teams up with Grab to help customers get what they need online and have them delivered to their doorsteps in under 2 hours

“Forget physical versus online. It’s not either or; O+O is the new standard for retail.” Speaking at the industry event Beauty Tech Live, Malina Ngai, Group COO of A.S. Watson Group & CEO of A.S. Watson (Asia & Europe), explained how O+O (Offline plus Online) becomes the new standard for retail and shapes the future.According to Ngai, “Simply, O+O describes how customers shop today. The customer journey almost always involves offline plus online. The traditional strategy of O2O (online to offline or offline to online) from the past generation drove customers from one channel to another, however O+O is totally different. It is more about creating an integrated experience to better serve customers’ needs, that enables them to shop across any channel, anytime, anywhere.”

“The motivation behind driving and delivering this new O+O standard is clear, there is no cannibalisation in customers’ spending in physical stores. In fact, O+O customer spends 3 times what an instore-only customer shops with us. It’s about creating bigger share of wallet and higher customer lifetime value,” Ngai explained.

Customer Connectivity Is The Centerpiece Of O+O
With over 16,000 physical stores and 100 eCommerce platforms in 27 markets in Asia and Europe, physical and online stores is the perfect leverage for the A.S. Watson O+O model.

Ngai elaborated, “To be able to deliver O+O with excellence, it’s a combination of our extensive physical store network as core touchpoints, our 140,000-strong customer service workforce, integrated with digital platforms, and most importantly, the customer connectivity with our base of 139 million loyalty members we’ve built over the past few years.”

“The new O+O standard is not about having physical stores and also an online store. It’s an ecosystem that is powered by technology, big data and artificial intelligence. Just as important, it’s an organisation cultural change when it comes to managing the business and prioritisation.”

All of the Group’s physical stores are connected to digital platforms, meaning the product offering is never limited by shelf space. In a few clicks, store teams can order products for delivery or pick-up by customers. Our loyalty members are also digitally connected with social media and digital platforms, so they can shop online not only on A.S. Watson’s mobile apps and websites, but also via WeChat, WhatsApp, and phone.

For example, in Watsons China, customers can seek personalised advice from in-store beauty advisors via Enterprise WeChat and enjoy one-to-one customer service. The advisor can recommend personalised promotion offers with the help of artificial intelligence engine, help order the products from its cloud service MyStore (WeChat platform tailored for Watsons) and customers can receive product delivery within one hour.

Technology-Enabled Shopping Experience
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. We doubled our development of digital assets and contents to keep our customers engaged. We doubled our fulfilment capacities to cope with the surging demand through picking in stores, which enables us to deliver within hours which is what customers need.”

When it comes to shopping experience, nearly all digital tools implemented are for O+O. “Customers of all generations are now increasingly mobile savvy and digitally connected. Experience we developed focuses on using customers’ own mobile phone to align with customer habits.”

Some examples of how technology has enabled us to enhance customer experience include:

WatsonsGO: It allows customers to buy in store via payment on mobile app. First launched in Watsons China, it’s now available in Watsons Hong Kong and Singapore.

Go-In-Store: Customers who browse online can speak to an instore beauty or health advisor on video to get consultation.

Skin Analyser: A device to analyse skin types and condition, and offer product recommendations. Skincare solutions continue to be in high demand around the world.

ColourMe: Using augmented reality technology, upgraded virtual makeup services have been launched in Watsons’ apps. Even if customers are wearing facemasks, they can virtually try on any lipstick product they choose. In addition, Watsons has introduced a virtual hair colouring tool in the mobile app to help customers choose the right hair colourants.

Virtual Foundation Trial: A new application that will be launched in Q2 in Asia will help customers find the right foundation that best suits their skin tone, right within an app.

Endless Aisle: A touch screen that allows customers to shop and choose either to collect the products in store or have them delivered to their home.

A.S. Watson has teamed up with Grab to help customers in Southeast Asia to get what they need online and have it delivered to their doorsteps in under 2 hours. Watsons’ extensive store network is a critical foundation for making express delivery possible.

Retail Is Not Dead. It Just Needs To Be Better
Ngai reinforced, “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.”

“Physical stores will continue to play a significant role in creating our unique O+O experience. While some companies decide to disinvest in stores, we plan to open 1,000 new stores this year. Retail is not dead; it just needs to be better for our customers.”