First-Ever AS Watson European Hackathon Brings 70 University Students from the Netherlands, UK & Italy to Reinvent the future of Retail Together

Thursday April 18th, 2024

AS Watson Group, the world’s largest international health and beauty retailer, hosted its first-ever European Hackathon in Amsterdam on 13-14 April. The 24-hour Hackathon was attended by 70 university students, who came together to tackle real-life business challenges related to Next Generation Loyalty. The participants were driven to utilise their skills, creativity, and collective expertise to develop innovative solutions that redefine the future of loyalty in the retail landscape.

Malina Ngai, CEO of AS Watson, said, “Customer loyalty is of utmost importance for a retailer, but customer expectations have been evolving, particularly among the next generation. That’s why we want to develop the next generation of loyalty, and there is no better way than having the next generation of talents propose to us.”

Innovating to Enhance Customer Loyalty
In the course of this Hackathon, the 70 participants were divided into 12 teams, with each team assigned to one of the three challenges: Gamification in Retail, Digital Loyalty Programmes, and Generative AI.

These challenges evolve around the theme of Next Generation Loyalty, with the key research question being: ‘’How can AS Watson leverage its O+O strategy to enhance customer engagement and drive loyalty?’’

The winning solutions were evaluated based on several judging criteria, including novelty, innovation, and wow-factor, alignment with the challenge presented, sustainability, personalisation and relevance.

Throughout the Hackathon, these talented participants showcased their entrepreneurial drive and demonstrated their understanding of an ever-changing retail market, all while expressing their innovation and gaining valuable experience.

Ngai added, “The quality of the presentations has exceeded my expectations. The ideas and propositions that participants came up within 24 hours are mind-blowing.”

“What really blew me away was the teamwork on display. Everyone participant is a winner! They took the initiative to register for the Hackathon, got through the first stage to the final. The attitude to be proactive and willingness to take on challenges are what it takes to be successful in their careers and lives.”

“The Hackathon provides a platform for young people to shine! This isn’t the end; it’s just the beginning for them.”

Judges of the AS Watson Hackathon:
• Malina Ngai, CEO of AS Watson
• Joanne Mackie, Group People Director (Europe) of AS Watson
• Ed van de Weerd, CEO AS Watson Benelux & Group International Commercial Director
• Mandy Ng, Chief Customer Insights & Analytics Officer
• Bhavik Davda, Chief Customer Insights & Analytics Officer (DataLab Europe)
• Dan Jarvis, Chief Digital Officer (Europe)
• Andrea Zoboli, eLab Technology Director (Europe)
• Frenkel Tel, O+O Store Innovation Lead (Europe)

Winners of the AS Watson Hackathon:
Champion – Riders
Winning Team Members: Vittoria Bicciolo, Lisa Colombo, Martin Kozon, Lorenzo Nicotera, Pouya Sattari, Lucia Terenzi, Cindy Ye

Project Description:
The Raiders developed MyGlow: a highly advanced Virtual Counselor that feeds on Primary and Secondary data to accompany the user through a positive, engaging and granularly adaptive Beauty Journey, tracking their progress through Face Scans and suggesting data driven adjustments to their routine and habits.

This project is an AI-powered loyalty approach that revolutionises the beauty industry. Their Beauty Bootcamp offers assisted tasks on a daily routine, providing a gamified experience that rewards loyalty and connects customers to stores. This innovative approach is new to the competition and offers an element of reward and loyalty.

1st Runner-up – VirtuReal
Winning Team Members: Giulia Albanese Ginammi, Francesca Barbarossa, Jenny Turrin, Mike Geerts, Julia Uijttewaal, Milou Voogd

Project Description:
This project offers a unique and exciting shopping experience through the use of augmented reality (AR) technology. Besides using virtual reality (VR) with VR glasses, the solution allows customers to create their own shopping environment using AR. This innovative approach sets this apart from others and provides a personalised and immersive shopping experience.

2nd Runner-up – Beauty Squadron
Winning Team Members: Yusef Ahmed, Muhammad Rafi Pramanta Hidayat, Maria Neicutescu, Eleftheria Papachristoforou, Marios Papalouka, Thomas Rosendaal, Pranav Srivastava

Project Description:
This project is designed to engage Gen Z and create loyalty through a combination of online and offline challenges. The approach, with WatsonQuest, focuses on user experience, personalisation, and persona building, providing a unique and engaging experience for customers. By leveraging the O+O strategy, this solution offers a seamless and immersive experience that drives engagement and loyalty among Gen Z.