Being the world’s largest health and beauty retailer, A.S. Watson Group announces its plan to open over 1,300 new stores for the third year in a row; that’s one new store opened every seven hours. The growth plan shows the Group’s optimistic view in the global opportunity offered in retail, as well as its forward-thinking strategy on store openings, customer service and digital transformation.
The Group currently has over 14,300 stores in 24 operating markets, including some of the world’s most trusted brands as as Kruidvat (1,000 stores in Netherlands and Belgium), Superdrug (800 stores in UK and Ireland) and ParknShop (340 supermarkets in Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China). The Group’s flagship retail brand is Watsons which operates 6,600 stores in 12 Asian and European countries and has opened its first store in Russia lately.
The digital transformation of the Group began in 2010, with the launch of the first A.S. Watson customer strategy. This pivotal document recognised that the digital evolution was changing customer behaviour – not only the way they sought inspiration, but how they communicated to brands and their expectations to be listened to. The customer strategy showed the Group’s determination to become a more customer centric organisation, through the use of analytics, surveys, digital analysis and social listening to stay close to customers and put into action their views and feedback.
Eight years after the launch of the first customer strategy the Group now has over 130 million members in its loyalty programme globally, and with a recorded revenue increase of six per cent in its core health and beauty business, the plan is showing dividends.
“Digital transformation in organisations so often focuses on technology investment and new digital applications, and ignores the human touch,” said Malina Ngai, Group Chief Operating Officer.
“When 70 per cent of your colleagues are Generation Y and Z, it’s vital to talk to them in the right way, to enable them to serve today’s customers.”
The Group has changed the way it recruits and communicates with colleagues across the business, including using mobile APPs for training to replace traditional learning. Across the territories you’ll find each business’s social media platforms run and managed by young colleagues, talking to their peers in a relatable way.
“Growth in terms of store numbers is just part of the picture, we are well aware that offering the best customer service and ensuring customer satisfaction is key to our continued success.”
“The way that our customers shop is continually changing and we know how important it is to keep at the forefront of changing trends and innovation by the effective use of big data.”
The Group last year announced its investment of US $70m in building big data capabilities to enhance its customers’ experiences as well as business efficiencies. The roll out is in partnership with Toronto-based Rubikloud a company that specialises in software platforms for retailers.
A.S. Watson continues to invest in technology, to allow it to build on customer insights and create innovative digital platforms. This investment is backed by a programme of collaborations with suppliers who are pioneering technology expertise in their fields. This close collaboration is helping the Group ensure our customers are being served with cutting edge store systems, artificial intelligence and eCommerce.