Watsons introduces the StyleMe tablet powered by augmented reality (AR)

A.S. Watson Group Seizes Retail Opportunities in the GBA through Technology Acceleration

Watsons is the flagship health and beauty brand of A.S. Watson Group, with more than 3,900 outlets in mainland China. Over 700 of these are in the Guangdong Hong Kong Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). In an interview for HKTDC, Malina Ngai, Group Chief Executive Officer of A.S. Watson Group and CEO of A.S. Watson (Asia & Europe) shares the company’s experience of operating in the GBA.

Opportunities in the GBA
As sales of health and beauty products grow rapidly in Asia and mainland China, A.S. Watson Group has seen a payback period of less than one year for its capital investment in mainland China. At Watsons China’s stores, cosmetics and skincare products are particularly popular among young consumers, which spells good opportunities for the Group. Watsons opened its first makeup concept store, Colorlab by Watsons, in 2018 in Guangzhou, providing customers with a trendy, experience led make-up space where they could freely try out different looks with products from major cosmetics brands. Within a year, more than 60 Colorlab had been opened in the mainland.

A.S. Watson Group also launched the first Watsons One Pass© in the GBA in 2019, allowing its members to enjoy benefits offered by local Watsons stores across the GBA and other parts of Asia.

Enhancing Shoppers’ Experience via Technology

A.S. Watson Group invested HK$1billion between 2012 and 2020 to accelerate the group’s digital transformation and drive the integration of O+O (Offline plus Online) platforms in order to improve customers’ shopping experience. Ngai said: “We must be agile and closely connect with customeres to deliver the most novel products and shopping experience. We also listen carefully to customers’ opinions, make decisions based on solid data and adjust our strategies to respond them in good time.”

99% of Gen Z customers love the experiential aspects of browsing and shopping at physical stores with friends and look for retail outlets with technology elements. Watsons has introduced several latest retail technologies such as the StyleMe tablet powered by augmented reality (AR) technology, RFID mobile payment systems and artificial intelligence (AI) devices in stores, as well as providing an O+O(Offline plus Online) shopping experience through mobile apps and social media.

Meanwhile, Watsons China has rolled out a new one to one beauty consultation service via the company’s WeChat Work. the staff can help customers place an order through the system, while customers can opt to have the order delivered via a one hour flash delivery, ‘click & collect’ or a regular courier service.

Using the GBA to Boost Competitiveness
In 2019, A.S. Watson Group launched TechLab, a technology experience centre in Shenzhen, bringing together technology talent in the GBA in order to research, develop and test state of the art retail technologies. The latest technologies on seamless payment and unmanned stores are being tried out at TechLab.

A.S. Watson Group has been in the forefront of working start ups. AI Lab was founded by the Group, along with innovation and technology giants and start ups, which allows start ups to study the Group’s business and make use of big data analytics, in order to pitch innovative and effective business solutions for enhancing customer experience.

Ngai said: “Every year, We keep over five billion customers happy and engaged through the offline and online stores network run by our 12 retail brands. If we can capitalise on the strengths of various GBA cities to create synergy, it will assist us in achieving our goal – Put a Smile on Our Customers’ faces.”

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