A.S. Watson, the world’s largest international health and beauty retailer, injects an additional HK$900 million in technology this year to accelerate digital transformation and delivery of its O+O platform strategy. Key technology focus areas include heavy up resources in its in-house “eLab” and “TECHLab”, and further building machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), big data and retail technology.
According to Malina Ngai, Group COO of A.S. Watson Group and CEO of A.S. Watson (Asia and Europe), “Technology is vital for us to deliver the right offline plus online (O+O) customer experience. We are committed to our customers to lead and shape the new standard of retail for them, and have set our consumer-facing and back-end technology investment priorities accordingly.”
“Just as importantly, we are mindful that digital transformation is not just about how much investment we put in technology or how many more digital devices we put in the stores. It is also about genuine revolution in the organisation culture - the way we think, the way we work, and the way we communicate and serve our customers.”
eLab Innovates O+O Customer Solutions
After over two years of prolonged pandemic impact, customers’ shopping behaviour have shifted considerably. A.S. Watson’s in-house digital development agency “eLab” in Hong Kong and Milan, have been the key enablers behind the easier and faster O+O customer solutions.
TECHLab Advances Instore Technologies
Recently, A.S. Watson’s TECHLab has expanded its new technology experience centre in the buzzing tech hub Shenzhen in Mainland China, alongside its existing TECHLab in the Netherlands, to increase its capabilities for developing new solutions and testing new customer experience technology before it’s rolled out in A.S. Watson businesses around the world. The new technology experience centre showcases the latest shopping technology including unmanned stores, smart shelves, unmanned cabinet, interactive games, store entrance with facial recognition and seamless payment.
Technology Investment Priorities
Top Three Consumer-facing Technology Investment Priorities
The company prioritises the top three consumer-facing technology investment as follows:
1. O+O technology solutions for health and beauty shopping
2. Personalisation in customer experience powered by the use of AI
3. Instore technologies such as digital payments, smart shelving
Top Three Backend Technology Investment Priorities
In addition to consumer-facing technologies, the company also prioritises its investment in backend technology in three areas:
1. Big data management and visualisation
2. Cyber security
3. Promotion optimisation
Ngai adds, “Retail is evolving very quickly. What took a decade to develop in the past would now happen in two years. To stay winning, we are racing against time every day. We therefore need to build agility in the organisation, and to empower our people with data insights in real-time, cloud-based dashboards is key to fast and smart decision making. O+O continues to be A.S. Watson’s core strategy and technology is the critical engine for future growth.”