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We review A.S. Watson’s retail outlook over the next five years and the key markets to watch, as it continues to expand around the world.
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A.S. Watson has expanded its Watsons One Pass loyalty program to cover over 660 stores in China’s Greater Bay Area.
Shoppers in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau are now able to enjoy member benefits when they shop at Watsons by using just one loyalty card, Watsons One Pass. The retailer operates in all 11 cities in the Greater Bay Area, and the new initiative provide shoppers greater access to local benefits when travelling across different cities.
The retailer has also outlined plans to expand Watsons One Pass loyalty program to other Asian markets including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia in the future.
A.S. Watson’s Chief Operating Officer, Malina Ngai, said, “Watsons has been the No.1 Pharmacy/ Drugstore brand in Asia for 10 consecutive years with more than 90 million loyalty club members, and the majority of them are frequent travellers […]”
Source: A.S. Watson
SM Retail and A.S. Watson’s joint venture, Watsons, will open 100 new stores in the Philippines this year.
Of the 100 planned new stores, 80% will be community-based stores. The aim is to provide greater accessibility to shoppers as it recognises that not all shoppers go to malls. These stores will be approx. 200 sq m, with three quarters of the space used as a selling area.
Watsons has been investing in growing its store network and training its pharmacists to grow its health and wellness segments alongside beauty. With shoppers beginning to follow beauty and health care trends more closely, the Philippines is a key market for further growth.
Watsons Philippines ended 2018 with 750 stores, and its network has seen a CAGR increase of 18.3% since 2015.
Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido and A.S. Watson have partnered to launch an exclusive derma skincare range under the “D Program” brand.
A.S. Watson partners brands to drive innovation. Last month, we outlined how it is partnering L'Oréal's AI and AR firm ModiFace have launched a virtual makeup service.
The retailer's latest initiative is to launch a new derma skincare range in Thailand, Taiwan and China. Masahiko Uotani, Shiseido's President and CEO, said, "A.S. Watson is the largest health and beauty retailer in the world that acts with speed, innovation and vision making them the perfect retailer to bring Urban Damage Care to the high street.”
The two businesses have co-created a range that maximises their respective strengths, A.S. Watson’s strong distribution network and customer insight and Shiseido’s expertise in R&D and innovation. The project started with a customer survey on a selected panel of Watsons members 18 months ago.
A.S. Watson continues to expand its store network across the world. Like in 2017 and 2018, this year it has committed to opening more than a 1,000 stores. Sales growth remains higher than store network growth, with the retailer performing strongly in 2018. The retailer also has a strong and growing base of returning customers, with approx. 135 million members worldwide. Dominic Lai, A.S. Watson's Managing Director, said, "Continuing this momentum, we will be expanding at the speed of one store every seven hours. In 2019. we target to open over 1,300 stores, around one-third will be in China."
To drive offline and online integration, it has been investing in digital transformation in order to connect its customers through different channels. Click and collect, which links 13,000 stores to the respective localised ecommerce sites plays an important role in the retailer's O2O strategy. It allows customers, for example, to browse online and pick up in any of the stores the next morning. This helps drive more purchases when customers visit the store. Malina Ngai, A.S. Watson’s COO, said, “So on average, 20 to 30% of the shoppers will buy something else [...] in some markets, like Taiwan, that rate grows as high as 52%."
Subscribers can read the latest news and insight on A.S. Watson here.
A.S Watson will invest HKD1bn (US$128m) on digital innovation over the next ten years as it continues to step up transformation across the business to enhance the shopping experience.
A.S. Watson continues to invest in technology and ecommerce. By next year, the retailer will have spent approx. HKD1bn on digital and technology since 2012. Over the next ten years, it plans to invest another HKD1bn. In recent years, A.S. Watson has invested in self-checkout machines, virtual technology make-up service, predictive modelling technology and facial recognition for payments. It has also launched a Technology Partnership Programme to build a network of strategic partners.
Looking ahead, the retailer plans to roll out machines for skin analysis, digital panels to let customers choose products and technologies for customising product positioning in different stores. It continues to introduce new initiatives to offer greater personalisation, as well as partner technology start-ups in countries such as Canada, the U.S. and Australia to accelerate digital transformation.
In 2017 for example, A.S. Watson partnered with Toronto-based Rubikloud as part of its investment in big data capabilities. At some of its stores, the retailer has developed a traffic management system that uses big data analytics to help it choose future store locations.
Click here to see A.S. Watson’s FY18 results.
Subscribers can read more on A.S. Watson's Strategic Outlook here.
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