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‘Retail is not dead’ – AS Watson COO explains the new standard for retail

Online plus Offline (O+O) will replace O2O as the new standard for the retail industry, according to Malina Ngai, Group COO of AS Watson Group. 

“The traditional strategy of O2O from the past generation drove customers from one channel to another, however O+O is totally different,” Ngai says. “It is more about creating an integrated experience to better serve customers’ needs, that enables them to shop across any channel, anytime, anywhere.”

Ngai says O+O will be AS Watson’s core business strategy this year and beyond. She says the group’s extensive network of more than 16,000 physical stores and 100 e-commerce platforms across Asia and Europe, enables it to effectively use the retail model. 

“O+O customers spend three times what an in store-only customer shops with us. It’s about creating a bigger share of wallet and higher customer lifetime value.”

“[O+O] is an ecosystem that is powered by technology, big data and artificial intelligence. Just as important, it’s an organisation cultural change when it comes to managing the business and prioritisation.”

Besides shifting its focus to the O+O business model, AS Watson also plans to expand its footprint with 1000 new stores opening this year. 

“Physical stores will continue to play a significant role in creating our unique O+O experience,” Ngai adds. “Retail is not dead; it just needs to be better for our customers.”

As all of the group’s brick-and-mortar outlets are connected to digital platforms, offerings are now not limited by shelf space. The group has also doubled its development of digital assets and content to keep customers engaged. The fulfilment capacities were expanded to meet the increasing demand through picking in stores. 

“Customers of all generations are now increasingly mobile savvy and digitally connected. Experiences we developed focus on using customers’ own mobile phone to align with customer habits,” Ngai says. 

Some of the O+O experiences that have been implemented at AS Watson include virtual makeup services, payments direct from the company’s mobile app WatsonGo, the Endless Aisle concept merging inventories on and offline into one and a digital Skin Analyser. 

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