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A.S. Watson Group intertwines beauty with innovation and sustainability

The Group wins big at the Retail Asia Awards 2022, taking home eight awards at regional and local levels.

Unique challenges and the need to adapt became much direr in the past years, as many retailers took a toll when consumers were forced to stay inside for their safety, especially at the height of the pandemic. Despite all challenges, A.S. Watson Group has accelerated its digital transformation whilst also paying close attention to its sustainability and ESG goals, winning them the Health & Beauty Retailer of the Year - Asia Award, Omnichannel Strategy of the Year - Asia Award, Sustainability Initiative of the Year - Asia Award, and the ESG Initiative of the Year - Asia Award at the Retail Asia Awards 2022. Meanwhile, Watsons, A.S. Watson Group’s flagship health and beauty brand, has also won the Health & Beauty Retailer of the Year in both Singapore and Philippines, Omnichannel Strategy of the Year, and Sustainability Initiative of the Year in Philippines, adding up to a total of 8 awards and making the Group one of the biggest winners at Retail Asia Awards 2022.

The awards programme recognises major breakthroughs, innovations, and key players in the retail industry of Asia, and A.S. Watson Group established itself as the leading force in the retail sector with its numerous awards in various fields. 

O+O is the new retail standard 

As the world’s largest international health and beauty retailer, for over 180 years, A.S. Watson Group has been transforming its retail model to adapt to the changing retail landscape and better suit the needs of its customers. 

Lockdowns, stores closure, and heightened concern over hygiene had made relationship building and connection with customers a big challenge. Everyone agrees that the pandemic has not only stressed many retailers’ capabilities but also completely reset the retail game. 

The O+O (Offline plus Online) model that the Group has transformed into has proven to be a resilient and successful one. According to a survey interviewing over 22,000 customers, it underlined customers’ desire for human connection in physical stores which cannot be replaced by technology. That’s why the Group’s O+O platform strategy has become more important than ever. It is not just about having physical stores and an online store, but also about creating an integrated experience powered by AI and big data capabilities to better serve customers’ needs, so that they can shop across any channel, anytime, anywhere. In fact, there is no cannibalisation in customers' spending in physical stores. O+O customer spends 3 times what an in-store-only customer shops with the Group.

All A.S. Watson Group’s physical stores are connected to digital platforms, meaning the product offering is never limited by shelf space. In a few clicks, store teams can order products for delivery or pick-up by customers. The Group’s loyal members are also digitally connected with social media and digital platforms, so they can shop online not only on mobile apps and websites but also via WhatsApp, WeChat, and phone.

Offering O+O customer experience 

Leveraging on the market-leading technology, A.S. Watson has been innovating to respond to customers’ needs and build deeper, stronger and more lasting connections with our customers. Riding the success of “ColourMe”, a virtual makeup try-on tool, “Foundation Finder” has also been launched in Watsons mobile app to help customers identify their perfect foundation colours and shades. Thanks to its Advanced Facial Analysis Technology, the new tool can recommend the best choice from over 700 foundation products from over 30 brands. 

Speed matters in customer experience for eCommerce, so the Group leverages its extensive physical store network to make fulfilment flexible and uplift customers’ shopping experience. 

Due to the extensive store network, Watsons Express Delivery allows customers to receive their orders in under 4 hours. Once an order is placed, store staff will pack the order instantly, where parcels are then quickly picked up and delivered by the 3PL couriers, shortening the delivery lead time substantially compared to the traditional fulfilment model. 

Another feature introduced is WatsonsGo, which allows customers to scan the barcode of any product on the Watsons App and complete the transaction directly without queuing at the cashier. This contactless checkout function makes payment safer and more convenient during the pandemic. 

To A.S. Watson Group, customers’ health is just as important. To help customers stay active and healthy, 360° Watsons VR Get Active Park was rolled out to provide a virtual playland that is made up of interactive zones where customers can play fitness games, learn health tips, earn eStamps, and redeem rewards. This resulted in over 1.2 million visits across the region.

Furthermore, various online health services have been introduced to enable customers to shop for professional health advice. In Watsons Philippines, Health Supplement Advisor is a self-help tool that curates expert content from pharmacists and provides health product recommendations according to customers’ needs, whilst in Watsons Hong Kong, one-on-one virtual consultation with pharmacists allows customers to reserve and order prescription drugs via WhatsApp. 

Engaging customers to do good with us 

Due to the pandemic, customers have started to rethink their priorities and they are now more aware of the impact their choices have on the environment and society where they are living in. They prefer brands and products that share a common value. Leveraging its influence on over 100 million loyal customers, Good Academy has been rolled out to create educational social media content to raise customers’ awareness of sustainability and to inspire behavioural change. 

To help customers make wiser choices, A.S. Watson has teamed up with its strategic supplier partners to offer a wide range of over 1,600 Sustainable Choices products in Asia – everything from skincare to shampoo. A Sustainable Choices section is available both in stores and online so that customers can easily and quickly find the very products they need. And for every purchase of exclusive Sustainable Choices products, the Group contributes a part of its profits to CO2 offset projects by ClimatePartner, a pioneer climate protection organisation, with a target to offset 2,250 tons of CO2 emissions.

The Group’s sustainability efforts go beyond products. Recycling programmes have been run to further encourage customers to do good together. In Hong Kong, the Plastic Reborn campaign has been launched with P&G, a three-year commitment to reward customers who bring back the empty personal care plastic bottles for recycling, whilst in Indonesia, Watsons has partnered with Garnier and Bioderma so that customers can recycle empty skincare or personal care bottles in return for a cash voucher. So far, over 1 million plastic containers were recycled across the region. 

A.S. Watson has gained widespread recognition for its commitment to sustainability. According to the sustainable branding study with 3,500 customers from 7 Asian markets, over 70% agree that Watsons’ sustainability efforts are well received, and its initiatives make Watsons the number 1 in sustainability across Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. 

Supporting communities in more beautiful ways 

A.S. Watson sees its role not only as a retailer but also as a contributor to a better world and healthier planet. With “Putting a smile on the customers’ faces today and tomorrow” being its social purpose, A.S. Watson Group has launched a global sustainability programme Give a Smile in partnership with Operation Smile. The Group has been sparing no effort in engaging its employees, customers and business partners around the world to raise funds for children with cleft conditions. 

To make a bigger impact together, the Group has worked closely with its global supplier partners like Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive to drive donations. Since its launch, the Give a Smile campaign has funded surgeries for over 5,000 cleft patients, giving them new smiles and fresh hope. 

Give a Smile is also part of A.S. Watson's 2030 Sustainability Vision, with a goal to restore 10,000 perfect smiles by 2030. It has clearly demonstrated how a philanthropy programme can contribute to sustainable development and ensure healthy lives and well-being for all. 

A.S. Watson’s contribution to the community has earned worldwide recognition as a responsible retailer who is determined to do the right thing for its customers as well as the planet. According to the latest survey conducted in Asia, A.S. Watson stood out amongst the competition with its good sustainability image and performed strongly in attributes related to sustainability, with most of its business units ranking top in its respective markets.

The 17th Retail Asia Awards is presented by Retail Asia. To view the full list of winners, click here. If you want to join the 2023 awards programme and be acclaimed for your company's outstanding retail initiatives, please contact Jane Patiag at [email protected].

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