A.S. Watson Group predicts trends in retail market, explains O+O strategies

With integration of offline and online marketing and customer experience accelerated as a result of COVID-19, some brands have already combined the strength of both channels to prepare themselves for the challenges to come in 2021. Watsons International's chief digital officer Freda Ng talks to Marketing about digital trends in 2021 and its O+O (offline + online) strategies. 

"O+O is the new retail standard. It is a seamless integration of offline and online shopping experience powered by big data and artificial intelligence," said Ng. 

This model benefits both customers and brands. "O+O is about using digital (methods) to make it easier and more enjoyable for customers to shop anytime, anywhere. Retailers can benefit from the O+O model as it drives higher sales conversion and a stronger base of loyal customers," she added.

The retail industry has changed a lot since the outbreak of the pandemic. Customers are getting used to shopping online, although many still say they would return to brick-and-mortar stores in the future. Some trends have appeared since the change of spending habits among customers, according to Ng. 

Livestream shopping is one trend on the rise. Combining human connection with the online shopping journey, it enables gameified shopping experiences that integrate fun elements with personal connections to build emotional bonds, and in turn, increase sales. 

Personalisation is another trend that marketers should notice. Currently, customers increasingly prefer brands that make them feel valued and unique. By using AI, personalised offers, product recommendations and communications, brands can tailor their products and services to individual customers.

AR and VR will become even more popular as customers are open to trying products virtually and receiving advice and recommendations from sales associates. 

Moreover, customers expect faster delivery now. Through an extensive store network, retailers can deliver the products from brick-and-mortar stores, drastically saving delivery time compared to the past that might take one to two days. During the pandemic, A.S Watson Group not only leverages technology to stay connected with customers, the brand also leverages its stores for pick-up, enabling fast delivery in less than two hours.watsons customer shopping online at home"The pandemic has not only changed the way customers live and shop, but also shifted their needs, value and expectations," said Ng. 

The retail market experienced a sudden surge in online shopping last year. However, Ng told that A.S Watson Group's O+O capabilities have made fast-tracking implementation of cloud technology for e-commerce possible, enabling the brand to handle the exponential growth in traffic and optimise the shopping experience.

Although customers will continue to shop online after the pandemic, they will not entirely switch to the online landscape in the future. Instead, A.S Watson Group said customers will go back to the physical stores for shopping, especially the Gen Z cohort.watsons edelivery"We have witnessed an encouraging growth both offline and online. This is why we call our model O+O but not O2O, because we are not seeking to drive them from one channel to another, but to offer an experience that we have strong presence online and offline and customers can shop with us across all channels," Ng explained. 

Looking forward, A.S Watson Group will continue to expand its online platform and mobile app. At the moment, the group is now operating over 100 e-commerce platforms in 27 markets globally, including GrabMart, which it has recently announced an O+O health and beauty partnership with.

"Physical stores and online store are perfectly complementary in our business model. E-commerce continues to grow in every market, brick-and-mortar stores will increasingly serve as a place that is not only about transactions, but also about human interaction with customers. This really underlines people’s desire for a human connection which will play an important part in retail’s recover," Ng concluded. 

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