Watsons hitches a ride on Grab to expand online presence across SEA

Health and beauty retail brand Watsons's parent company A.S. Watsons Group has partnered with Grab to expand its online presence across Southeast Asia. Both entities will collaborate across multiple services, starting with GrabExpress, GrabMart and GrabPay. 

According to a press release, the partnership will offer a seamless online and offline shopping experience as well as faster and more reliable delivery services to customers in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It also aims to drive more sales to health and beauty brands available on Watsons eCommerce channels such as the Watsons mobile apps and its presence on GrabMart. The partnership is said to enable both companies to capture opportunities arising from a booming health business in the wake of the pandemic.

The Watsons and Grab partnership will be rolled out in phases across the region and includes expedited delivery through GrabExpress, an eCommerce expansion through GrabMart, and accepting cashless payment via GrabPay in its stores. For its eCommerce expansion, Watsons will be bringing its 2,200 stores across its six Southeast Asian markets online via GrabMart. This would allow consumers in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, with other markets to follow, to shop the full Watsons’ online catalogue on GrabMart and have their orders delivered instantly to their doors.

This move comes as the brand saw strong growth with orders and sales doubling in 2020 compared to the year before. Watsons also find customers today have become more health-conscious, yet social distancing and movement restriction measures have created barriers for the general public to access health products and essential items from drugstores. Thus, this partnership will help consumers get what they need online without having to leave their homes. It is added in the press release that Watsons’ extensive physical store network penetration plays an important role in the customer journey, coupled with Grab’s large on-demand delivery fleet forms a critical foundation for making express delivery possible.

Freda Ng, chief digital officer of Watsons International, said COVID-19 accelerated the growth of eCommerce and its customers expect their purchases to be delivered fast. "With our unparalleled network of stores in Southeast Asia which is a core touch point for customers and key to enabling fast deliveries, Grab is the ideal partner to complete the purchase journey," he added. 

Shawn Heng, managing director, regional business development of Grab, added: “Grab’s open platform enables companies to scale by easily plugging into our ecosystem and leveraging our unique online and offline capabilities to grow together with us in this region."

Separately, electronics brand Panasonic has also partnered with Grab this month for its campaign. Spanning across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam for a period of two months, the partnership will see Grab converting 5,500 GrabCar Premium vehicles across the four countries into mini-showrooms for Panasonic’s air purifier, nanoe X generator. 

According to a press release, Panasonic will also tap onto Grab’s customer insights to engage with its potential customers through the Grab app. Digital ads will also be placed in prominent spaces within the Grab app and during consumers' GrabCar Premium rides. By offering an offline product experiential session with online ads, Panasonic and Grab said interested consumers will have all the information on Panasonic’s technology and range of solutions to consider a purchase.

Ken Mandel, regional managing director, GrabAds, said its partnership with Panasonic reflects its belief that advertising is not a one-sided relationship, but one where there is a value exchange between brands and customers. "It also marks a milestone for GrabAds business that is increasingly becoming the advertising platform of choice for brands within and outside of our ecosystem to better connect and engage with the everyday Southeast Asian consumer," he added.  

Grab's recent partnerships come as the company saw its total group net revenues grow approximately by 70% year-on-year in 2020 compared to 2019. According to its president Ming Maa in an email newsletter update, its revenues increased despite a competitive environment, and have returned to “well over 100% of pre-COVID levels”. Grab has also reportedly met its growth and profitability targets. 

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