Watsons China centres digital strategy around WeChat ecosystem to stay connected with shoppers

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Watsons is focusing digital marketing efforts on WeChat to stay connected and build communities with its consumer base. [Watsons]
Watsons is focusing digital marketing efforts on WeChat to stay connected and build communities with its consumer base. [Watsons]

Related tags watsons China e-commerce retail Social media

Health and beauty retailer Watsons is focusing digital marketing efforts on WeChat to stay connected and build communities with its consumer base, as part of its offline plus online (O+O) model.

WeChat is a multi-purpose social media, messaging and payment app developed by China’s Tencent Group. It has since become an invaluable tool for brands reach their consumers.

“On digital, our strategy is to focus on building customer connectivity on private domain via the Wechat Enterprise platform. While most consumer brands operate their digital business on public domain, that is, marketplaces, Watsons is one of the pioneers who can build our own communities,” ​said Malina Ngai, CEO of A.S. Watson (Asia & Europe).

Ngai said that the retailer has enabled the creation of over 60,000 beauty communities through WeChat Groups. Furthermore, a ‘significant’ portion of its digital business is managed directly by its beauty advisors from its offline stores, making it “a truly O+O integrated model.”

“Since launch in 2018, Watsons beauty advisors have connected with over 43 million members through WeChat Enterprise whom we can provide personalised service and advice, both online and instore such as booking for spa and makeup services,” ​said Ngai.

She elaborated that this ability to stay connected with its consumers 24/7 has underpinned its success in China.

“Our customer insights show that at Watsons China the spending of our O+O customers who shop with us in both physical and online stores is 3.1 times more than those who shop with us only in the physical stores. Thus, O+O platform strategy has proved to be very important for us.”

Additionally, Watsons is active on some of the most important social media platforms in China, including Douyin, Xiao Hong Shu, and Weibo. It has accumulated over 87 million followers across various platforms.

Social media platforms, said Ngai, are another important part of its O+O ecosystem as it remains vital for Watsons China to connect, interact, and engage with its customers.

“We use popular topics on the social media platforms to generate interesting content and videos such as makeup tutorials, product testing and health and beauty tips, maintaining daily connection and interaction with them.”

Retail expansion

Watsons recently announced that with the gradual recovery in consumer sentiment, it has plans in place to unveil a swath of new stores in China this year.

Watsons plans to open over 300 new stores in Mainland China this year with an innovative store design enriching product assortment and providing an advanced customer experience to better suit the needs of customers. Retail is not dead; it just needs to be better for our customers,” ​Ngai said.

As part of this, it has launched new retail concepts, such as a dedicated skin care zone where consumers have access to skin analysis equipment and its Colorlab 2.0 makeup concept where they can get personalised makeup advice.

Ngai said: Looking ahead, the O+O platform strategy will still be our core growth engine, and physical stores will continue to play a significant role in creating irreplaceable O+O customer experience.”

CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ previously reported that in 2022, A.S. Watson Group had temporarily shuttered over 1,000 of its health and beauty stores in China at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the troubles in China hampered the firm’s overall growth, the firm has expressed confidence in expanding its retail footprint, noting that future growth will come from new store openings in high growth markets.

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