‘Create shareable moments’: Watsons transforms stores with interactive retail experiences to target younger shoppers

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Watsons has invested USD250m in store upgrades in Asia to meet the increasing desire for interactive experiences. [Watsons]
Watsons has invested USD250m in store upgrades in Asia to meet the increasing desire for interactive experiences. [Watsons]

Related tags watsons retail Hong kong

Health and beauty retailer Watsons has invested USD250m in store upgrades in Asia to meet the increasing desire for interactive experiences, especially among younger customers.

In 2023, Watsons invested in opening and upgrading over 2,200 offline plus online (O+O) stores across 15 markets in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Malina Ngai, group CEO of AS Watson Group told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that the company was motivated by changing expectations of shoppers.

“Customers no longer view physical stores as transactional places. Instead, they see them as destinations for interactive experiences. They want to touch and try the products they want before making a purchase. Equally important is the opportunity to interact with friendly, professional store staff who can provide personalised health and beauty advice.”

This evolution is even more prevalent in the younger generations who still value in-store shopping despite their digital habits.

“The younger generation of customers are redefining the future of retail. While they are digital natives, it doesn't mean they are turning away from in-person shopping. On the contrary, they expect O+O shopping experiences. To them, shopping is a social experience – a chance to explore, play, and bond with their peers,” said Ngai.

“Young customers even see the store as a place to create relevant and pleasant experiences, not just make purchases. To meet these evolving customer needs, we have upgraded our stores to offer more innovative, personalised O+O shopping experience. We've even made some of our stores Instagrammable destinations, catering to the needs of young customers to create shareable moments.”

Watsons China for instance created areas such as the Beauty Playground and even opened an entirely pink store, aptly named Watsons Pink to appeal to young consumers.

Wastons Malaysia introduced a variety of experiential zones including a K-Pop Land dedicated to showcasing K-beauty products.

Ngai said the response from its customers has been positive, especially with those in the younger set.

“Our newly upgraded stores have been enthusiastically received by customers. We've seen a double-digit percentage growth in the number of our members, with the largest increase coming from those under 25 years old compared to other age groups.”

Moving forward, the company expects to have over 3,800 new and refitted O+O stores by the end of 2024.

“Watsons has been at the forefront of revolutionising the in-store environment for customers, and over these two years, we are investing USD250 million in new store opening and upgrading existing stores across our 15 operating markets,” said Ngai.

“We are opening over 1,200 new stores in 2023-24 and investing in refitting approximately 4,800 stores in the same period. This means 75% of the store portfolio in Asia will provide a more innovative and upgraded experience for our customers.”

As the retail industry continues to evolve, Watsons said it will continue to find new ways to enhance customer engagement and satisfaction.

“Technology will also play an increasingly crucial role in making shopping more fun and convenient for customers. More elements of gamification will be incorporated into the shopping experience, turning the store into an interactive playground where customers can engage with products in innovative ways,” said Ngai.

“By adapting to these evolving customer needs and preferences, we can create more immersive and rewarding shopping experiences that drive engagement, loyalty, and growth, especially for young customers.”

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