Retail Insights from Retail & Tech No 28

Retail news and trends to watch out for


  • Delivering on partnerships. A.S. Watson Group is the latest retailer to team up with a delivery app to boost its online reach. The retail group has partnered with Southeast Asian company Grab, which started out as a ride-hailing app and has evolved into a super app offering food ordering, ticket purchasing and financial services. The partnership will see Grab act as Watsons’ last-mile express delivery partner in six markets in Southeast Asia. By tapping into Grab’s large on-demand parcel delivery fleet, Watsons customers will be able to receive their purchases made through the Watsons website and mobile app within two hours. The tie-up will also bring 2,200 Watsons stores onto Grab’s on-demand goods delivery service, GrabMart, making Watsons the largest health and beauty retailer on the platform. Customers in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia can now shop the full Watsons’ online catalogue on GrabMart (with other markets to follow) and have their orders delivered rapidly to their doors. A.S Watson will also soon accept the GrabPay cashless payment option in its Southeast Asia stores and integrate the digital wallet into its Watsons mobile app.

    Several beauty brands and retailers have inked partnerships with food delivery or ride hailing apps in a bid to overcome the challenge of offering high-speed convenient delivery to consumers, especially during the pandemic when stores have been closed or consumers are reluctant to shop offline. The Body Shop for example teamed up with food delivery app Uber Eats for a pilot program in North America; in the UK, Holland & Barrett partnered with food delivery business Deliveroo, and in the US, Walgreens and department-store group Macy’s partnered with food delivery app DoorDash. The A.S Watson/Grab deal uses this model on a much bigger scale – A.S Watson says that it is the largest online and offline health and beauty partnership in Southeast Asia, involving 2,200 Watsons stores in six Southeast Asian markets: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.


  • Trending in 2021. Livestreaming, social commerce and direct-to-consumer brands will continue to gain traction this year, according to an outline of key retail trends from the US National Retail Federation (NRF). Livestream-generated sales are forecast to double to $120bn worldwide in 2021, according to advertising business organization the Interactive Advertising Bureau, while the social commerce market is expected to grow by $2.05 trillion between 2020-2024, a CAGR of almost 31%, according to market-research company Technavio, making it the breakout trend of the year, says the NRF. However, as more shopping goes online, monetizing customer data will continue to be a key challenge for retailers. The rise of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands is expected to continue; it is thought that these brands will ink partnerships with other companies, such as retailers or tech players to explore new models in a bid to differentiate themselves. When it comes to paying for products, customers will expect more services like “buy now, pay later” and subscription models. And as online shopping grows, the shopping mall will have to reimagine its future. Malls will need to shift from multi-level buildings anchored by department stores to smaller environments more attuned to shoppers’ needs, says the NRF.


  • Top of the apps. New app downloads rose 7% to 218 billion globally in 2020 compared to 2019, according to mobile data and analytics platform App Annie. TikTok, YouTube and Twitch led the pack in app popularity, highlighting the rise of user-generated content, livestreaming and video. Downloads of live shopping platforms TaoBao Live in China, Grip in South Korea and NTWRK in the US grew 100%, 245% and 85% respectively, representing a nascent but emerging trend in the US and South Korea. Some 37% of app users Google surveyed said that they found a new app through a friend or family member. Another 67% of users said that when purchasing new apps they trust what they learn from online research, while 50% stated they only consider well-known apps.


  • Sephora’s Hong Kong expansion. LVMH-owned beauty retailer Sephora opened its third store in Hong Kong earlier this month at the K11 Art Mall. To celebrate the opening, the mall’s Klub 11 e-membership cardholders were offered a complimentary giftset when spending HK$500 ($64.50) or more, while Sephora loyalty program members can redeem double the points on purchases until the end of the month. Sephora initially entered Hong Kong in 2008 with a store in the Mong Kok area, but discontinued its brick-and-mortar activities there in 2010. In 2019, it re-entered the region with a Sephora flagship at the IFC Mall, followed by a second store later that year in Causeway Bay’s Windsor House.


  • Lunar New Year at home. Lunar New Year shopping sales may be curbed as the Chinese government urges people to stay at home and limit travel during the seven-day holiday next month. China is facing COVID-19 flareups in the northeast, with some cities forced to go into lockdown. The week-long festival is a key period for brands and retailers, with many launching Chinese New Year-themed in-store activations and limited-edition collections. The measures are set to see companies further ramp up online strategies.


  • Self-love retail. US department-store group Nordstrom launched a new pop-up concept focused on self-love and inclusivity as part of its Pop-In@Nordstrom campaign. Called Pop-In@Nordstrom Self Love, the pop-up is open from January 15 to March 14 and carries lingerie, bodycare and intimate products focused on wellness and ethical production. The offer is available online and at nine US and Canada Nordstrom stores. A total of nine brands are part of the concept, including CBD skincare and bodycare brand Lord Jones and wellness, skincare and bodycare brand Rosebud. In October, the retailer launched a new beauty category with a focus on Black-founded brands, called Inclusive Beauty.


  • Candid camera. Retail solutions company Sensormatic Solutions debuted a new camera-based in-store device that helps retailers track in-store activity. Called VisionWorks, the technology tracks store occupancy, line queue/social distancing, mask detection, audience measurement and traffic. Users can add or remove any of the five features, while all the filmed data is consolidated onto one dashboard. Sensormatic says it is developing additional features geared towards specific retail cases.


  • Widening the connection. Retailers are looking to capitalize on the growing trend for curbside pickup, which has seen strong growth since the pandemic hit. US sports retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods, for example, introduced wifi at its stores’ parking lots to allow employees to do curbside returns and take orders more seamlessly.