A.S. Watson Group hosts the first ever retail-themed Big Data Hackathon in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, 2018-Jan-31 — /EPR Retail News/ — A.S. Watson Group (ASW), the world’s largest international health and beauty retailer, hosted the first ever retail-themed Big Data Hackathon in Hong Kong. The 36-hour non-stop Hackathon attracted over 110 professionals in technology and data science to solve real-life business problems in retail and recommend how to enhance customer experience.

Malina Ngai, ASW Group Chief Operating Officer said, “For retailers, big data is a game-changer. A.S. Watson Group is adopting a data-first strategy towards understanding customer shopping behaviour, mapping them to our selection of products, shop floor space planning, marketing strategy and selection of store locations. We organised this Hackathon to enable the local startup communities, data scientist and programmers to bring their creative ideas to life, and provide solutions to enable retailers to become smarter and faster.”

Let Entrepreneurial Spirits Soar
During the two-day Hackathon, the 110 participants were grouped into 16 teams. The challenge they were given was how to detect certain imminent health incidences, develop algorithm for prediction, assortment planning, pricing and personalisation of offers to customers. The winners were decided based on three judging criteria, including innovation of the technical solution, business impact and quality of the pitch.

Through the Hackathon, these talented young people were able to demonstrate their entrepreneurial spirit and awareness of an ever-changing market, whilst unleashing their creativity and imagination. What’s more is that, as ASW is the only retailer in Hong Kong to provide gigabytes of business data for use in a Hackathon, participants gained exposure to real-world business scenarios and had an opportunity to play a significant role in finding fresh approaches to tackling them.

Unearthing Tech Talents for Hong Kong
Retail is one of the key contributors to economic growth in Hong Kong. The challenge for retailers is to find innovative, efficient and effective ways to draw insights from the ever-increasing amount of structured and unstructured information available about shoppers’ behaviours. However, in Hong Kong, the academic subject of data science and big data technology is relatively new and awareness is still low. It is important that this profession be urgently promoted in order to advance Hong Kong retail to the next level.

Ngai commented, “Data Science is one of the fastest-growing jobs today around the world. I hope the ASW Hackathon provided a unique opportunity for Hong Kong talents not only to gain a better understanding in retail, but also to arouse interests in the application of big data in retail. We encourage more companies to organise similar activities to promote the advancement of big data and data science in Hong Kong.

“Data and analytics will never replace the experience and judgment in running a retail business, but it can definitely provide us the tools to perform better. Big data will play a major role in shaping the future of retail industry.

“Congratulations to all the winning teams! They have demonstrated excellent stamina, teamwork, and innovative problem-solving technology.”

Judges of the ASW Hackathon include:

1. Malina Ngai, Group Chief Operating Officer of A.S. Watson Group
2. Dominic Wong, Managing Director of PARKnSHOP Hong Kong
3. Tony Verb, Managing Partner of GreaterBay Ventures & Advisors
4. Donald Tang, Private Investor, Former CEO of D.E. Shaw & Co. (Asia Pacific)
5. Cally Chan, General Manager of Microsoft Hong Kong & Macau
6. Jack Lau, Chairman, Swanland. AI & Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Electronic and Computer Engineering, HKUST

Winners of the Hackathon:

Champion – Dr. Watson
Winning Team Members: Jeffrey Leung, Amy Lau, Eugene Choi, Justin Yek and Jaclyn Tsui
Project Description:
The champion of the A.S. Watson Hackathon Dr. Watson is a concept that uses machine learning algorithm and integrates weather, search keyword, product information and translate to better customer experience. The health & beauty module can be used on the Watsons mobile app to recommend health tips and contents utilising collaborative filtering logic to provide personalized information and product recommendations. The AI engine correlates product sales against season and temperature, and seasonal products are recommended to customers based on individual’s profile.

Winning team representative Jeffrey Leung who currently works with A.S. Watson eLab is excited to have won, “Big data enables retailers to predict and personalize customer needs accurately, this is especially useful when it comes to improving health and wellbeing of customers.”

1st Runner-up – Trendmate
Winning Team Members: Larry Wong, Will Chiu, Winnie Yueng, Chris Kam, Annie Chan and Mandy So

Project Description:

“Trendmate” is an innovative module enhancement to the current Watsons mobile app to enhance the in-store experience of customers by providing personalized and targeted product recommendation, as well as in-app contents related to both the interests of the customers and the latest hot topics in the market, right at the moment when they enter the store.

Trendmate potentially increases the average transaction frequency of loyal customers and also attracts more customers to sign up the membership programme.

Larry Wong, who is a student majoring in data science in local tertiary institution, said “Thanks A.S. Watson who hosted this first retail-themed hackathon in the city! It gives us a valuable chance to get to know more about the science behind retail business, it is far more complicated than we expected!”

2nd Runner-up – 10 Fold Cross Validator
Winning Team Members: Hamilton Le, Aaron Chan, Tom Li, Xiangdong Gu, Leo Xie and Duncan Mak

Project Description:
The team has come up with an app feature called “Scan as You Go” which enables customers to scan items in-store and get comprehensive product information as well as personalised offers and discounts immediately. This app feature can help Watsons understand customer behaviour and find out the optimal discount it can offer.

“We just knew each other yesterday but we’ve worked closely for more than 36 hours. ASW Hackathon gave us an opportunity for like-minded professionals to get together and work out an innovative yet feasible solution in such a short period of time. Teamwork is one of the keys to our success,” said Xiangdong Gu who is a data scientist in an insurance company.

Aaron Chan, a data analyst, was very excited about winning the award, “ASW is one of the very few companies in Hong Kong which is so data-focused and willing to support tech innovation in Hong Kong with so many resources. The Hackathon encouraged us to think out of the box and breathe new life into retail industry.”

Source: A.S. Watson Group (ASW)

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