A.S. Watson Unearths Tech Talents

36 hours. 110 hackers.  A.S. Watson Hackathon 2018 is a one of a kind event that combines artificial intelligence and the retail industry, nurturing more locally groomed data scientists.

With over 13,900 stores internationally, A.S. Watson is the world’s largest international health and beauty retailer. In hope of scouting suitable data analytics consultants for its Data Lab, ThinkCol and A.S. Watson organized Hong Kong’s first ever retail-themed big data hackathon. A.S. Watson provided the 16 competing groups Gigabytes of A.S. Watson’s real operating data to come up with retail-related solutions for the company.

The Challenge

A.S. Watson recognizes the importance of adopting a data-first strategy to understand and anticipate customer needs. Participants were challenged to find innovative solutions on four main themes – analysing health patterns to create the most business value, improving product availability to capture market opportunities, evaluating pricing strategies and looking at different areas in the business to aid customer personalization.


The hackathon cultivated talent and injected new blood for A.S. Watson’s Data Lab through exposure to real-world business scenarios. From utilizing collaborative filtering logic to providing optimal discounts, the hackathon unleashed the power of artificial intelligence in an unconventional industry, revolutionizing how people think of the retail sector. The champion of the Hackathon integrated weather, search keyword, product information to provide personalized product recommendations. The hackathon also emboldened local start-up communities, data scientists and programmers to bring creative ideas to life and fully utilize the capabilities of machine learning to provide solutions and derive insights, so that retailers like A.S. Watson can operate smarter and faster.

“Big data is a game-changer for retailers. ThinkCol helped us to reach an audience of data scientists and programmers, allowing us to explore innovative solutions to suit customer needs. The brilliantly organized hackathon provided a much needed breeding ground for data scientists to advance Hong Kong retail to the next level.”

Malina Ngai, Chief Operating Officer, A.S. Watson Group

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