Walgreens's Retail Strategy Provides Added Value for Busy Customers

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
The nationwide chain's new Manhattan flagship store makes shopping more convenient and engaging for consumers.

Today, more than ever before, time-strapped consumers are seeking the most convenient alternatives when deciding where to do their shopping, making the one-stop-shop concept all the more attractive. After all, why should a consumer stop at more than one store when he can get everything he needs at one place?

However, consumers don't want convenience at the detriment of a great experience and still seek retailers that are able to wow them with great service that is tailored to their needs. And savvy retailers are doing their best to deliver this. As 1to1 Media mentions in the article, "Hyper-Personalizing the Bricks and Mortar Experience," retailers are leveraging data to really understand what their customers want from the brands with which they do business.

Walgreens is one of the growing number of retailers using data to better understand its shoppers. As Skip Bourdo, Walgreens' market vice president, explains, the organization constantly listens to its customers to determine their wants, not only in general, but in each individual store location. "We keep tabs on everything that is requested," he notes. Apart from keeping logs of queries made either personally, online, or over social media, the company is also an active surveyor, leveraging printed receipts to invite customers, including those who shop at its New York subsidiary drugstore chain Duane Reade, to take part in post-purchase online and phone surveys.

In addition, Bourdo explains, point-of-sale data provides information about the products that customers want, allowing Walgreens to be very community centric. "Our store in Union Square is different from one on the Upper East Side," he notes.

Last week Walgreens opened a renovated flagship store in Manhattan's Union Square, which focuses on the brand promise of delivering health and happiness to its customers. Data was integral in helping Walgreens executives determine what type of products consumers who were visiting that particular store were expecting. For example, as Bourdo notes, there is a dedicated yoga section, something that's not available in all other locations.

Of course, customer needs might change and Walgreens is committed to adapt to these needs to continue delivering a great experience. "We are constantly adjusting as we learn more about our customers," he explains.

The advent of the trusted advisor

More than ever before, consumers who shop at brick-and-mortar locations want more than to make a simple purchase. Instead, they are expecting the ability to interact with store associates who are well-informed about the products and can act as trusted advisors. This is an element that Walgreens is focusing on in both its pharmacy and beauty sections.

As Leslie Higgins, the company's market pharmacy director, explains, it's imperative to provide a space that's conducive to a conversation with a pharmacist, where patients can feel comfortable asking for advice and getting the attention that they need in a private environment where they feel safe. In order to cater to this need, the new Union Square location has built a consultancy room, where patients can speak to the pharmacist in privacy. This is also being used for immunizations, including the annual influenza jab and travel-related immunizations, a service that will be launched later this year. "People will feel more comfortable asking questions in private," explains Mario Alongi Jr., the pharmacy manager at the Union Square location.

Further, the advent of technology is allowing pharmacists to have more time to spend time with patients. Alongi explains that he can oversee prescription refills from his customer-facing desk rather than the back of the pharmacy, which means that customers can easily walk to him to ask questions. As Alongi explains, with the pharmacist more visible, patients can feel more comfortable asking questions, even about over-the-counter medications.

Additionally, a robust software system is allowing Walgreens to create in-depth patient profiles that include both prescription and over-the-counter medications, alerting the pharmacist if two different drugs could cause a negative interaction. As Higgins notes, it is not infrequent that a pharmacist gets alerted to a potential problem that should be further addressed.

Since Walgreens is trying to build a one-stop-shop experience, the organization has also focused on its beauty section. Following a recent partnership with the British drugstore Boots, the company is highlighting Boots' brands of cosmetics, including No.7, and training associates to become true beauty advisors.

This was another move triggered by customer demand. "Customers are asking for advice," explains Niki Gentry, national brand trainer for Boots. Even though Boots' brands can be tested by consumers, some shoppers are looking for more information. "We help our advisors understand the products so that they can share the information with their customers," she notes.

With consumers presented with more choices, brick-and-mortar locations need to become more than places to make a purchase; they need to turn into destinations that provide added value to individuals. This is the direction that Walgreens is taking, giving customers personalized interactions in an environment where they can purchase anything from food to a yoga mat while waiting for their prescriptions to be filled or for a one-hour photo service. As Bourdo explains, while not every single store will house all the different features that exist in flagship locations, the strategy is to continue leveraging data to provide customers with what they need, or desire, most. "If a particular location is calling out for a frozen yogurt section, we will try to install it," he notes. That, together with the added value of pharmacy and beauty advisors, is putting Walgreens on the right track to deliver to the needs of the customers of today.