June 10, 2010, 6:07 PM

Across the great divide

Walgreens’ multichannel approach seeks to provide value to customers.

Walgreen Co. wants to offer a multichannel strategy unlike any other retailer’s approach, Deepika Pandey, vice president of online strategy and customer experience, said at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

 “Multichannel is about breaking down silos across the organization,” she said in a session entitled “The cross-channel imperative: A Walgreens case study.” By leveraging the retailer’s 7,500 store locations, the retailer aims to add value to the consumer shopping experience, while also improving its retail locations’ operations.

For instance, when a shopper uses a Walgreens mobile app to refill a prescription, it cuts customer wait times while also shaving 10 to 15 seconds off the time it takes a pharmacist to fill a prescription. “Longer lead times means that pharmacists aren’t filling prescriptions when customers are walking through,” she said. “That means that pharmacists have more time to interact with patients.”

The goal, said Pandey, is using mobile and the web to enhance the store experience and sell goods online. “We recognize we have something great with our store network,” she said, noting that more than 70% of Americans live within five miles of a Walgreens store. That’s why the retailer aims to leverage those stores. Its efforts, particularly with its photo printing and pharmacy services, are doing just that, she said, since 40% of visitors online say their next action is to go to a store.  Moreover, 98% of online pharmacy orders are picked up in a store.

The multichannel approach is about giving shoppers what they want—namely choice, convenience and access, she said. For instance, pharmacy customers can refill a prescription in several ways—they can order over the phone, on Walgreens.com, or on their mobile phone—either through the retailer’s mobile site or its apps. They can pick up that prescription either in a store or have it mailed to them free of charge.

“It's all about adding value to the customer shopping experience,” she said. 

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