April 4, 2012, 11:56 AM

Linking store and web inventory is key for Walgreens

An IRCE speaker talks about how to best serve multichannel shoppers.

Lead Photo

Ron Kelly

Linking store inventory to its e-commerce site is no small task for Walgreen Co., as it has 8,000 physical stores worldwide. But since the retail chain enabled online customers to view local store inventory in the last year, customers have responded positively, says Ron Kelly, vice president of customer and pharmacy service, e-commerce.

“We did some surveying and found that roughly 50% of consumers who shopped on our e-commerce site said their next action would be to visit a store,” he says. “That just speaks to how the consumer has changed their behavior. What retailers are learning is that people use the web for information, but still, a vast majority of people spend most of their money in our stores.”

Kelly will address the details and benefits of Walgreens’ multichannel strategy at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in June in Chicago in a session entitled “Coordinating store and web inventory to snag more shopper dollars.

For Walgreens, No. 73 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, shoppers who frequent stores and Walgreens.com and use the retailer’s mobile apps are three times more profitable than those who opt for shopping just one channel, Kelly says. So fostering convenience and allowing consumers to shop where and when they want and has been a key strategy for Walgreens in recent years.

In addition to the availability of real-time inventory checking on Walgreens.com, shoppers can also purchase online and pick up items at 600 local stores. Most of those consumers can take advantage of curb-side delivery: A shopper can complete a purchase online, drive up to a Walgreens store, call inside and someone will bring out her items.

The retailer is planning to expand this program to more of its 8,000 stores.

“We have seen a lot of satisfaction on curb-side delivery from consumers who may not be as mobile as they used to be,” he says. “They don’t have to deal with getting out of the car or having their kids running down the candy aisle.”

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Kelly to speak because he has more than 17 years of experience in retail and e-commerce. Prior to his current position at Walgreens, he was vice president of customer and pharmacy services at drugstore.com, which was acquired by Walgreens in 2011. With drugstore.com since 1999, he held several positions in business development, procurement, logistics and merchandising.

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