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THE SALSIFY SMARTER MERCHANDISING BLOG

Walgreens and Digital Retail: The Surprisingly Innovative Partnership

Posted by Emily Saka on 3:00 AM on October 9, 2013

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For those who are still skeptical that traditional brick-and-mortar chains can thrive in e-commerce, the Walgreens story should shatter all doubt. At this year's Shop.org Annual Summit, keynote speaker and Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson directly addressed the innovative partnership between Walgreens and digital retail, saying:

“I can assure you that Walgreens is one old retailer that gets the digital revolution. We have to. Our customers are driving it and we need to stay ahead of them."

Here are some of Walgreens' key tactics for transforming a time-honored company into a pioneer of digital innovation:

Understand your digital users

Though the findings seem counterintuitive at first blush, Walgreens reports that their median mobile user is a 45-year-old woman, and their average desktop web customer a 52-year-old woman. But after running through some of the most popular of Walgreens' digital innovations - including their Refill-By-Scan app - it makes sense that an older crowd would respond most favorably to these health and pharmacy-related conveniences.

As the Shop.org article points out, trying to please every possible user is a marketing no-no - and as the Walgreens example points out, the most effective demographic to target may not be what one might expect.

Incorporate ideas from the front lines

Not only do digital innovations make a customer's life easier, but they can also improve a store employee's experience as well. Employees can use the app's in-store mapping feature to better navigate customers through the shelves, and order a product online if a customer can't find one in store.

Walgreens takes suggestions directly from the front lines, and from the employees who most directly interact with in-store pains, to create a digital experience that benefits the entire company.

Use digital as a way to enhance, not replace, the in-store experience

As we mentioned in our previous drugstore mobile app blog post, what makes Walgreens' digital strategy so effective is that its innovations are meant to enhance, not replace, the in-store shopping experience.

Shoppers can browse a local store's inventory at home and pick up products in-store, or place a prescription ahead of time for easy in-store pickup, or use an mobile app to walk through a brick-and-mortar branch. An internal study found that Walgreens shoppers who integrate online and mobile into their in-store shopping spend more than those who just shop in-store, or utilize just one of these digital strategies.

Walgreens as an unlikely role model

At Salsify, we're constantly looking for companies who excel at digital retail in the hopes of guiding our customers towards similar e-commerce success. By having a firm grasp of their target digital demographic, incorporating digital benefits that aid shoppers and employees alike, and providing features that complement the traditional in-store experience, Walgreens has become a leading role model for our customers in this space.


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