Consumers plug into Walgreens channels


 Walgreens aims to have a consistency of voice across all channels, both clicks and bricks. In beauty, the strategy is to look at the customer in a holistic manner, said Katlyn Gao, head of retail products, digital at Walgreens. “We’re trying to balance the consistency of the brand online vs. offline, and the instore experience online vs. offline,” Gao told DSN. Walgreens consumers appreciate that they can shop the “brand” Walgreens in the store, on their smartphone and from the comfort of their home.

“We know that the beauty customer is already an omnichannel customer,” she explained. “If you think about the various touchpoints in the beauty customer’s journey, starting from inspiration to discovery, to browsing, to making a [brand] decision, to making the actual purchase, and then going back to replenishment and feedback via reviews or sharing in social networks ... along the entire journey, she’s interacting with different types of resources whether it’s offline or online.”

The challenge is to not use each of those touchpoints as separate views of the consumer, but as all part of a single journey.

Beauty shoppers, she added, always have been very engaged consumers, and with the rise of e-commerce, they are plugged in on all channels. “It’s important to think about the consumer in a broad setting and where she’s getting inspiration from. More and more, it is coming from an e-commerce channel, be it Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, bloggers or going on a YouTube channel,” she elaborated.

Using an anti-wrinkle cream as an example, Gao illustrated the steps shoppers follow on their quest for a new item. The consumer might get inspiration the old-fashioned way from a friend, or she may go online and look at blogs, chat forums, or print or digital magazines. The next step is discovery, which can be bricks-and-mortar or clicks. A visit to the store might be a first step where shoppers get advice from Beauty Advisors. They might receive a sample and then, if they like it, buy either in the store or online. It is this new journey of research and purchasing that makes it so critical for Walgreens to have a seamless experience across all of its channels.

Walgreens helps customers remove any friction from reordering their favorite items. Shoppers now can go to a store and scan a product on their phone and set it up for auto-reorder to the their homes. This feature is desirable for many beauty and personal care categories, running the gamut from razors and toothpaste to skin care and mascara, as more consumers embrace subscription-based replenishment club models like those at Dollar Shave Club.

Other key aspects of Walgreens’ omnichannel strategy include the ability to order in store from a larger array of items. That’s critical in a category such as fragrance where there are a few hundred SKUS in the store, but more than 2,000 online. “A consumer never has to leave unsatisfied,” she said. In store Beauty Advisors can order items online to be delivered at the store or the customer’s home, for a seamless experience.

Walgreens is building its online content to reflect consumer desires. “Descriptions and reviews play a powerful role in providing information to empower [shoppers] to make a decision,” she said. “We continue to work on content strategy online to provide more relevant and rich content.”

Walgreens also is drawing important learnings from online that are helping to extend its product offering for consumers, but the chain’s capabilities are benefitting suppliers, too. “Thinking about a product’s life cycle, we can help launch an item earlier than it can get into stores as far as setting up planograms,” she explained. “We’re able to accumulate reviews so by the time consumers are looking in stores, they can get peer-to-peer content.”

Walgreens also can use early demand to help when a product is so hot it has to go on allocation. Shipments can be directed to the right markets.

Online also can serve a big purpose toward the end of a product’s life cycle. E-commerce offers the chance for consumers to still buy products that maybe don’t warrant shelf space. They can buy online or order from a store for free shipping.

Online can also help nurture fledgling, new items. One example Gao pointed to is the hair growth vitamin Viviscal, which began at Walgreens as a web exclusive. Demand was so strong even at $49.99 that the chain eventually added the line in stores.

While Walgreens stores and are closely knit together, at this point Walgreens manages its and separately. Both have very engaged shoppers for beauty, and to satisfy the cravings for new, offers premier designer beauty bags loaded with more than $100 of samples to those who hit a certain spending level. According to Gao, this not only builds baskets, but also drives future sales.

What’s next for Walgreens online? Gao believes the future will be driven by mobile,. “Mobile can greatly enhance the customer journey in store, and we have to focus on how to leverage that with coupons in store or bringing value-added content to her device when she wants it. We believe that’s a key driver to bringing the omnichannel experience together.”

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