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Well Experience adds new facet to OTC biz


For the more than 100 years that Walgreens has been in operation, the company has been focused on helping its customers, communities and patients feel well. And now, it is poised to transform the traditional drug store into a health and daily living destination. 

“The traditional drug store model is very much about treatment and about ‘how I feel right now,’” from a customer perspective, noted Robert Tompkins, Walgreens divisional VP and GMM health and wellness, front-end services and general merchandise. “What we’re trying to build is a health and daily living destination that also services the need of ‘how I take care of myself,’ … from a prevention and enhancement perspective. We’re offering a unique solution set to help people get, stay and live well.” 

One new example of this evolving focus can be found in the Health Guide position at select Well Experience locations. “When you go into our new format stores, the Health Guides are stationed in front of the pharmacy but are proactively engaging customers throughout the healthcare space,” Tompkins said. The Walgreens Health Guide represents a way to help bridge patients between the various health and wellness services and solutions in the pharmacy, the Take Care Clinics and front-end products. The investment behind the Health Guide — getting the right person into that position and arming him or her with the right resources — is significant. “We’re getting beyond just product, and customer feedback has been very positive,” Tompkins said. “OTCs are some of the most difficult-to-shop categories in the front end and in all of retail — having somebody who can help navigate folks to the right products and solutions is very helpful. We’re seeing great results from that element of the Health Guide role.”

“The research that we’ve done is very clear. Patients and customers are looking for more than just a store; they’re looking for a trusted relationship,” Tompkins said. 

Another way Walgreens is helping to form and strengthen meaningful relationships with its customers and patients is through another innovative feature at its new concept stores whereby the pharmacist is more accessible. “The way we’ve brought the pharmacist out from behind the counter in the Well Experience stores is a unique way to bring a highly trained medical professional from behind the counter to interact more directly with patients and customers.”

Factor in the nurse practitioners in those locations that feature a Take Care Clinic, and you have an entire team of healthcare professionals who are all readily accessible. “What is happening is that you have a team of healthcare professionals that know and trust each other … and that’s incredibly powerful. When our customers and patients see that there is a connected health team, the right services and the right products including prescriptions, OTCs, and immunizations, that’s a powerful combination!” Tompkins said. 

And that commitment to being a healthcare resource extends throughout the store, Tompkins said. “Sometimes it can be something as simple as our ‘Answers at Walgreens,’ store signs and brochures on given disease states. And if [the customer] wants to go deeper, at her leisure she can go to and access a more detailed level of information, including Pharmacist Chat. And of course, she has our pharmacist in her Walgreens store. We want to deliver the information, services and products our customers have come to trust us for when, where and how they want it.” 

This creates unique opportunities for vendors to work with Walgreens on programs that go beyond the shelf to create more of an integrated experience for health and wellness. One example is a video endcap display in the company’s State and Randolph flagship location in Chicago. The display encourages walkers-by to quit smoking. The touchscreen monitors, which have been rolled out to Walgreens flagship stores through a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, help set the store apart from traditional retail pharmacy experiences. The interactive display directs in-store patients to the retail pharmacy’s trademarked “Answers at Walgreens” feature on Facebook, boosting its potential touchpoints with customers through its expanding social media platform. That application was launched a year ago together with Sharecare, an expert question-and-answer online platform addressing health topics.

Tompkins also mentioned the healthier choices available to customers throughout the Well Experience store, such as fresh fruit in the consumables area, and all-natural beauty products in cosmetics. “We want to make sure we can support and encourage healthy daily choices.”

Healthcare reform, and where the market is going, is a critical driver to the Well Experience. “Patients, customers, employers and payers are more and more interested in preventive health,” Tompkins said. “As we see wellness really starting to evolve into something very tangible, we’re in a position where we will play an important role in the communities we serve.” Without a doubt, with its Well Experience stores, Walgreens has created a place for patients and customers to find the healthcare information, services and products they need to get, stay and live well.

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