Navigating the multichannel universe with WAG

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Somehow, someway, Walgreens will be the first to figure out how to beam a prescription right into a patient's medicine cabinet "Star-Trek" style. Because as sure as the chain's e-commerce president Sona Chawla is to Walgreens as Scotty is to the USS Enterprise, Walgreens is moving at light speed in monetizing and capitalizing on multichannel retailing. And the chain hasn't even got its multichannel engines really revved yet.

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Here Walgreens isn’t only creating a convenience play as a value-added bonus for being a loyal Walgreens consumer; they are literally staking a Walgreens retail banner wherever their consumer happens to be at the time. And more and more, she’s online seeking out the best deals and making her shopping lists.

According to a recent survey released by SymphonyIRI Group, list making and coupon clipping still are top of mind for consumers as they struggle with high gas prices and question their job stability. Additionally, the survey uncovered that consumers are turning to the Internet to find the best deals. And as many as 8% of consumers are using the Internet to make lists, SymphonyIRI found.

And now Walgreens has created a tool whereby a shopper can create that list and pay for everything on that list all online and just before leaving work, after which they can pick it up on the way home at their convenience. Walgreens is even developing a curbside program where those tech-savvy consumers won’t have to get out of their cars. I’m telling you, the next phase of this program is going to be teleportation. OK, beaming over a prescription refill still may be a little sci-fi fantasy-ish, but don’t think Walgreens is done innovating in the multichannel space. Not by a long shot, because the company also last week announced they will soon hire more than 300 technophiles in order to fully capitalize on multichannel retailing.

With these new hires, Walgreens will be bolstering its dedicated workforce against its e-commerce, information technology and other support areas. The expansion comes shortly after Walgreens completed its acquisition of Drugstore.com, a strong online business that better positions Walgreens as “the most convenient multichannel retailer of health and daily living in America.”

With all of this, you don’t have to be a Trekkie to see that Walgreens is bravely navigating the multichannel universe.

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