Sona Chawla: The mastermind behind Walgreens' cohesive digital experience

Walgreens on Thursday announced the appointment of Sona Chawla, president of e-commerce, as president of digital and chief marketing officer. In this role, Chawla will lead a newly created digital and marketing Division, establishing a unified and integrated digital, enterprise-wide marketing, and customer loyalty and insights group to advance Walgreens “Well Experience” strategy and vision to be the first choice in health and daily living in America and beyond, Walgreens stated. 

Chawla is a brilliant thinker and tech wiz whose e-commerce strategies have helped Walgreens forge new relationships with customers however they engage with Walgreens. Now she brings that expertise to a global marketing role for the company at a time when digitization and big data-driven insights are  bringing a greater degree of personalization to customer engagement efforts.

Chawla recently joined Walgreens president and CEO on stage for a keynote address at the Annual Summit 2013 (at the 42' 30" mark of the presentation). Between Wasson and Chawla, the two explained exactly what it means for Walgreens to lead the digital revolution across retail pharmacy — and that's by integrating a digital experience across every facet of Walgreens' operation. "It means making sure that everything we do for the customer we are thinking about how to bring a digital experience along the way," Wasson said. "That is difficult. Because when you've been a brick-and-mortar retailer for 100-plus years … it's making sure that if we are thinking about some type of innovation, we're just not thinking about the customer coming into the store."

And it's thinking of digital as a comprehensive, cohesive offering, not just creating an ad hoc solution that creates a digital element within each of Walgreens' offerings. "We've been very mindful as we've been developing our digital strategy is to think holistically," Chawla said. "It really is about building the right customer experience. … It's not just the in-store experience, it's also when they're not in store," she said. 

"Walgreens is innovating in all areas. And that's the way it should be," she continued. "In terms of digital innovation, what's been really important is, yes, we've hired digital experts, but then we also have people with deep business knowledge. It's only when you put those two together do you get true innovation. Because if you don't understand our business and you don't understand our customers, you truly can't have innovation. You have something bright and shiny that doesn't go anywhere."

That's the energy she brings to the table — Chawla has experience putting the right people together to drive collaborative innovative ideas across the company.




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