Walgreens ups Sona Chawla to role of president of digital and chief marketing officer

Graham Atkinson, currently SVP and chief marketing and customer experience officer, is retiring at the end of January 2014

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Thursday announced the appointment of Sona Chawla, president of e-commerce, as president of digital and chief marketing officer. In this new 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. 

“Digital technology continues to drive major change in retail and health care, and Walgreens is moving full speed ahead to harness and combine digital, marketing innovations and customer loyalty and insights to give customers what they want, where and when they want it,” Greg Wasson, president and CEO said. “With Sona’s success in establishing Walgreens as a retail digital pioneer, her leadership of our combined digital and marketing efforts will continue to accelerate our Well Experience strategy to step out of the traditional drugstore format and create a truly differentiated experience for customers and patients.”

“Bringing our digital, marketing and consumer technology together and linking it with the powerful consumer data and insights we get through our Balance Rewards program and digital channels will further position Walgreens as a customer-driven brand,” Alex Gourlay, EVP and president of customer experience and daily living said. “With her experience and success in advancing Walgreens digital strategies and online customer experience, Sona is the perfect leader to accelerate our rapid evolution into omni-channel marketing and customer engagement.”

Walgreens also announced today that Graham Atkinson, SVP and chief marketing and customer experience officer, is retiring at the end of January 2014. Atkinson has been responsible for developing and leading Walgreens enterprise marketing and loyalty strategies, with a specific emphasis on customer experience. Atkinson led the successful and record-setting launch of Walgreens Balance Rewards customer loyalty program in 2012, now with more than 85 million members. 

“Graham has had an extraordinary impact on Walgreens during his three-year role with the company, and we are indebted to him for his vision, leadership and accomplishments,” Wasson said. “We asked Graham to join our team and take on a singular focus — to launch the most successful customer loyalty program in retail history — and he did just that. Beyond Balance Rewards, importantly, he also instilled customer-centric principles into our culture and took on the additional role of chief marketing officer in the past year to build and develop our corporate marketing function.”

Chawla, as president of digital and chief marketing officer, will lead the new Digital and Marketing Division that combines three existing groups — e-commerce, corporate marketing and customer loyalty and insights — that have significantly advanced Walgreens Well Experience strategy. These groups have built a strong corporate brand through an industry-leading web and mobile presence, the Balance Rewards loyalty program and customer segmentation and insights. Bringing these teams together will allow the company to leverage its combined talent, knowledge and assets to accelerate its omni-channel vision as part of Gourlay’s Customer Experience and Daily Living organization.

“Our goal is to optimize our marketing investments and mix to reach consumers where they are, as their use of digital media continues to escalate,” Chawla said. “This means more than just adding digital media to our marketing portfolio. We also will adopt a digital mindset throughout our marketing efforts.”

Chawla joined Walgreens in July 2008 as SVP  of e-commerce and was promoted to her current position in January 2011. Her team has been responsible for the company’s digital strategy and implementation to support the health and daily living businesses across the Walgreens portfolio of web sites, mobile and stores.

Prior to joining Walgreens, she was VP global online business at Dell from 2006 to 2008 and worked at Wells Fargo’s Internet Services Group from 2000 to 2006, where she held several roles and left the company as EVP online sales, service and marketing. Prior to Wells Fargo, Chawla worked for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) from 1999 to 2000 and Mitchell Madison Group from 1994 to 1999. In 2012 Chawla was appointed to the board of directors of Express, a specialty retail apparel chain. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and computer science from Wellesley College in 1990 and a master of science degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management in 1994.

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