THE WEB: Multichannel shoppers

Walgreens’ new Beauty Within website offers “step-by-step advice from beauty pros” and videos featuring real Walgreens customers.

There’s a reason Walgreens’ leaders are pushing so hard to upgrade communications capabilities and reach consumers through every channel, from stores and drive-through pharmacies to social media and smart phones. “Multichannel shoppers are three times more valuable to a retailer than a single-channel shopper,” president and CEO Greg Wasson said in January.

The explosion of mobile technologies and social networking has unleashed new revenue possibilities for Walgreens. All the more so, chairman Alan McNally said, because the company has made “exceptional progress in advancing our e-commerce business during the last two years.” Those related developments, he added, have given Walgreens “an enormous opportunity to become the nation’s leading multichannel retailer.” Underscoring the critical role Walgreens sees for the Internet-based end of its multi­channel spectrum was the promotion in January of Sona Chawla to president of e-commerce. 

Walgreens is pursuing a three-pronged cross-channel strategy. “We want to give [consumers] what they want, which may be a broader selection of products offered on our website than what we carry in our drug stores; where they want it, which may be delivered to their home or to pick up in our drug stores; and when they want it,” Wasson said.

To make that happen, Walgreens continues to develop and refine its websites, and is testing an online shopping and store-pickup service called QuickShop. It allows customers to buy online, then e-mail the product order to the test store of their choice for pickup, sometimes within the hour and in some cases right at the curb.

On the health front, the company now offers mobile applications for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices. More than 1 million customers already subscribe to the service, giving them access to text alerts and to for pharmacy and retail purchases and health information. Subscribers also can use their phones to scan the bar code of their prescription bottle for electronic refills.

Other applications, like the Walgreens RxAdvisor tool for online patient consultations with a pharmacist, and a growing ability to leverage e-prescribing data are boosting Walgreens’ ability to help patients manage chronic conditions and adhere to their medication therapy, chief medical officer Cheryl Pegus said. “By using technology to improve the patient experience and coordination of care, we can ... improve measurable outcomes, adherence and quality,” she said in January.

With programs like European Beauty Club, Walgreens also is becoming increasingly adept at creating Internet buzz about its products and services. Bloggers, for instance, trade tips about special product offers provided to Beauty Club members, free samples and free advice offered in stores by Walgreens beauty advisers.

In early February, Walgreens went a step further, launching a new interactive website, 
The site offers “step-by-step advice from beauty pros” about makeup, skin care and other topics, along with videos featuring real Walgreens customers and their personal beauty challenges. The site also offers deals and information about featured beauty brands.

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