You could say that many of the front-of-store experiences that Walgreens is helping to transform today — photo and memorabilia, beauty, fresh, OTC, even pharmacy — all evolved from Walgreens Customer Centric Retailing project, which began back in 2009. “There were several benefits that we gained from CCR that helped fuel this transformation,” noted Rachel Bishop, Walgreens VP daily living strategy and business development.
First and foremost, CCR helped create a clean canvas that concentrated on delivering a better shopping experience. “It also helped us as a company really learn what it means to transform a network of stores,” Bishop added. “Before, our focus had been around new store openings. The idea of going back in and really fundamentally looking at everything that you’ve had in one place for a long time and then reconceptualizing and thinking about it differently, that was new to us,” Bishop said.
Bishop has a strong pedigree in doing just that — fundamentally breaking a business sector down and developing long-term macroeconomic perspectives. It’s what she did at McKinsey & Co., prior to joining Walgreens.
And it’s out of that experience that Bishop, and many others, helped move Walgreens’ culture down the road of change.
Bishop joined Walgreens as the CCR initiative was getting into full swing, and now her team helps inform many of the operational pieces of Walgreens’ front-of-store business: pricing and promotion, capability development, as well as overall daily living strategy and business development. “At a top level, my responsibility is to bring together our merchandising and marketing strategy across the front-of-store retail business and position us for the future, for where we aspire to be in the long term, but also lay the groundwork for us to get there,” she said. “[That] goal is to really own the strategic territory of well, to help people get, stay and live well. … As the country is really transforming what health care means to all of us, we feel that the combination of retail and health care is our place to own.”
But Walgreens has a more-than-a-century-long history of innovating in the retail pharmacy space. The company’s latest 30-second spot — titled “1901,” produced by GSD&M and debuted in August — helps encapsulate that long history of retail pharmacy innovation. “Charles Walgreen had a mission — to help people be happy and healthy,” the voiceover starts.
Walgreens has long been credited with creating the first chocolate malt (happy), but how many knew that Walgreens pioneered the use of child safety caps (healthy)?
“We can’t talk about our future and the change that we aspire to — or the change that we aspire to lead — in a context that isn’t true to our heritage and our history,” Bishop said. “What that [ad campaign] does is really help tie together our history and our heritage to where we’re going and make it a seamless story to the customer.”
And Walgreens similarly has a strong heritage of allowing its customers to serve as the lodestone that points to true north. “The reality is, our shopper shops us across multiple channels and for multiple purposes,” Bishop said. “Our customer sees us as Walgreens — not Walgreens pharmacy or Walgreens retail — and so if we discipline ourselves in that same approach … we are able to bring it all together in a seamless offer that makes sense to her.”
Based on that consumer insight, Walgreens’ current programs are built around three pillars: enabling their customers to get, stay and live well. “Those pillars really live in every part of our store and in every channel that we play in,” Bishop said. “So getting well, staying well and living well … may include doing research and shopping SkinStore.com or some of our online channels. Or it may mean coming into the store and picking up something [for an immediate] need,” she said.