Speaking at Shop.org’s First Look at Retail Big Show 2013, Miguel Almeida, vice president of eCommerce at Walgreens, explained why online retailing is strategically important to the company’s future. He also discussed the company’s omnichannel strategy, and offered his opinion on what it takes to make omnichannel retail a reality.
Walgreens has survived many economic cycles over the years and now has 6.6 million visitors each week to its online stores: Walgreens.com, Drugstore.com, and Beauty.com and others. “Omnichannel is incredibly important strategically to the company,” said Almeida. The company has a long history of innovation – introducing self-service stores in the 50s, supplying child-resistant containers in the 60s, linking pharmacies by satellite in the 80s and introducing refills by scan three years ago
Walgreens’ mobile sites has 3.2 million visits with 42 million users interacting with the company on social media platforms. Almeida revealed that customers shopping in both the brick-and-mortar stores and on the internet actually spend 3.5 times the average of a store-only customer. Also, its customers who shop using their mobile spend an average of six times as much as store-only customers.
When striving for omnichannel success, Almeida explained, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” Walgreens has been investing heavily to create one-of-a-kind online and offline operations e,g, new or remodelled stores in central locations, best-in-class webstores with an extensive product assortment, personalised offers, speedy shipping, and strong customer experience. Walgreens has also made the integration across channels seamless for its shoppers; it has created new or enhanced fulfilment options to meet a customer’s needs – site-to-store shipping, pickup points and same-day home delivery.
Walgreens encountered three main challenges on its omnichannel journey: pricing models, technology and operations, and channel conflict, said Almeida. Omnichannel success requires retailers to be bold, courageous, and make very uncomfortable decisions, he explained. “It’s not about forcing customers to go to something they’re not comfortable with, but certainly about being where the customers are.”
He offered three tips for operators starting out in omnichannel retailing:
“Obvious, yes, but start with the user, build the vision, then figure it out.
Test everything and learn from this.
“Everything is so complex … break it down and put it in front of customers,” and then retailers can use feedback and lessons learned to determine next steps.
Introduce Innovation across the chain.
“You can’t just think about this from the customer’s perspective. There’s a lot of innovation that can be applied to the supply chain.”
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