Walgreens, the US retail and pharmacy giant, which in August acquired the UK's Boots chain, is harnessing consumer data insights to transform its stores and improve its customer experience across online and mobileens e channels.
“We are moving to a personal relationship with our customers, which in retail has never been seen before. We can take social and mobile analytics and really engage our customers through our mobile app,” said Walgreens CIO Tim Theriault, addressing delegates at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco.
“We have rolled out a loyalty programme and that has given us new data insights about our customers that we can use to work with our suppliers and vendors. We can also use it show that we have an understanding of what the local stores should have - like lobsters at Boston, and pictures of Elvis at Vegas.”
The company has also invested in providing low-cost health care, with access to lab tests in its stores via a cloud-based service.
“We have rolled out our Walgreen ‘health cloud’ application to allow people to perform clinical services in the store, but we also do it in the home,” he said.
“With that information we can also share it with doctors, hospital systems. We are really at the early stages of this but it is fundamentally important to provide that new healthcare experience for customers.”
Theriault added that a major challenge in supporting its operations is the management of two complex supply chains - retail and medicine - despite a diminishing IT budget. This is set to become even more complex as Walgreens merges with UK high street chemist chain, Alliance Boots, creating the largest buyer of medicine in the world with a network of 180,000 pharmacies.
Theriault was appointed as executive vice-president and global chief information officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance following the merger deal.
“We are investing heavily in all of our core systems. Some of our systems are older so we need to get them replaced and fit for our business, and we have to do it quick and cheaper than we have before,” he said.