Walgreens Taps Adobe to Create a More Personalized, Relevant Customer Experience

Retailer’s CMO says pandemic-related consumer behavior changes are here to stay

Adobe says every interaction will be more relevant and engaging. Getty Images
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As the coronavirus pandemic accelerates the adoption of digital technology among consumers, retail and pharmacy giant Walgreens Boots Alliance has turned to Adobe Experience Cloud to create personalized experiences for the 100 million members in its loyalty programs in the U.S. and U.K.

Francesco Tinto, global CIO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, noted each of the retailer’s channels was previously separate, so Walgreens had siloed views of customers who, say, phoned the call center, filled prescriptions and consulted a beauty adviser. Now, Walgreens plans to build out customer IDs for those 100 million members in order to personalize the experience for each.

“We’re going from a siloed multichannel experience to an integrated omnichannel experience through all the channels we serve,” added Vineet Mehra, global CMO of Walgreens Boots Alliance.

In a statement, software company Adobe said the goal is “every customer begins to have their needs anticipated and addressed faster.”

This includes custom tools to make prescription refills easier, along with product recommendations for beauty shoppers and personalized offers for “value seekers,” according to the statement.

Mehra used the example of a fictional customer named Annie, a Walgreens loyalty program member. The retailer knows when she purchases her favorite supplement, Vitamin B, and so 30 days after her purchase, Walgreens will be able to email a reminder to buy it again, Mehra said. What’s more, when Annie visits Walgreens.com, she’ll see a custom landing page with options for Vitamin B front and center.

“So that feels personalized and makes it easy for her,” he added.

Then, if she were to add Vitamin C to her cart, but not ultimately buy it, Mehra said Walgreens would have historically viewed this as an abandoned cart, which “would just sit there and wait there until she logs on again.”

Now, Walgreens is able to handle abandoned carts differently.

“If she’s walking by a Walgreens store, we will get a signal and be able to send her a text message saying the Vitamin C in her online cart is now in stock at that Walgreens location,” Mehra said.

And if, say, Annie had a prescription that was supposed to be ready the following day, the retailer can notify her in-store that they will fill her prescription earlier to save another trip, which Mehra said makes “healthcare much less painful.”

“What we’re attempting to do here is create seamlessness, convenience and simplicity by orchestrating a lot of the complexity out of the frontline in healthcare and to automate and meet customers where they are,” Mehra said.

According to Stephen Frieder, president of the Americas at Adobe, Covid-19 has changed consumer behavior across the retail landscape as shoppers embrace services such as curbside pickup.

Mehra agreed, estimating what would have otherwise taken consumers five to 10 years has changed in just five to 10 weeks.

For example, Mehra said 2 million people accessed Walgreens’ online healthcare marketplace Find Care, which allows consumers to find nearby health services, in Q1, marking a 40% increase year over year. In addition, downloads of Walgreens’ app have reached 62 million.

This comes as Walgreens has expanded the number of products available for pickup at its 7,300 pharmacy drive-thrus in the U.S.

The retailer has also added the ability for consumers to chat with pharmacists 24 hours a day—and, in the U.K., Mehra said Boots pharmacies were taking the equivalent of 911 calls to help out the National Health Service.

“The role of community pharmacies during Covid was so pronounced and so important that we’ve taken this [moment] to accelerate our investment and our customer experience releases and launches … to meet our customers,” Mehra said.

Both Walgreens and Adobe are confident the change is here to stay, which is why they say investments in digital and omnichannel experiences are so important now.

Mehra pointed to increases in primary care through telehealth doctors and prescription pickup, which have resulted in higher customer satisfaction scores as proof.

“We’re starting to see the NPS scores [Net Promoter Scores] there are very, very high—and, in many cases, higher than the physical-only scores we’re seeing,” Mehra said. “In our industry, that’s a good leading indicator of changes that stick.”

At the same time, he said while customers won’t go all the way back to physical retail, it will ultimately be some kind of omnichannel experience with a mix of BOPIS [Buy Online Pick Up In Store] and physical retail.

“Covid-19 is creating a new generation of people who increasingly go online for all of life’s daily needs and expect services like curbside pickup,” Mehra said. “By building on top of our existing infrastructure investment with Microsoft Azure, our new partnership with Adobe Experience Cloud will help us activate data, drive mass personalization and enable a more relevant shopping experience online and in-store.”

@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.