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Building a pharmacy fit for the 21st century.

How Walgreens Boots Alliance turned a century of service into a next-gen digital experience.

30%

Increase in mobile app usage 

50%

Increase in digital traffic 

155

Basis points of sales increases 

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“Digital doesn’t mean easier. It’s not getting simpler. There are more channels emerging. There are more expectations from customers. You have to be quicker, smoother, more seamless and integrated.” 

Matt Harker
VP of Global Marketing Strategy and Transformation, 
Walgreens Boots Alliance

Reimagining the pharmacy experience

Built on the legacy of two iconic pharmacies, Walgreens and Boots, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) has long been a staple of local communities. Charles Walgreen would personally greet every customer who walked through the door of his first Chicago location in 1901. Boots, founded by John Boot in 1849, began as a single herbalist store in Nottingham, England. Today, most WBA customers across the US and UK have a storefront within five miles of their homes. Pharmacies have evolved since Walgreens and Boots opened their doors over a century ago, but the imperative for a personal touch has remained. 

  

Matt Harker, WBA’s VP of global marketing strategy and transformation, has played a pivotal role in helping WBA bring the neighborhood pharmacy feel it’s so carefully cultivated at its brick-and-mortar locations to its digital experiences. He’s done it so well, he won the 2021 Adobe Experience Maker Awards Executive of the Year

 

Creating the most personalized omnichannel pharmacy experience the world has ever seen was no small feat. Everything needed to be digital. Touchless. Frictionless. With multiple delivery options. And delivered with a personal, human touch. 

  

“When you think about what matters to individuals, whether it’s a product, service, content, or messaging, you soon realize that personalization — at our scale of hundreds of millions — is going to quickly overwhelm you. You need help from technology to orchestrate content and messaging to land with individuals in exactly the right moment and context,” said Harker.  

It takes two to make the customer experience go right

The COVID-19 pandemic added urgency to a challenge that had already been looming in the healthcare industry for years — delivering customer experiences that are on par with other industries. WBA needed to manage the sudden increase in digital experiences with extreme care. 

   

Though WBA faced a huge task, they had an unstoppable tool at their disposal — collaboration. In business today, forming a personal connection with customers is everything — and it takes both marketing and IT to make that happen. 

  

WBA Global CIO Francesco Tinto brought the marketing and IT organizations together to lead WBA into a new era where high-quality, hyper-personal customer experiences are available to every customer on every channel — at a global scale and during the most unexpected and urgent of times. 

  

“What has been at the core of the partnership, frankly, is having one single goal: how to reinvent experiences for our customers. We don’t separate what we do into IT and marketing. Instead, we work as a team, focusing on the customer journey and the experience we want to provide,” said Tinto. 

 

Matt Harker straddles both departments and speaks both languages so well he has been referred to as “a unicorn” at the center of the IT-marketing merger. Tinto and his peers agree that Matt is the unicorn of the future who can seamlessly cross over these two worlds. And that will be the expectation of the marketer moving forward.

Better partnerships for better personalization

Harker championed a partnership between WBA, Adobe, and Microsoft to lead the company on the path to personalized customer experiences at enterprise scale.  

  

Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure, including Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform, formed a stable foundation on which WBA could, with help from Adobe Experience Cloud, build towards the level of personalization they envisioned. With Adobe and Microsoft, Harker knew they had long-term partners that could evolve alongside them — and help them reach customers in the most underserved communities. 

  

Harker and his team rolled up their sleeves and developed four sample use cases to get the buy-in they needed from top WBA decision makers and to set the strategy for an accelerated transformation.

  

Then came the implementation. 

“You need help from technology to orchestrate content and messaging to land with individuals in exactly the right moment and context.”

Matt Harker
VP of Global Marketing Strategy and Transformation, Walgreens Boots Alliance

With Adobe Analytics, WBA started off on the right foot by gaining a deeper understanding of their customer base. The company had the good fortune of already possessing a rich source of customer data thanks to their roughly 100 million customer loyalty program members. This made it easy for WBA to use Adobe Audience Manager to create intelligent customer segments for their retail operations and start delivering the most relevant messages to every customer with Adobe Campaign.  

  

To meet the demands of mass personalization and produce tens of thousands of assets annually, Walgreens creative operations team turned to Creative Cloud Libraries. Everyone who needs it now has direct access to unified and organized assets. With everything in one place, content creators and marketing teams can roll out in-store signage and digital updates in a flash. 

  

With Adobe Target, WBA can personalize their new omnichannel retail experiences at scale — and perform all the necessary testing to ensure that each experience is optimal.  

  

Adobe Experience Manager gives WBA visibility into their new customer experience, making sure that customers receive seamless, consistent, meaningful experiences across every channel for both pharmacy and retail transactions. And with Adobe Workfront as WBA’s work management platform accelerating these efforts, WBA is moving with greater efficiency to deliver new digital experiences and content to its expanding audience online.

  

For example, customers get personalized recommendations based on past purchases right when they’re about to run out of a product they’ve taken regularly for years. If the customer chooses, she can pick up her purchase via drive-thru — a capability that, until recently, had only been available for prescriptions. And when she arrives at the drive-thru window, the staff will already have any filled prescriptions on hand for her to pick up. They’ll also remind her that she’s due for her annual flu shot. 

  

The result is just what Harker was aiming for. Now, WBA can meet customers wherever they are. Literally. From mobile to laptops to drive-thru or in-store experiences, WBA shows up for customers when and where they need it. 

   

And they made it all happen in the middle of a global health crisis. 

Walgreens leads with purpose in a pandemic

True to its mission — to provide accessible health and wellbeing solutions, particularly to underserved communities — Walgreens moved quickly at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming one of the first organizations to operate COVID-19 testing sites across 49 US states and Puerto Rico. 

“We play an important role in the communities we serve and in the health system, and I don’t think anybody saw it coming. We needed to quickly pivot,” said Harker. “We reached out to Adobe and said, ‘Okay, this is a big moment, and we really need to rise to the occasion.’” 

With Adobe’s help, Walgreens launched an online COVID-19 portal where patients can find the latest information on the virus, check vaccine and testing availability and eligibility, schedule appointments, receive reminders, and more. And with the Experience Cloud infrastructure, they can reach 400,000 people per hour. To date, they’ve delivered over 52 million COVID-19 vaccinations and administered more than 20 million COVID-19 tests. 

“Our technology partnership with Adobe helps ensure we can execute this experience across all relevant channels by putting the customer first and meeting their highly personalized individual needs.”

Alyssa Raine
Group VP of Global Customer Marketing Platforms, Walgreens 

Understanding that a great customer experience means being with the customer in the moments that matter most, Walgreens uses Adobe Campaign to connect with patients within 15 minutes of vaccination. Patients receive a personalized message through email or SMS asking them to click into the myWalgreens app where they’ll find a record of their vaccine and be able to schedule their next dose. The security of Experience Cloud and the Azure platform enables WBA to conduct this individualized outreach while protecting customers’ personal health information and remaining HIPPA-compliant.   

  

As Alyssa Raine, group vice president of customer marketing platforms for Walgreens put it, “The pandemic has expanded the role of our pharmacists and our team members, making them first-line resources on testing and vaccines. When you couple this with our digital strategy, it gives us the ability to help remove friction points between our customers and wellbeing resources.” 

  

Walgreens has a history of finding ways to improve the pharmacy experience. The company famously pioneered the “drive-thru pharmacy” at a national level. With the pandemic pushing all businesses more fully into the digital realm — plus social-distancing protocols — the company accelerated its convenience initiatives by expanding its drive-thru offerings beyond just prescriptions. Now customers can order products online or through the myWalgreens app and pick up and pay at more than 7,300 drive-thrus across the nation. Or they can pick up inside or curbside, all in 30 minutes or less, the fastest BOPIS around. Don’t want to leave the house? No problem. Walgreens also expanded its Same-Day Delivery with delivery in under an hour and marketplace on-demand offerings with Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Shipt, and Instacart.  

  

“Our technology partnership with Adobe helps ensure we can execute this experience across all relevant channels by putting the customer first and meeting their highly personalized individual needs,” said Raine. 

 

Customer satisfaction has dramatically improved, boosting myWalgreens app usage by 30% and overall digital traffic by 50% year over year. Lifetime myWalgreens app downloads are approaching 100 million and the number of contactable Walgreens customers has doubled to over 50 million. Walgreens Q1 2021 earnings alone show that 155 basis points of sales increases can be attributed to these mass personalization efforts. 

Healthier communities for a healthier world

“Where does innovation come from? It’s not some magic idea that comes from out of nowhere. There aren’t special innovation people that have all the groundbreaking ideas. It’s just taking things apart and recombining them in a new way,” said Harker. 

  

Technology, especially in the healthcare industry, has made a huge impact on individual wellbeing — be it innovations in medicine, equipment, or delivery of care. Harker, Raine, and Tinto, along with their entire teams at WBA and Walgreens, have used technology to reimagine the customer experience and make healthcare more personal and accessible on an immense scale. Whether it’s 24/7 pharmacist live chat, spot-on wellness recommendations, or simply adding ease and speed to filling prescriptions, every small step forward adds up.

“Health is a very personal thing. We’re very conscious of making sure our brand stays human. While your interaction may not always be with a human, you feel like there’s a human touch behind the experience you’re having.”

Matt Harker
VP of Global Marketing Strategy and Transformation, Walgreens Boots Alliance

This is particularly important in the wake of COVID-19, which has created waves across the entire globe — and increased many businesses’ drive and passion to build healthier communities. It’s called on people to recognize their shared humanity. And it’s asked every member of the healthcare industry to collaborate and cooperate in new and exciting ways. 

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