How Walgreens adapts to the many devices consumers use

June 2, 2015 02:28 PM

Walgreen Co. can’t afford to have an ineffective mobile site or app, just as it can’t afford to have problems in stores or on its website. Whatever channel a consumer uses to interact with the retailer, No. 44 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, the retailer has to be ready to deliver a high-quality experience, said Jason Fei, the retailer’s senior director, architecture, today at the Technology Workshop at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

“Customers use multiple devices. If a customer tries to find an item on her phone and can’t find what she’s looking for, she won’t visit one of our stores,” he said. “If she opens a [marketing] campaign email on her phone, as most consumers do, and the landing page doesn’t render well, she won’t convert. A bad experience on mobile can drag down anything. A mobile problem is a web problem.”

Walgreens earlier this year rolled out a responsive website to ensure mobile shoppers have access to the same information as desktop users. When thinking about re-engineering Walgreens technology, Fei’s team had to focus on the problem it was seeking to solve: How do you improve the customer experience? That issue can be complicated because retailers have to optimize the customer experience across the devices shoppers use today and those they may use in the future.

“You have to offer a shared experience across devices,” he said. At the same time, retailers should differentiate those experiences based on context. For instance, if a shopper is on her smartphone, Walgreens shows her a nearby store where she can order and pick up a prescription.

While retailers must factor the devices consumers use into their technology decisions, a merchant like Walgreens also must be aware of the rapid pace of change, Fei said.

“While consumers’ phones are getting replaced every two years, no company can afford to replace its sites every two years,” he said. “We have to maintain individual [technology] stacks to ensure that we can replicate the experience over and over, regardless of device.”

Rather than constantly reacting, retailers need to build a solid technology base, he said. Walgreens focused on its strength—convenience—and then used technology to make sure it can serve consumers conveniently whether they shop online or offline, he said.





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