Walgreens Looks at Digital Through the Eyes of In-Store Shoppers - eMarketer

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Walgreens Looks at Digital Through the Eyes of In-Store Shoppers

November 23, 2016 | Retail & Ecommerce

Cherise Ordlock
Divisional Vice President, Digital Commerce

Like many forward-thinking retailers, pharmacy chain Walgreens adjusts its digital experience so that it’s not only ideal for ecommerce, it also functions as an in-store shopping companion for its customers. eMarketer’s Tricia Carr spoke with Cherise Ordlock, divisional vice president of digital commerce at Walgreens, about how drugstore, health and beauty retailers should approach digital commerce.

eMarketer: How have your customers’ digital expectations changed?

Cherise Ordlock: Because of the shift to mobile, their expectations are much higher for a seamless experience between the store and digital. For example, they’re thinking about how the website reflects the store, because they’re often looking at the website while they’re in the store or as they’re preparing for a store visit.

eMarketer: Throughout the drugstore, health and beauty industry, how can retailers ensure that they’re meeting consumers’ expectations?

Ordlock: Make sure you’re looking at the digital influence in the context of the store. Think about what the customer wants to see online, whether it’s with product assortment or store information. In the drugstore industry, this is especially important because people go to your website to do research to prepare for store trips. Penetration of online sales in this category, while growing considerably, is still lower than other categories.

“If it’s 2am and your child is sick ... you want to use digital for research and find out if the item is in stock at your local store.”

eMarketer: When do your customers tend to prefer shopping online vs. the physical store?

Ordlock: We see purchases index higher for ecommerce when there is more consideration and a higher price. The same goes for beauty categories, because people think about those purchases up front—they know when they’ll need them and they’ll look online for different colors or scents, or they want to replenish or stock up on a product vs. needing to touch and feel it.

We’re also seeing our customers evolve how they use digital [on the path to purchase]. For example, we don’t sell as many immediate-need health items online as other product categories, but health is a big focus for Walgreens stores. How do we support the health category with digital to satisfy the customer’s needs? If it’s 2am and your child is sick, you’re not going to order medicine online. You want to use digital for research and find out if the item is in stock at your local store.

eMarketer: What consumer behaviors have had the most impact on your ecommerce strategy?

Ordlock: In prior years, we wouldn’t have invested as much in putting something like medicine up on the site. Now we recognize that those are the types of items that customers look for online, and we make sure that the right kind of content is on our site and it provides value above and beyond what customers find in the store.

Consumers have also started to be educated by other digital platforms. Something like Instagram allowing you to zoom in on images can influence purchase behaviors. Recently, we added the ability to zoom in on a product image so you can see the exact ingredients on the package. We also added touch ID to log in to our app using your thumbprint. As people get more used to that [on their phones], they expect a seamless experience in apps.

“We’re thinking about how to better empower customers with digital while they’re in the store.”

eMarketer: What trends in digital commerce are important for drugstore, health and beauty retailers?

Ordlock: Shipping and delivery speed is not a new trend, but it’s changing people’s expectations. As a convenience retailer, choice is the ultimate differentiator because something that’s convenient for somebody else may not be convenient for me. Somebody may be willing to pay a considerable amount to get item delivered same day because that’s convenient for them. It’s important to have the right set of options.

eMarketer: What’s your focus in the digital commerce space for 2017?

Ordlock: We’re thinking about how to better empower customers with digital while they’re in the store. What types of information do customers want in the store experience? How will we help our store associates to better meet customers’ needs from a digital standpoint? How do we get digital content in the hands of customers at the right point in their journey?

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