Walgreens was founded in Chicago in the early days of the 20th century; Boots was established in England half a century before in 1849.
Such is the nature of globalization that Mr Charles Walgreen and Mr John Boot never met but 100 years of economic development and global integration brought their companies together in 2014 when – after a number of previous mergers and acquisitions – the two combined to make Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Walgreens Boots Alliance operates 10,000 stores across the US and UK; see 8 billion yearly transactions across stores and online; and is number 19 on the Fortune 500.
With so many customers across the world, and with the pandemic affecting how people shop, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) needed a digital solution to adapt to new demands.
“We needed Adobe to help us serve our customers better than ever at the peak of the pandemic,” said Vineet Mehra, its global chief marketing officer. “Adobe was a critical part of our technology solution when our customers needed us the most.”
The pandemic acted as a huge spanner in the works. It added urgency to something that had been emerging in the healthcare industry for a while now: deliver the type of digital experiences that match other industries.
Yet WBA wanted to handle this with as much care as possible.
“The modern CMO needs to be dangerous enough on things like data architecture and technology to truly be cutting edge and build experiences,” said Vineet. And on the flip side, the modern CIO needs to be able to talk the language of customer experience.”
“What has been at the core of the partnership,” said Francesco Tinto, Global CIO, “frankly, is having one single goal. The single goal is how we 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.”
So how to reimagine the pharmacy experience?
“Pharmacies are healthcare’s frontlines in local communities,” added Vineet. “We need to bring them up to speed.”
In a moment in which shoppers are able to buy their groceries online, have dinner delivered, and stream the latest tv series, why shouldn’t other important parts of life be digitized, such as pharmacies?
And it’s not like Walgreens Boots Alliance doesn’t have a history of innovation. Remember when they opened up the first drive-thru pharmacy? You probably have the Walgreens app on your phone, which has 3 million ratings.
And so Walgreens Boots Alliance aimed to build a more personalized omnichannel experience. What does that mean? It means digitizing e-ve-ry-thing. It means making things frictionless. Adding delivery options. Scaling globally while focussing on the individual. It means using personalization to recommend ideal products based on customer data. And it means offering customers the option to pick up their purchase through drive-thru – a particularly useful method over the last year.
These are pathways into the digital experience and omnichannel experience. “Health is the most personal thing in the world,” added Vineet. “And if there’s one category that needs to be personalized, human, and customized to each and every one of our customers and patients, it’s got to be healthcare.”
WBA’s Abode kit
If we unpack the contents of Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Adobe suite:
- It uses Adobe Analytics to dive deeper into understanding their customer base. This digs into their loyalty program, which is a rich source of information of 100 million customers.
- It uses Adobe Experience Manager to construct more meaningful digital experiences and provide consistency across all its platforms.
- It uses Adobe Audience Manager to build customer segments.
- And Adobe Campaign to deliver tailor-made messages to each individual customer.
- And with Adobe Target, Walgreens Boots Alliance can personalize its experiences at scale as well as carrying out testing to optimize each experience.
“When you’ve got 120 million customers and the amount of data and transactions around the world that a company like us has,” said Vineet, “you have to immediately seek partners that have the industrial strength to handle the level of customer data, orchestration, and personalization that we need in a category that’s as sensitive, from a privacy standpoint, as healthcare.
“We can’t band aid and duct tape our way to sustainable digital transformation at a scale like this.”
As Matt Harker, its VP of global marketing strategy, put it: “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.”
And that tech help, for Walgreens Boots Alliance, was Adobe’s suite of products including Adobe Experience Manager (AEM).