Sign up to get full access to all our latest content, research, and network for everything customer contact.

Customer Experience Pandemonium Calls For Rapid Innovation

Just Ask Walgreens, Microsoft, or Annie

Add bookmark

Matt Wujciak


 The father of modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru once famously said, “Crises and deadlocks, when they occur, have at least this advantage—that they force us to think.”

The pandemic, economic shutdown, reopening, and inconsistency to our daily lives have certainly given us a lot to think about.

Curbside pickup, empathetic marketing tones, e-commerce booms, and expedited customer experience technology continue to change the way consumers and brands interact.  

Read More: Special Report Series: State Of The Voice Channel (Salesforce)

Vineet Mehra, global CMO of Walgreens Boots Alliance would agree, estimating what would have otherwise taken consumers five to ten years has changed in just five to ten weeks, in terms of their behavior and demands.

Like many, Walgreens is balancing its investment with cost-cutting efforts that have included layoffs and hundreds of store closures. Shares of Walgreens, which have a market value of $36.7 billion, are down 29% since the start of the year, according to CNBC.

Adapting to digital transformation

With harsh economic circumstances and decreased consumer spending at a global scale, many brands are failing to adapt to innovative customer experience concepts to retain customers, whether it be investing in new technologies, design thinking, or both. In fact, according to our research, only 14% of contact center and customer service leaders are responding to the pandemic with an increased emphasis on design thinking, which of course, dictates how and which technologies we invest in or utilize. 

Walgreens is not in that 14%.

Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) is implementing new customer analytics and outreach tools that will help it better understand and serve customers, thanks to a partnership with Microsoft (MSFT) and Adobe (ADBE), and even increase conversion rates digitally and in-store. The new technology will allow Walgreens to compile data and create individual customer profiles — whether they shop in stores, online, through the mobile app or all three — and it will use that information to more frequently engage with customers, ultimately pushing customers to complete the final step in the consumer journey mapping process – making a purchase of a product after expressing interest. 

By providing a frictionless customer experience, the tools will encourage customers to spend more and shop at Walgreens more frequently, providing customers with information such as prescription refill reminders, personalized product recommendations and advice and other services.

Meet Annie – the hypothetical prototype Walgreens consumer 

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, she’ll see a custom landing page with options for Vitamin B front and center.

The way it works - if Annie was to add Vitamin C to her online cart, but not ultimately buy it, Walgreens, like the vast majority of retailers and pharmaceutical services, would historically log this interaction between a customer and the website 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, and drive higher conversion rates through a better designed user experience (UX). The idea is to make the customer experience so easy that it’s almost difficult not to purchase a product, even if a customer forgot they might need it. 

From curbside pick-up to geotargetting?

I mentioned the emergence of curbside pickup at the beginning of this article, which has increased 208% during the pandemic, and 59% of customers say they are more likely to continue curbside pickup after the pandemic. Now that many stores have established curbside pickup procedures and worked through the logistics, they can maintain those practices going forward. But what if curbside pick up was evolving, encouraging consumers to pick up a product before they knew they might recognize the need? 

The hyper personalized geolocation technology of the Walgreens app is exactly that.

If Annie also browses Vitamin C products while shopping online but doesn't purchase any, they might receive a text the next time they walk by a Walgreens store, letting them know the product they were interested in is in stock. When they go inside to buy the Vitamin C, the customer could also get a notification that the prescription they were set to pick up from the pharmacy the following day is actually ready now. The pharmacist might also let the customer know they're due for a flu shot, since they got one at the same location the prior year.

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.”

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.

Read More: How To Scale Conversational AI (IBM Watson)

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.

Walgreens' new personalized platforms should help it level off with competitors Walmart and CVS — both of which have recently expanded their digital healthcare services. 

No one’s safe from the behavioral economic consequences brought upon by the coronavirus. But adapting to the right CX strategies and consumer behavior trends will give you the best chance at being on the favorable side of financial Darwinism. 

With over 150,000 global members, join the largest research hub for customer contact and customer experience professionals by subscribing here. Through our complementary offerings, you’ll have access to the latest research, news, blogs, podcasts, webinars, whitepapers, events, training, and technology insights in customer experience. 

For media coverage, lead gen, and digital marketing inquiries, contact me at