This interview is part of our Moving Forward Blog Series, where we ask major brands how they’re adapting to changing consumer expectations from a loyalty perspective post-pandemic.
The past year has been challenging for retailers everywhere.
The massive shift toward e-commerce has significantly impacted consumer behavior and prompted retailers to adapt quickly to best serve their loyal customers.
With consumer convenience at a premium, brands need to instill trust in their customers and show they are there every step of the journey in a personalized manner.
Walgreens, a venerable and trusted brand, is a prime example of adapting to customer needs and sparking ongoing engagement.
We caught up with Alyssa Raine, Group Vice President of Customer Marketing Platforms, Walgreens, and here’s what she had to say about:
- Consumer behavioral changes that led to the company’s keen focus on safety and convenience
- Listening to customers and how Walgreens has revamped its process of leveraging those insights to better personalize experiences
- Further evolving its listening tool kit keep up with customer’s changing needs
- Consumer trust in brands that have been there every step of the way during challenging times, such as the pandemic
Jim Tierney: Consumers have found new behaviors during the pandemic and there has been a seismic shift toward e-commerce. How do you think these new behaviors will impact Walgreens now and as you emerge from the pandemic?
Alyssa Raine: We’ve seen shifting consumer behavior has most often led to an increased focus on safety, while simultaneously managing a need for convenience. Customers are still shopping in store, but they choose retailers where they can expect to get in and out quickly.
They also want to understand the safety precautions of each store they enter and are consuming that information before making the trip.
“Thanks to our store and pharmacy teams, Walgreens has continued to show up for customers and has remained a trusted community destination throughout the pandemic.”
With more than 9,000 stores nationwide, Walgreens is within five miles of nearly 80% of the U.S. population and we’ve found that customers appreciate the smaller size of our stores because they can quickly find what they need and purchase without having to spend a lot of time walking from one end of the store to another.
Keeping customer safety and convenience in mind, Walgreens rolled out Pickup and now offers the fastest same-day retail pickup solution in the U.S., with orders available in as little as 30 minutes. More than 1.7 million orders have been picked up in-store, curbside or via drive-thru since the program’s launch in November.
Jim: How has your company performed since March and what customer insights have you gleaned?
Alyssa: We’ve seen better than expected quarterly growth since the start of the pandemic. Walgreens remains a trusted destination with caring team members and expert pharmacists, and customers continue to turn to Walgreens for their health, well-being and beauty needs, even in a pandemic.
We’re committed to meeting the needs of our customers and remain optimistic that our evolving offerings including myWalgreens, Pickup and our mass personalization strategy will continue to grow and meet the changing needs of our customers.
Jim: Listening to your customers is a top priority. How has that changed, if at all, during the pandemic?
Alyssa: We are always listening to customers and we can now measure and maximize our results at a level that didn’t even exist five years ago. We have gone from relying primarily on brand positioning and mass channels to expanding into digital, mobile, SMS, social media, influencer partnerships, content, etc. and creating highly personalized, tailored experiences and marketing messages.
We are implementing our MarTech stack as part of our mass personalization strategy in partnership with Adobe and Microsoft Azure. This helps us coordinate exceptional experiences for our customers across owned and paid channels.
It’s a completely new approach to marketing compared to traditional marketing and aims to help us create a more personal relationship with our customers grounded in helping them lead healthier lives.
Jim: Having loyal customers is always important for brands. As brands slowly emerge from the pandemic, what are your customer loyalty goals?
Alyssa: Walgreens is a brand that customers have trusted since 1901. Customers continue to trust our stores to be safe, trust our app to share the latest news on the vaccine, and most notably, trust our expert pharmacists to deliver the most up-to-date information on their medications and health.
Walgreens has the nation’s largest health and well-being-centered customer loyalty program, with more than 100 million members. Our goal is to continue to evolve our listening tool kit keep up with customer’s changing needs, and to respond at the pace of life to their needs and concerns.
We are tackling this with myWalgreens and mass personalization and will continue to optimize listening to best serve our customers.
Jim: How is Walgreens responding to consumer behavioral changes and how can the brand leverage these changes to attain greater loyalty?
Alyssa: We’re able to see and gauge behavioral changes through our first-party data and mass personalization.
“Each customer brings a unique set of desires and by actively listening to their needs and seeing what they are most responsive to, we can better deliver savings, services and information that best serves them.”
A great example of how we are responding to behavioral changes is by expanding our convenience offerings and ways to buy. During the pandemic we rolled out a number of convenience services that not only allowed our customer to continue to buy in-store, but gave them options for buying online and picking up in store, curbside, or at the drive-thru in as little as 30 minutes, as well as same-day on-demand delivery solutions from DoorDash and Postmates.
Jim: Can you talk about the company’s new updated loyalty program, myWalgreens? What prompted this launch and what are your goals for it?
Alyssa: myWalgreens is our reimagined loyalty program offering customers extensive new benefits and the fastest retail pickup solution.
myWalgreens brings our customers savings but it also provides so much more – it offers daily COVID-19 and other health-related content, access to testing, access to the vaccine if you are eligible, community health alerts (e.g.: alerts if flu or allergens are up in your neighborhood), digital receipts, contactless checkout, Walgreens Cash Rewards for purchases and it lets you donate your Walgreens Cash Rewards to different charities.
You can also quickly connect with a pharmacist via chat, or a health provider via FindCare (which has grown significantly since the start of the pandemic). It is truly an integrated app centered around helping to improve our customers’ and patients’ health and well-being.
Jim: What do you think customer loyalty will look like in the “new” retail reality?
Alyssa: Customers will continue to trust brands who have shown up for them in tough times. During the pandemic Walgreens has been an essential part of communities delivering trusted information, personalized recommendations, convenient buying options, life-saving medicines, and access to care to communities nationwide.
How we show up will continue to transform based on new technologies and customer needs, but our commitment to the communities we serve remains the same.
Jim: An attractive loyalty program can be a key differentiator for a brand. How can a loyalty program spark engagement and increased revenue as the country slowly re-opens?
Alyssa: We are using best in class technology solutions to get customers the information, savings, buying options and health information they need and want.
“The key to an effective loyalty program is to stay top-of-mind for a plethora of consumer needs and provide value to consumers.”
The goal is for this technology to keep customers engaged with the program, our app and our stores, and ultimately build a more personal, trusted relationship that keeps them coming back for their health and well-being needs.
Walgreens has shown its adeptness to heightened consumer expectations during the pandemic.
It has shown how listening to customers and leveraging those insights in new and varied ways helps retain loyalty.
Company officials have focused on meeting the evolving needs of their customers, especially concerned about safety and convenience.
As Alyssa says, Walgreens’ reimagined loyalty program offers customers extensive new benefits and the fastest retail pickup solution.
The charitable component of the program (members can donate their Walgreens Cash to various charities) is a nice and appealing touch.
Walgreens has committed to the core elements of customer loyalty: Listening, identifying pain points, and using that data to provide solutions for those pain points in simple ways.
Walgreens customers certainly appreciate that and show it with their continued loyalty.