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At Walgreens, convenience is key. But as Walgreens’ chief marketing officer explains, the meaning of convenience is both more expansive and more detailed than it might seem at first glance. Certainly, the drugstore chain wants to place its stores in locations that are easy for consumers to visit. Beyond that, three pertinent lessons, stemming from its efforts to enhance convenience for its customers (most of whom are women), help define its success.

First, technology and its applications are absolute necessities. Rather than being cold, analytical tools though, Walgreens uses its technology to connect more closely with shoppers. For example, for time-pressed consumers, remembering to refill and pick up a prescription can be a stressful, frustrating task. To make this chore more convenient, and accordingly make customers happier and less stressed, Walgreens offers advanced technology. Customers may sign up to receive text or e-mail reminders to refill a medication, as well as down-to-the-hour reminders to take their prescribed pills. They can scan their refillable prescription label on their smartphones and order a refill in less than 30 seconds, and they can initiate a remote chat with a pharmacist at any time of day. Such technological capabilities actually provide an emotional benefit, such that the shopper feels supported and more closely connected to the drugstore.

pharmacy assistant

Second, the mirror image of enhancing convenience is reducing friction, especially in stores. Noting that some customers struggled to lug heavy baskets filled with purchases through the aisles, Walgreens developed small rolling baskets that shoppers can easily move across the store footprint. Because Walgreens are relatively small (averaging 14,000 square feet), the baskets are not traditional shopping carts but rather dedicated, specific tools to make shopping more convenient for customers.

Third, convenience means giving customers the exact amount of help they want, when and where they want it. For quick trippers, Walgreens wants store employees to let them find their desired items quickly and on their own, because that defines convenience for them. For shoppers in need of assistance, whether that means help finding the wrapping paper aisle or gathering in-depth information about a prescription, Walgreens wants to make sure store employees are readily available and knowledgeable. Therefore, it regards employee training as a central element of its customer convenience capabilities.

Such foundational yet innovative methods help explain why Walgreens has enjoyed a 114-year history, ranks as the largest drugstore chain in the United States, and makes it seemingly impossible for customers to leave a store without having purchased far more than they planned to grab on that trip.

Discussion Question:

What makes Walgreens so good?


SOURCE: Bridget Brennan, “Convenience Can Be Emotional: Lessons from Walgreens CMO Sona Chawla,” Forbes, April 7, 2015