Retail & Innovation

As the world slowed down, business sped up

When COVID-19 hit, WBA pulled together to move quicker than ever to digitalize its business – not only out of convenience, but also out of necessity.

By Brittany Kruk

Office person standing by a window looking at a tablet computer

If there’s one thing businesses across industries and geographies have learned from COVID-19, it’s that time is no longer a luxury. At WBA, during the height of the pandemic, projects that previously would have taken months to develop were suddenly being deployed in weeks. Ideas were reimagined, timelines revisited and mindsets shifted.

Even in the pre-pandemic world, customers were moving at a staggering speed – changing their shopping habits and adopting new technologies. As a result, WBA had been investing in the digitalization of its business to create differentiated shopping experiences, expand our omni-channel offerings and bring innovative solutions to the marketplace. But the pandemic put this evolution into overdrive.

“Since COVID-19, what was once a matter of pure convenience and consumer preference is now a matter of health and safety,” says Gunjan Bhow, global chief digital officer of WBA. “We’re seeing a higher rate of consumer adoption of digital offerings at a faster pace. In response, we’ve accelerated our digitalization even further, bringing more solutions to the marketplace in a tighter timeframe.”

Take a look at some of the many ways WBA has helped customers and patients across the world through telehealth, virtual beauty and wellness consultations, and convenience services since the start of the pandemic:

Person looking at a picture of a pharmacist placed on a desk

Telehealth

  • Boots partners with LIVI: Through the long-term strategic partnership, patients can now access a Boots pharmacist for video consultation through the LIVI app, while select Boots stores offer the LIVI video general practitioner service via a tablet in store, as well as diagnostic tools such as blood pressure monitoring.
  • Boots supports NHS 111: Isolating Boots pharmacists began helping the NHS 111 triage service by giving pharmacy advice to patients over the phone. With the general public asked to stay at home, patients who called with medicine or minor ailment queries were able to get information, support and advice from a Boots pharmacist over the phone.
  • Boots shares free online resource with all UK care homes: Boots Care Learning is a free online learning platform for nurses who work in care homes that are served by Boots. During the pandemic, at a time when the government was urgently trying to recruit care home staff, Boots made the platform available to all care homes across the UK for the first time for free.
  • Boots conducts virtual consultations for cancer support: Boots, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, has more than 2,000 trained Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists who offer information and support with treatment and possible side effects for people with cancer. To continue offering this support during lockdown and beyond, Boots worked with digital healthcare provider LIVI to make this service available digitally and free of charge.
  • Walgreens Find Care™ introduces new telehealth features: Walgreens Find Care services expanded to include a COVID-19 Risk Assessment, powered by Microsoft Healthcare Bot which runs on Microsoft Azure, to help users assess their risk of COVID-19 based on CDC guidelines. Additionally, on Walgreens Find Care, patients are now able to learn more about COVID-19 clinical trials by using the Find My Clinical Trial program.
  • Alphega Spain launches new telemedicine service for patients: Alphega Spain teamed up with MyHospital to launch a new online telemedicine service that will allow patients to have direct video calls with their Alphega pharmacist without needing in-person visits. Patients can now also sign an online consent form to allow medication to be delivered directly to their home or arrange for a family member to pick it up.
  • Alliance Healthcare Spain launches new digital training platform for pharmacists: Alliance Healthcare Spain launched the Alliance Healthcare Academy, a new training platform for pharmacists. The platform provides pharmacists with solutions such as pharmacy management systems and merchandising guides, as well as topical content on current events and trends in the pharmaceutical sector. The platform also enables access to the knowledge shared by Alliance Healthcare experts and leading minds from other companies in the sector through webinars and other digital channels.
  • Farmacias Benavides launches telehealth service: Farmacias Benavides launched “Ben a Medic,” a digital medical consultancy platform that aims to improve affordable and accessible healthcare in Mexico. It offers a simple, inexpensive process for people to get diagnosed, treated and delivered select medications.

 

Beauty products on a tray over a bath tub

Virtual beauty and wellness consultations

  • Aromatherapy Associates launches virtual well-being events and consultations: Aromatherapy Associates witnessed a major boost in consumer interest for at-home wellness products, which the company has complemented by launching free educational sessions – called MirrorMe calls, which are conducted via Zoom – to explain how to use its products and the history and theory behind them.
  • Global Brands and Boots launch virtual beauty consultations: Global Brands launched a selection of free virtual telephone and video beauty services, offering customers personalized sessions with No7 Virtual Consultants, including appointments with Boots No7 Macmillan Beauty Advisors, who can provide make-up and skincare advice on how to manage the visible side effects of cancer treatment. Additionally, Liz Earle also launched a selection of virtual services, offering customers a choice of three personalized consultations via video. The virtual consultations for No7 and Liz Earle are all followed up with a personalized email direct to the customer, which details what was discussed in the consultation and the products that were shared and provides how-to videos that relate to the service they received. Boots also launched a new virtual consultation service, where customers can receive expert skincare, makeup and self-care advice from the Boots Beauty Crew by telephone or video.

 

Person in a car being served by at a Walgreens drive-thru

Digital order and convenient delivery

  • Walgreens expands offering via drive-thru: To provide greater convenience while also helping to promote social distancing, Walgreens began offering select products at its more than 7,300 pharmacy drive-thrus nationwide in March. In May, Walgreens announced a digital enhancement to this service, allowing customers and patients to conveniently order select household essential and health and wellness products online in advance, and then pay for and pick up these items at the drive-thru.
  • Walgreens partners with on-demand delivery services Postmates and DoorDash: To address the rising need for home delivery, Walgreens and Postmates expanded on-demand delivery nationwide in March. With this expansion, consumers across the U.S. can now get health and wellness items, including select over-the-counter medications and other household essentials and convenience products, delivered from more than 7,000 Walgreens stores. Additionally, Walgreens and DoorDash announced an on-demand delivery collaboration in the Chicago, Atlanta and Denver areas, and plans to expand to additional markets in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Sacramento and Seattle by the end of summer 2020.
  • Walgreens launches order and pay online, pick up at curbside: Walgreens launched contactless, same-day curbside pickup at more than 8,600 stores nationwide. In as little as one hour, customers can conveniently order and pay for select household essentials and health and wellness products online, and then pick up these items curbside at their selected Walgreens store.
  • Walgreens expands offering of Wing drone delivery: Walgreens and Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, expanded its offering to 155 health and wellness products, food, beverages and other items available via its drone delivery service for select residents of Christiansburg, Va. The new items included kid-friendly products such as crayons, markers and games; food staples such as pasta, marinara sauce, canned soup and mac and cheese; and household cleaning supplies such as facial tissue and toilet paper.
  • Farmacias Benavides expands offering through on-demand delivery service Rappi: Although the strategic partnership between Farmacias Benavides and Rappi, an on-demand delivery mobile app that serves customers across Latin America, began in May 2019, it evolved during the pandemic as customers’ needs changed. Farmacias Benavides used digital offers to attract new users, increased the number of pharmacies where the service was offered from 430 to 470, and expanded its product offering to include items such as vitamins, antibacterial gel, face masks and more.
  • Boots Thailand introduces “Chat & Shop” feature with LINE: As stores and malls closed during COVID-19, Boots Thailand made sure its products and services were still available to customers by launching a new feature called “Chat & Shop” on LINE, a popular social commerce app in Thailand, on which it already has more than 5 million followers. Through this new feature on the app, customers can ask questions and seek advice directly from Boots Thailand store colleagues, as well as purchase products and get them delivered to their home.