Alyssa Raine says Walgreens is leveraging technology to bring healthcare close to consumers when and where they need it.

During a Path to Purchase Expo keynote address on Nov. 13 in Chicago, Raine detailed how Walgreens discovered an unmet need among cancer patients and subsequently created a “Battle Beautiful” program that required the retailer to unify dozens of internal functions around a single customer focus. 

Raine, Walgreens divisional vice president, brand marketing and creative, said the retailer has leveraged its digital platform to help cancer patients across their entire journey, from the first visit to the doctor, to when they’re browsing for content on the web, to how they shop Walgreens and use the pharmacy, to how the store follows up with how the patient is doing.

In separate sessions, Raine and a top executive from CVS Health each shared specific strategies on how they’re getting more personal with how they talk to shoppers: Walgreens through the lens of digital and using technology to empathize with shoppers, and CVS through an overhaul of its in-store communication mechanisms. In fact, Marcy Brewington, director of in-store marketing strategy, CVS Health, announced a “full redesign” of its in-store signage for each of its 9,000 stores to begin early next year.

Brewington told attendees that the refresh will roll out slowly throughout the year, planogram by planogram, and be completed by the end of 2020. She spoke alongside Dana Stotts, SVP, strategic director, Arc Worldwide, whom CVS worked with to research, redesign and strategize how signage would be used in stores.

The CVS session, titled “Building Customer Confidence with Purpose,” directly followed a packed keynote address from Raine that was titled: “Walgreens: Combining Technology and the Human Touch to Improve the Customer Experience.”

It’s evident from the titles alone, both retailers are concerned about the shopper experience, either by “improving” how brands reach them digitally through messaging that feels personal and that the retailer cares, or by “building” or boosting a shopper’s confidence in how quickly they can shop and get the medications or items they need inside a store.

Raine emphasized a need for empathy from retailers. She said the healthcare system is becoming more transactional and impersonal, noting that 41% of consumers believe healthcare is more concerned with money than a person’s well-being and 35% feel doctors provide impersonal service. She also cited a statistic that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers a personalized experience.

To emphasize the personal point, Raine shared an example of how the retailer created 400 different digital videos for flu shot season, each tailored around a different shopper motivation and seasonal context. Videos looked at who the shopper was (personalizing messaging to a caregiver versus a shopper just looking to save money), the season (early in the season or perhaps if there was a local outbreak) and factored in different motivations and calls to action. Raine also cited improvements in the Walgreens mobile app that has 90 million members, the largest loyalty program in the U.S. The app leverages gamification such as loyalty points earned based on meeting healthy goals like how many steps taken in a day.

She also stressed, from Walgreens view, consumers are beaten down about healthcare and how it is imperative for the company to empathize with that journey and “meet them with kindness.”

At its core, Raine said Walgreens' initiatives to be more personal aren’t about sales. “We’ve proven that it improves the health of our customers,” she said. “The platform brings care closer to consumers when they need it.”  

While Brewington from CVS joked she was “going old school” with her presentation, discussing signage, the motivation is the same: “How do we enhance the shopper experience?” Studies done of the store showed that shoppers were overwhelmed with signage and missing the relevant messaging they needed. New messaging will focus on enabling shoppers to find what they need quicker.

The session noted that CVS will be reaching out to its suppliers early next year with an updated style guide and a new roadmap around how messaging will be used within its locations. For example, the pharmacy is an area where shoppers are picking up medications or getting health treatments and may not want to hear or see a brand message, whereas in beauty shoppers rely on a brand supplier’s voice when shopping.

Stotts said the new roadmap essentially identifies for suppliers “when to major and minor in the store.” Messaging will be driven by these key tenets: entice, announce, navigate, inspire, convert and embrace. The in-store messaging will be integrated into pre-shop messaging like emails and digital.

NOTE: This story originated from P2PI sister brand Retail Leader.