In a previous article, we reviewed the multi-channel ethical beauty retail pioneer, The Body Shop. In this the third and final article in the series on health and beauty retailing, we turn our attention to multi-channel strategies for the health and beauty retailer Boots.
For almost a century, Boots has enjoyed one of the most privileged positions in UK retail. The undisputed market leader in pharmacy, health and beauty, cosmetics, personal care electronics and toiletries, enjoying exclusive agreements with major brands and high margins on sales, it is also one of the country's most trusted brands.
Consequently, the brand is in a unique position to analyse the latest retail consumer trends affecting the category and improve assisted in selling in-store and online.
With its parent company Walgreens, Boots introduced buy online/mobile, encouraging consumers to place orders and have products delivered to their door, or shipped to a local store, or to a pickup point for collection. The service works well and the retail pharmacy group is attributing mobile sales to individual stores, in a bid to encourage the multi-channel customer experience.
No matter which channel the customer uses when they purchase, they earn reward points. Boots tracks each reward cardholder's purchases and gives consumers personalised vouchers, which they can spend on any channel they choose.
With over 15 million Boots Advantage Cardholders in the UK, you only need to look at the number of active loyalty card members to see the possible future uptake of mobile among the customer base.
Digital services outside of the mobile channel include email & text reminders to refill medicine, Pharmacy Chat (a web-chat facility to ask your local pharmacist a question), and a virtual doctor service that allows video-chat consultations.
What these services show is how well suited retail pharmacy is to digital technology.
As adoption of these services increases and Boots/Walgreens further refine the customer experience, there is the potential to dramatically change the business model.
Boots are only halfway along its journey of digital transformation, you can expect to see more innovation as new technology programmes are implemented, with Boots pharmacy mirroring Walgreens in its pursuit of new revenue, multi-channel sales and greater loyalty.
The company has a brand strategy to be a great innovator, investing significant revenues in product development with great results over the years: Ibuprofen, E45, Soltan, Strepsils and No7 Protect & Perfect to name a few success stories.
But great product development of this sort is no longer enough. Boots has suffered from the commoditization of healthcare and everyday beauty products, losing significant market share to supermarkets, who offer cheaper prices and the convenience of picking up healthcare and beauty items as part of the weekly grocery shop.
The major supermarkets are also stepping up their game in the Health and Beauty segment. Briefing there branding agencies and design consultants to develop bespoke in-store department concepts including shelf fixtures, lighting, POS material at the point of purchase and a relentless focus on value-adding NPD to create true in-store destinations for Health & Beauty with a range of services including beauty and manicure treatments, consultations and nutritional guidance (Please go to projects - Food - Safeway Megastore on our website to see more video on this subject, at the bottom of this article you can see images from our agency archive, illustrating completed projects with major supermarket retail chains in the Health and Beauty category).
At the same time department stores and direct competitors such as Superdrug continue to provide compelling in-store experiences, whilst a growing number of online pure-play businesses cater to the convenient replenishment of core toiletries and are overcoming traditional barriers to online purchase through sampling and beauty boxes.
Many of Boots' services, such as photo printing, seemed destined for the past and incompatible with advancing technology. Boots was able to re-brand how these services would work in the digital age and keep them relevant, with convenience at the heart of the goods and services offered. The Boots mobile app, similar to Walgreens, allows for photo appointment booking, print and collect.
Part of this digital brand strategy includes improving Wifi across all stores, a key element of improving the use of mobile in-store.
The beauty of multi-channel retailing for Pharmacy, Health and Beauty retailers is that it makes life easy for consumers by removing barriers to purchase. Retailers are shaping the multi-channel landscape to sustain competitiveness and maximize profitability by rethinking the role of the store. Here are some of the ways a multi-channel strategy can improve profitability, brand loyalty and customer experience.
Click and Collect: Allows consumers to search online, order product, complete the purchase, receive rewards points, then pick up the product from the store or a pickup point where a sales assistant who is expecting them has their order ready.
Reward Cards: Many loyalty schemes allow you to earn and spend points both in-store and online or even allow customers to earn points for shopping at multiple companies all owned by the same parent company.
The Store as a Showroom: Stores are becoming an interactive place where retailers can tout their wares and deliver an elevated customer experience.
The Store as a Distribution Centre: For some retailers, the store will become part of the wider distribution network and serve as a distribution and pick up centre.
The Store as a Multi-Channel Hub: As retailers bring new, engaging, digital experiences to the store, they must also consider what role the store plays alongside e-commerce and mobile to create multi-channel engagement.
But going Omni-channel effectively isn't a simple process, and brings several challenges for an entire business, from operations to branding.
Turning our attention to branding and design
For almost twenty years the Boots brand identity has remained unchanged. Many marketers and design consultants consider the identity to be iconic and not to be tampered with. If however, you reflect on the evolution of the Apple brand identity over the same period, you can see change keeping pace with market trends and the digital revolution. Perhaps it is time to refresh the Boots brand identity.
The store design and product proposition are functional, easy to understand and navigate. The point of sale promotions are informative and engage customers at the point of purchase. With the exclusion of the â€˜A brand' beauty department, the overall impression of the store design offers a feeling of functionality. It lacks warmth, visual diversity and vitality which is present in the DM store chain, Germany or some of the major supermarket retailers like Safeway.
The website follows the functionality of the store. This is perhaps an area of opportunity in the delivery of a cross-platform Omni-channel strategy. The visual impression of the online brand toolkit is a stiff photographic format.
An inability to set the digital agenda is a significant constraint for Boots, with the platform clearly being more suited to the Amazon format and product range presentation, vast as it is, lacks the dynamic and much more aesthetic world of fast-moving fashion beauty.
A standout change could be the visual design and the core concept which sits behind it: i.e. an opinion on fashion beauty, healthy living and lifestyle social media campaigns, to be shared on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest. This type of brave shift gives an instant authenticity to a rich content-based approach and moves its role from passive to an active facilitator, from selling pharmaceutical medication and beauty products to engaging customers with lifestyle needs solutions via digital algorithms.
Our internal process of renewal encourages us to continually benchmark and write about the best in class retail brands in many market sectors across the globe.
The photographs in this article have been taken from the web and are representative of our thoughts and views concerning multi-channel beauty retailing. The images below this point are from our agency archive, illustrating work with major supermarket retail chains in the Health and Beauty category.
Why not call us and talk about your retail brand strategy, design renewal programme, online digital and social media requirements.