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Is Walgreens Digital Boring?

Forbes columnist Nikki Baird is on a mission to review the digital strategies of all of the National Retail Federation’s Top 100 retailers list and, in the process, evaluate which retailers are using digital channels in truly meaningful ways.

Her process involves evaluating retailer activity across a variety of digital spaces: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as other social properties as appropriate, then looking at how these social channels tie back to the retailer’s main online presence, its website.

And while it would seem that a decidedly negative review from Baird would be most damning, it’s her recent description of Walgreens’ digital strategy as “carefully mediocre” and “boring” that may prove to be a worse fate. Repeating content across channels, excluding links, overlooking opportunities to create conversations with followers. All of these are among the offenses that Walgreens stands accused of committing in its digital strategy.

On the surface, Baird notes, it would be easy to convince oneself that Walgreens is doing “OK.” But looking a little closer, the engagement across the company’s channels just isn’t there. For a brand with 4.3 million Facebook likes, one would assume it would be garnering more than 200 likes on a post. Other channels like Twitter (918,0000 followers) and Pinterest (38,0000 followers) just seem to be lacking the audience volume for a brand of Walgreens’ size.

Jumping over to the site’s homepage, there is no obvious mention or links to these social channels, and overall the site is light on attention-grabbing imagery. Baird finds the site’s search functionality and browsing flow to be odd, with some time spent recalling an odd UI experience in shopping for fragrances.

Where Baird says Walgreens really starts to drop the ball is on its company Tumblr, which it uses as its retail blog. A recent post on holiday gift guides lacks a link of any kind — not for the gift guides themselves or for any of the products mentioned in the post — leaving the reader unable to take any immediate action based on the content. When the same images from the gift guide shoot were repurposed on Pinterest, similar issues persisted, with all images linking back to the Walgreens homepage versus any of the actual gift guides or items themselves.

Baird offers ideas for how the retailer could easily use this — or any of its other featured promotions to start conversations — to connect consumers with a path to purchase specific products or even engage them in a more in-depth blog post around the challenges of finding gifts for everyone on your list. But, she concludes, while Walgreens may be doing itself a disservice by underinvesting in content, it is not alone in this blunder.

Baird’s findings reveal that a large number of retailers are succumbing to a similar fate in their digital strategies. Where once content creators worked hard to be authentic, creative and outrageous, now their strategies are decidedly wrought, predictable and not thoroughly executed. Where once the space was used to keep brands relevant and customers engaged, now content seems as if it is just merely checking a required box.

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