The digital shift at retail continued its momentum this week as Walgreens and Lululemon both made significant moves to embrace the online consumer experience.
While Lululemon bought an entire company to get closer to consumers at home, Walgreens expanded a partnership with Microsoft and Adobe to launch a new customer insights platform the company says will deliver personalized healthcare and shopping offerings. It will provide Walgreens and Boots (the company’s U.K. pharmacy brand) access to customer data as they navigate online channels and provide consumers with more eCommerce options from the brands.
“At WBA, our mission is to deliver extraordinary experiences that enrich our customers’ lives. Capabilities to combine previously disparate customer data sets, including information from more than 100 million members of our loyalty programs, into a more singular, unified view of the customer — powered by these modern technology platforms — will enable us to truly personalize our omnichannel healthcare and retail offering,” said Vineet Mehra, global chief marketing officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance. “This digital magic coupled with the valued knowledge and quality of care provided by our pharmacists and team members is what allows us to best serve our customers.”
Two new projects have already been tagged for the initiative. Walgreens will launch a customized prescription experience for patients at Walgreens, and Boots will focus on the health and beauty experience by enabling Boots Beauty Consultants to provide custom product recommendations.
“This new platform will also dramatically enhance WBA’s marketing effectiveness and power the company’s strategic initiative around mass personalization — delivering the right offers and content to the right customer, in the right context, at the right time and through the right channels,” said the company in a statement.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights will be the foundation for the data and insights platform. Adobe’s Customer Experience Management (CXM) solutions will serve as the platform for analytics, content management, personalization, campaign orchestration and other applications.
Meanwhile, Lululemon announced plans this week to buy home-exercise technology startup Mirror for $500 million. The deal comes as the global pandemic has shut down gyms nationwide, leaving U.S. consumers finding ways to digitally transplant their gym workouts into their homes.
“In 2019, we detailed our vision to be the experiential brand that ignites a community of people living the sweatlife through sweat, grow and connect,” Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald said in a statement announcing the Mirror deal. “The acquisition of Mirror is an exciting opportunity to build upon that vision, enhance our digital and interactive capabilities and deepen our roots in the sweatlife.”
The Walgreens move comes as it competes with rival CVS in the U.S. and as it evaluates the post-pandemic consumer landscape. It also comes as Walmart Health is making a more aggressive run at the pharmacy space. It recently dropped $200 million on healthcare tech, which The Motley Fool called “a drop in the bucket.”
“That’s the good news for both CVS and Walgreens — Walmart’s still in the testing and fact-finding stages of this process. But that could quickly change as Walmart opens more locations and makes a bigger push into the segment,” the site’s analyst said. “Further complicating the risk is the coronavirus pandemic, muddying the results for CVS and Walgreens by making the stocks appear stronger than they are. While they’re doing well amid this current health crisis, once the dust settles, things will look a lot different.”