As one of the biggest names in pharmacy and retail, Walgreens is renowned for its focus on customers and their communities. When the popular nationwide chain decided to improve the digital customer journey, it found its existing search provider to lack the robustness and feature set needed. It turned to Algolia, implementing Search & Discovery, but also Personalization, AI Reranking, and other features to improve customer experience, increase conversions and revenue, and meet the growing demand for BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) capabilities.
“[Algolia] helps our customers find what they are looking for faster in a catalog of thousands of items, without business team intervention. Additionally, we’re using custom rules to apply marketing banners and visual filtering to help our customers reduce clicks, find what they are looking for faster, and find value.”
Shelby SharpDirector of Digital Experience @ Walgreens
B2C Ecommerce (Buy Online, Pickup in Store)
Deerfield, IL, USA
Search API, Dynamic Synonyms, Insights API + Analytics, Visual Editor, Rules, Query Suggestions, Instant Search
Improved digital customer journey
Support for BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup in Store)
Greater revenue from search
Faster time to market with updates
Transform digital customer experience (online and BOPIS)
Cumbersome, slower search solution
Reliance on development for platform updates
Quick to implement and update Search API for fast ROI
AI Reranking and Personalization to automate processes
Easy-to-use, intuitive dashboard for business users
Data security and privacy compliance
Full suite of features: Rules, Analytics, A/B Testing and more
Improved customer experience and engagement
Support for BOPIS through localized search
Increased conversions and revenue from search
Faster time to market (from months to hours)
Founded at the turn of the 20th century by entrepreneur Charles R. Walgreen with one store in Chicago, the pharmacy store chain that bears his name has grown dramatically over the past 120 years to become one of the largest and most popular in the U.S.
Fueled by a dedication to its customers and the health and wellness of the communities it serves, Walgreens now boasts more than 9,000 conveniently located stores across the US, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Today, the chain is headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, and downtown Chicago, and acts as the primary health destination for about eight million people a day. “
Our team is passionate and committed to supporting communities,” says Shelby Sharp, Director of Digital Experience at Walgreens. “Our company mission is a testament to the dedication we all share — to help everyone find a more joyful life through better health."
Achieving that lofty goal depends on a great deal of commitment and collaboration. Sharp notes that Walgreens’ culture is a highly collaborative one, internally and with its customers. Her team has a near continuous cycle of reviewing data to draw insights from merchant partners and customer feedback to better serve them. Walgreens uses the data to inform its strategy, make better business decisions and improve experiences.
“A typical day is spending all day on our website,” Sharp says. “We’re reviewing reporting, digesting customer feedback, talking to our merchant partners on category insights, and partnering with our product management team on delivering future enhancements to make our customer experience even better.”
A mission to improve the digital customer journey
“We knew we had an opportunity to improve conversion as we looked across our competition, but our prior search provider didn’t give us many levers to pull when we needed to take action or react.” Shelby Sharp Director of Digital Experience, Walgreens
To better serve its customers, Walgreens is on a journey to transform its digital foundation. To that end, the digital experience team took a deep look across a variety of facets of its digital customer journey, and it recognized just how heavily its customers relied on search — especially when shopping.
“We were reliant on development resources, which often led to long lead times and a large backlog to enhance our customer experience.”
To meet its commitment to industry-leading digital commerce transformation and evolving retail needs, such as BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store), Walgreens began to seek a more robust, feature-rich search and discovery solution.
Improving search and discovery with Algolia
The company investigated the Algolia API Platform for Search & Discovery, with the goal of driving conversions, cart sizes, new promotions, increasing revenue, and improving customer loyalty and the shopping experience.
“Algolia was growing credibility in the market, and we were intrigued by the AI (artificial intelligence) offering,” Sharp said of the solution.
The reasons for selecting Algolia didn’t stop at curiosity. Sharp adds that Algolia provided: “ease of implementation, time to market, data security and privacy, and a dashboard that was intuitive for the business users – giving us the power to iterate without development always being the bottleneck.”
The solution was implemented quickly — approximately 16 weeks — creating a fast time to value and return on investment. During this time, the digital experience team focused mainly on migration efforts and defining operational processes; however, it was a highly cross-functional implementation. Sharp says the experience matched the high expectations she had from Algolia. “It was one of our fastest implementations at Walgreens,” Sharp exclaims.
The difference after migrating from its previous open source search provider was pronounced. The company’s search and discovery platform can now support its data strategy, allowing the digital experience team to review real-time data, and react quickly to customer demands.
Algolia has improved the ability for Walgreens customers to find products and services but is also helping the company better connect those consumers to specific products and services that fit their needs, Sharp says.
In addition to adopting Algolia Search for its website and mobile app, Walgreens has implemented Rules, Analytics, A/B Testing, AI Synonyms, AI Reranking, and Personalization. And, the team is now in the process of rolling out additional features.
Driving better customer experiences
“For us, search and discovery have to be tailored locally. Our partnership with Algolia allows us to provide real-time transparency to our shoppers for in-stock items available locally — and that will help drive digitally-initiated retail searches into local purchases.”
Through its implementation of Personalization, Walgreens is now able to deliver customized website and mobile experiences, both from the perspective of search results but also any marketing banners the customer sees.
Now, Walgreens customers can now use online and mobile searches to find products specifically available in their local stores – important given the growing trend toward BOPIS. Thanks to the Algolia platform, shoppers can make their purchases online and pickup at their local Walgreens in as little as 30 minutes. This is helping convert more clicks into purchases, while offering the customer greater convenience.
Algolia’s dashboard has given the digital experience team the capabilities it needs to empower smart, data-driven decisions and glean powerful customer insights.
“Using Algolia’s dashboard, we have implemented AI Reranking and Personalization, which use customer patterns to improve our customer experience in real-time,” Sharp says. “Our search algorithm is using feedback from our customers — what they are clicking on, what they are buying — to promote those items to the top of our results.”
“This helps our customers find what they are looking for faster in a catalog of thousands of items, without business team intervention,” she adds. “Additionally, we’re using custom rules to apply marketing banners and visual filtering to help our customers reduce clicks, find what they are looking for faster, and find value.”
As a result of improving the customer journey through search, Walgreens has seen significant improvements in several key performance indicators, including increases in search conversion, revenue from search, and click-through rate. The retail pharmacy has also seen a decrease in click position, indicating that customers are finding what they are looking for in fewer steps.
The collaboration between Walgreens and Algolia continues to grow steadily, as do the performance improvements. The Walgreens digital experience team meets with its Algolia customer success team weekly to refine and improve the solution.
“Rolling out new services has been a partnership, based on our customer data and success metrics defined at the start,” Sharp says, adding that her team and Algolia review performance metrics quarterly and develop a roadmap for future service rollouts. “Algolia listens to the Walgreens strategy and refines their technology roadmap with our input.”
“It really feels like a partnership, especially with the support of our Algolia customer success team.”
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