Walgreens just launched 2-hour Delivery. Here’s what should happen next.

May 11, 2021

Last week, Walgreens made waves in the drugstore world by announcing the launch of a new customer-facing program: “nationwide, contactless, same-day delivery in under two hours.”

This commitment to fast, same-day delivery is a trend we’re seeing explode across retail in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – and it’s quickly becoming “table stakes” for drugstores like Walgreens. It’s no secret that customers now expect more integrated, flexible shopping solutions. Competitors like Walmart and CVS have already taken up the challenge to meet new consumer demands through programs like Walmart+ and Instacart deliveries.

Walgreens plans to differentiate its service from the competition by requiring no minimum purchase (though there is a $7.99 delivery fee). On a logistical level, Walgreens store employees will be responsible for picking and packing orders that customers place on the Walgreens app. From there, third-party carriers from companies such as DoorDash and Uber will deliver the items to a customer’s doorstep.

While the new 2-hour delivery service is clearly a boon for Walgreens customers, it’s yet another layer of complexity for Walgreens’ 200,000+ store employees across the country. In November of 2020, Walgreens launched “Pickup in as little as 30 minutes” in-store, curbside and via drive-thru. They’ve since built on this to offer combined Pickup for retail products and prescriptions. Now, with third-party partnerships in the mix for 2-hour delivery, things are bound to get complicated.

At Zipline, we believe clear, effective store communication is the antidote to this kind of complexity. It’s the key to fostering a more agile workforce, and ultimately the only way retailers can guarantee consistent, precise store execution. With so many eyes on Walgreens right now, now’s the right time for the brand to take on a store communications overhaul. Here are three reasons why:

Better communication = Better training

The biggest lynchpin in Walgreens’ new offering is people. Specifically, the employees on the frontlines who have to bridge the gap between brick and mortar customer service and new digital capabilities. It’s no secret that frontline retail employees need new skills to succeed post-pandemic: digital literacy, the ability to multitask in a meaningful way, and more. To cope in this new normal, Walgreens will need to double down on training communication.

The problem? In order to maximize employee productivity, Walgreens can’t afford to put every single associate in front of a computer and have them watch hours of instructional videos. A better approach would be a “just-in-time” learning environment enabled through consistent and engaging associate-facing communication.

Picture this: a new Walgreens associate has just been tapped to pull and pack a 2-hour delivery order – something they’ve never done before. What should they do? How should they complete this task? With a mobile-friendly communications and task management platform, training content can be served up to that associate right on the sales floor. They could watch a quick video or skim an SOP in the palm of their hand, then tackle the packing task with confidence. 

Better communication = Effective prioritization

There are several reasons why Walgreens is tapping into its brick and mortar fleet of stores to fulfill delivery orders… and not some warehouse run by robots instead. Sure, proximity to customers is a big one, but here’s something that robots can’t do: they can’t prioritize in the moment.

When it comes to executing 2-hour delivery, there are a lot of moving pieces – and a lot of things could go wrong. What if there’s a technology snag and a product a customer ordered isn’t available in store? What if a third-party courier doesn’t show up on time? In each of these scenarios, it takes more than an algorithm to think through how to best salvage the situation. In order to properly adjust in the moment to provide the best customer experience possible, Walgreens’ associates will need to be equipped to prioritize based on overarching company parameters and goals. How do they know what those goals are? Through communication with plenty of context.

With robust communication tools that provide context, employees understand the task at hand and their role in accomplishing the company’s greater mission. We all know that when we understand how our job tasks, even the most mundane of duties, make us part of a bigger picture we are eager to go the extra mile and contribute our very best work. A platform that connects the dots for people to create a sense of purpose and encourages discussion and feedback empowers frontline workers to make better decisions in the moment. And better decisions result in a better customer experience, every time. 

Better communication = Organizational alignment

To use the new service, Walgreens customers will begin their journey in the retailer’s online space, placing an order via Walgreens.com or in their Walgreens app. For a brand that has historically relied on physical store traffic and brick and mortar sales, prioritizing shoppers’ online experience (through more descriptive product pages, better navigation and UI, etc.) will be paramount. 

But most importantly? Walgreens will need to upgrade its digital presence in a way that doesn’t leave their physical store employees behind. After all – the frontline workers in stores are the ones executing on that 2-hour delivery vision. They’re the ones physically picking inventory and packing it up for customers. What happens when consumer-facing online communication and store-facing communication doesn’t match up?

When the Store Operations team sends delivery procedures down to field teams, does the Marketing team – who may be responsible for communicating those same SLA’s to customers on Walgreens’ website – have visibility? Breaking down these bureaucratic barriers requires a communications platform that everybody, including cross-functional teams at headquarters, can access. Giving HQ departments insight into the full spectrum of messages sent to stores can help expose inaccuracies or conflicting direction quickly and encourage teams to align on messaging from the get-go.

As other companies follow in Walgreens’ footsteps, one thing’s for certain: frontline retail employees are going to have a lot more to juggle. There’s a saying in retail – “every detail counts.” But thanks to a more demanding customer base in a post-Covid world, the number of details teams now need to control has exploded.

Making sense of these details, and breaking them down into actionable tasks that store associates can execute, is what we do best at Zipline. If you’d like to learn more about the way we help retailers manage the “new normal,” reach out.

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