This summer, Walgreens debuted a new concept store in Chicago's bustling South Loop neighborhood. The store features only two aisles of browsable product, with the remaining inventory behind a service desk. You can order ahead (online or through the Walgreens app) or via a kiosk at the store. Signs invite you to "relax while we shop for you".
See Walgreens Instagram Post about their new store.
In a statement, Walgreens touts a "digital-forward" design and describes the concept as driven by trends in shopper behaviors. “We’ve seen customer shopping habits develop around ordering ahead online with in-store pickup, so we’ve developed the Chicago concept store to meet those demands,” says Syed Arij, Walgreens Vice President Product Management, Operations.
While this may be true, it's abundantly clear that Walgreens also designed this new store concept to prevent theft, which made us wonder - at what cost to customer experience?
"It's abundantly clear that Walgreens designed this new store concept to prevent theft, which made us wonder - at what cost to customer experience?"
To explore this topic, we embarked on several store visits. Both to the new concept and comparable locations in Chicago. We took a "Consumer Reports" style approach: analyzing what the Walgreens consumer is seeking and evaluating how the store environment and experience meet the need. We did a vibe-check, chatting with shoppers and employees off the record. Here's our analysis:
Types of products the Walgreens customer is seeking:
OTC cures for a malady
Snacks / Bevs
Household items without a trip to a big box store
What customers want out of the experience:
Ability to browse
A Courteous and Helpful Staff
We found that overall, the new store concept scored slightly higher in customer satisfaction. The fresh look and feel more than compensate for the lack of browsability. One area that Walgreen's new concept fell short on is the beauty aisle. Several customers commented that they preferred to browse beauty products in person, rather than digitally, and the limited on-shelf selection was a turn-off.
"Overall, the new store concept scored slightly higher in customer satisfaction."
Browsability was commonly mentioned by customers and staff. In a NBC Chicago news report, shopper Jill Perry said "It kind of takes away that browsing element that I like with shopping and sometimes I'm just in a rush and I don't want to wait for other people to grab things for me." At the pickup counter, a staff member agreed. When asked about the kind of customer feedback she's gotten, she said overall the feedback is positive but customers do complain about not being able to browse.
The new Walgreens pharmacy experience, on the other hand, is a hit! The aesthetic better aligns with customer expectations for healthcare space. The check-in kiosk allows the "patient" to enter their info into the queue and take a seat in the waiting area, without interrupting the workflow of pharmacy staff. We spoke with one shopper who had been put off in the past by what he perceived as a lack of cleanliness. "If the floor is dirty and the pharmacist's apron looks gross, that's not hygienic!" He agreed the new space is a big improvement.