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IRC 2015 INTERVIEW: Robin Phillips of Boots UK on linking mobile and the store

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Ahead of this year’s InternetRetailing Conference (IRC 2015) we’re running a series of previews of the event and interviewing key speakers at the event. Today we talk to Robin Phillips, multichannel director at Boots UK, ahead of his presentation.

Internet Retailing: At IRC 2015 you’re speaking about how brands can best bridge the gap between mobile and in-store to drive loyalty in a fickle market. In your experience, what do customers most want from multichannel retailers or brands that will keep them loyal?

Robin Phillips, multichannel director, Boots UK: Customers want brands like Boots UK to be there as and when they are needed, in their increasingly busy lives. To do that means taking a truly customer-led mindset, and offering the customer the convenience and accessibility they want to make their lives easier. When a customer comes into a store and greets a colleague quite often a colleague will know them and have a memory of them, so they can talk to them in a way that’s very personal to them. If a pharmacy knows you’re coming to pick up a prescription of you’re seeing a beauty comsultant that you’ve seen before who can advise on skincare or a product you might like that feels really nice.

What we’re looking to do with some of the new propositions we’re currently putting in front of customers is bringing that to life digitally as well. How do you create a personalised beauty experience which builds on that relationship you’ve got with your colleague in a store that brings that to life when you are looking to shop with us online? Increasingly we’re looking to make sure that the website experience is personalised to you, so we know when you started looking for something on our website and we know where you got to, so that we can be relevant to you in that moment rather than you having to start your journey all over again.

IR: What is the single biggest advantage of linking mobile and the store – and what’s the first step towards achieving that?

RP: For many retailers the first point of contact for a sale that is completed or collected in a store is their mobile site or app, where they are researching prices, comparing reviews and checking the availability of the product in store – if you can’t show that linkage you risk losing the sale to a competitor that can. A good first step is to understand what your customers are actually doing, by putting in place cross channel analytics that can show you how they are interacting with your brand on mobile and in stores, giving you insight into the cross channel customer journeys you need to facilitate

IR: Can you tell us about a challenge that Boots came across in linking the store and mobile sales channels, and how the company met that challenge?

RP: We are working to empower colleagues to meet customers on their own terms when they walk into our stores. The SalesAssist app is a good example of this, where if for example a customer walks into the store with a picture of the product they want on their mobile, but it isn’t stocked in that store, then using the SalesAssist app, a colleague can on the spot place an order for that item from the full range, and this product can then be collected in any Boots UK store at the customers choosing on the following day.

Increasingly our customers are armed with the very best of technology and we need to enable our colleagues in store to greet them on similar terms, with similar capabilities. By rolling out tablets to the stores we’ve been able to build on that platform, working with IBM and Apple with their venture to create suites of business facing apps to something that is specifically enabling a colleague to help that customer in a particular moment. I’ve seen it myself you quite often get customers coming in, especially on the beauty side, with a picture of a product you want to buy and they’ll say have you got that – what’s really nice about it is that the colleague can identify what it is, interrogate the entire range on the SalesAssist app, tell them more about the product and get that ordered to that store the next day. What we’re trying to do through initiatives like that is make the whole of the Boots range – and the widest expression of it is on the website – available at every store, no matter how small that store is. It’s about making big corporate Boots feel more like my Boots.

It’s such a rapidly growing part of our business, we want to make the customer experience as slick as possible, it’s about putting the right sort of equipment into their hands.

IR: What are you most looking forward to at Internet Retailing Conference, beyond your own presentation?

RP: Spending time with my peers and spending time out of the day-to-day finding out more about how others are innovating in their sphere.

Robin Phillips, multichannel director at Boots UK, is speaking at IRC 2015, to be held at the Novotel, Hammersmith, on October 14. His case study, Beyond the shopkeeper – integrating mobile and in-store, will be at 12.30pm in Stream 3, The Order, when he’ll be sharing more details of new innovations at Boots.

Find out more about IRC 2015, the speakers, the exhibition, the conference and the workshops at

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