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RETAIL REVIEW Boots: internet retailing in-store

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Boots: internet retailing in-store

Score: 9/25

Louise Garvin, consulting manager, Javelin Group

Boots offers customers category expertise and convenience with a store portfolio of 2,487 stores. Clear store segmentation is evident, with Boots operating 65 flagship stores that carry the majority of the range, and an extensive network of mid and smaller stores with edited ranges. Given how important smaller, limited range stores are within the chain there is very little in-store signposting for the customer to go online to access an extended or full assortment.

Boots Advantage Card has been one of the longer established loyalty programmes in the UK retail market, offering customers points value of 4% on all transactions. The Advantage Card terminal has been the centre of in-store digital interactions, and still remains the most prominent digital interaction in store since its inception in 1997. Developing the loyalty infrastructure does not come cheap, particularly in a store network of this scale. The Advantage Card in-store kiosk has been relatively static over the years, despite the loyalty landscape evolving significantly. Functionality on the kiosk lets customers browse personalised offers and manage communications preferences, but doesn’t facilitate any transactional or product browsing journeys. There have been evolutions of the Advantage Card in recent years, moving away from the more expensive chip-based cards, to a barcode system alongside the development of online initiatives such as Treatstreet.

The Boots app was relaunched at the end of June 2014, and represents a significant step forward providing customers with product scanner, store locator and digital wallet to store personalised Boots Advantage Card offers; no longer are customers reliant on carrying a small pack of paper-based vouchers. Despite the improvements, the app doesn’t fully digitise the loyalty programme as customers are still required to present the physical Advantage Card at the till. There is still further work to do to keep pace with the evolutions in mobile payments and proximity marketing beacons that could really bring the store to life, and fully unlock the customer benefits of Advantage Card. Promotion of the new app has been relatively light to date with some visibility in the smaller stores but less promotion evident in the larger stores, which mirrors the relative lack of cross-channel signage across the estate.

The online range has evolved significantly in recent years, particularly the beauty range as more of the premium brands have migrated online. Given 90% of the population live within a 10 minute drive from their nearest Boots store, the click & collect proposition should be a real differentiator, particularly in the face of stiff, price lead competition from online pureplays such as However in-store execution of click & collect leaves much room for improvement; collection is very poorly signposted in-store and not supported by particularly slick processes.

Digital engagement and interaction is limited to flagships stores. Some beauty concessions are introducing some digital engagement elements such as Estee Lauder product recommendation app, but these are engagement initiatives driven and controlled by the brands. Some of the largest stores carry a limited range of baby equipment, promoting Boots’ extensive online range of baby equipment. Largely out of sight across most of the portfolio, this space hungry, relatively low margin category relies on Advantage Card to identify and market this proposition to appropriate card holders and the Parenting Club, signposting them online to the extended range. Booking systems for assorted vaccination and clinic-based services remain through a centralised phone system, with no clear digitised booking system evident.

The new app has kick-started Boots’ efforts to create a more omni-channel experience, linking online & offline in a more coherent manner using Advantage Card. The loyalty programme will no doubt continue to evolve and there remains further opportunity to further integrate digital into the store experience.

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