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Interview: LloydsPharmacy's head of online discusses new site

Health and wellbeing retailer LloydsPharmacy has unveiled its new website. The portal was launched last week as the company continues to up its digital game and invest in eCommerce for its customers.

Claire Glassborow, head of online at LloydsPharmacy, says the major challenges facing a company like hers when launching new shopper-facing solutions revolve around sensitive prescriptions data and fulfilling medications to the customer.

"I'm sure [when retailers launch a new website] it is never a smooth journey, but the biggest challenge for us was understanding all the regulatory requirements," she told Essential Retail.

"From a traditional retail point of view, there are far fewer considerations in terms of security and privacy. When you put meds into the mix there's a lot of complexity. So our major challenge is considering this level of detail and making sure everything is how it needs to be."

Fashion retailers, DIY chains and supermarkets all have to protect people's data, of course, but arguably none of them are dealing with such private items for sale as is the case with the pharma players. But with the potentially challenging regulatory hurdles seemingly navigated, the site went live on Tuesday 19 January and it started taking orders with immediate effect.

Standout features of the portal include a 'My Accounts' section, which provides users with a more convenient way to manage their own prescriptions online or the medicines of others. And in a nod to connecting the organisation's burgeoning digital offering to its 1,600 stores, all shops now offer an In-store Assisted Ordering system, allowing staff to make use of the website and place online orders on behalf of customers if a product cannot be located in a store.

Search and navigation have been improved, while enhancements in merchandising – where customers are offered the opportunity to buy related products en route the online checkout – are all expected to make for a more efficient and convenient purchase journey for LloydsPharmacy shoppers.

Glassborow estimated the project to be 12 months in the making from conception to delivery, and completion of the platform upgrade to the latest iteration of IBM's Websphere Commerce has put the organisation in a position to quickly add new online functionality when it is needed, while also meeting the new demands of UK consumers.

"The upgrade gives us a great platform on which to build on for the future, giving us an optimised user experience for mobile and tablet," she said.

"Mobile continues to be our fastest growing area on the site, with around 40% of our traffic now coming from a mobile device. That's obviously a really important area for us and we understand that a lot of our customers will use the website on the move as well as at home or on a tablet."

She added: "We've improved the overall onsite user journey so it's easier to find products through search and browse, and we've got a simpler checkout flow."

Cormac Tobin, managing director of Celesio UK, LloydsPharmacy's parent company, has gone on record saying that the services offered by high street pharmacy groups such as his organisation can help alleviate some of the pressure on what can often be perceived as an embattled and overcrowded NHS in the UK.

It is clear that empowering consumers to manage their individual prescriptions via an online portal, which offers professional guidance and email reminders about usage, is a way of giving the public a convenient route to healthcare that perhaps can take some of the burden off public sector health providers. Indeed, in some cases, it could provide an alternative to visiting doctors' surgeries or accident and emergency rooms altogether.

My Account

For Glassborow, the newly upgraded website has to deliver functionality that makes customers’ lives easier and also contribute to the commercial objectives of the business.

"The My Account section has new areas to choose your preferred delivery addresses and click & collect address," she remarked.

"You also have the ability to manage your prescription needs – not just for yourself but for your family. And if you are a carer you can manage it for a representative, and you can set up your repeat prescriptions in this area and we will send you a reminder when your repeat prescription is due. You can then very easily log into your account and order those items."

The head of online added: "We're trying to make it easy for people to manage their healthcare and prescription needs on an ongoing basis, and obviously with the network of stores you have a combination of online for convenience and the stores for when you need to talk to somebody."

LloydsPharmacy's new website is also expected to grow the average transaction value (ATV) of click & collect, which is now available throughout the retailer's store portfolio. ATV of click & collect at the retailer is already higher than the store equivalent, and the online merchandising tweaks and promotional signage on the site are expected to help this increase further.

"Click & collect grew by 26% year on year over the Christmas period so we had a very strong Christmas – the service is now around 40% of all online orders," noted Glassborow, who oversaw the initial trial and launch of the service 18 months ago.

"It's proving really popular with customers."

But how will the new website increase click & collect ATV? "It's a combination of the website being easier to shop and our improved merchandising capability.

"Being able to cross merchandise products and add on sales can drive basket value up."

A cross-functional team

At a recent RBTE steering committee meeting of senior figures from a range of UK retailers, a major topic of discussion was the need for retailers to foster the correct culture in order to ensure technological investment leads to business success.

During the discussion there was a call for "skilled IT teams working closely with digital teams for successful integration", as well as better board-level understanding of the importance of digital innovation, in order for tech-led projects to have the desired impact on a retail organisation.

Glassborow gives the impression that the launch of the new-look LloydsPharmacy site was a real collaborative effort between her online team, the IT department and retail operations, as well as a selection of third-party suppliers who she did not want to name. A large cross-functional team of more than 30 people worked closely on the project.

"It was a real team effort," she acknowledged.

So now the site has launched, attention inevitably turns to the next steps, and Glassborow is confident the refreshed Websphere platform will give her team a suitable opportunity to add new features when the time is right.

"We need a period of stability to really understand how it's performing but we already have a busy schedule of enhancements that will be coming up in the next six to 12 months," she explained.

"We'll continue to build and enhance the proposition around delivery and fulfilment, as well as the ability to manage prescriptions online. We've got lots of plans to enhance the website and customer proposition, and in order to do that we needed an up-to-date platform in place."

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