Covid-19: How Boots will be more digital post lockdown

Health & beauty retail chain Boots will be more digital once Covid-19 lockdown measures in the UK are lifted.

Geotargeted adverts and digital beauty services are all part of the retailer’s plans, as it prepares to welcome more customers again in the coming months following the government's announcement that wider retail can reopen after the coronavirus temporarily shut down many 'non-essential' shops.

Although Boots has continued operating during the pandemic due to its status as an ‘essential’ retailer, it is adjusting its operations in line with health and safety measures that will impact the whole retail industry.

In a statement issued today (27 May), it said there will be some changes to the way people can shop beauty products in store with the temporary removal of testers and face-to-face consultations, but customers will now be able to experience the first-ever Boots virtual beauty service. 

Online video consultations will provide 15–20-minute personalised, one-to-one service with a No7 brand adviser, who will focus these virtual sessions on cosmetic and skincare advice.

Boots announced in April that it had begun trialling a new GP and pharmacy online video consultation service, giving consumers the opportunity to call up via the web to receive general heath advice from pharmacists. The service is available thanks to Boots’ newly extended long-term partnership with digital healthcare provider, LIVI.

And Boots expects that people will return to shops with safety concerns, considering they have been advised to avoid public spaces for the last two months due to a contagious virus for which there is still no vaccine. As a result, Boots is exploring geotargeted ads that will let people know when their local store is less busy.

Online shift

Boots said “many people have recently moved to online shopping”, and the retailer has responded to the shift in demand by doubling its web capacity and finding new ways to facilitate orders.

As part of the drive to support more demand for its online operation, Boots brought in additional collaborative robots, called ‘Cobots’, to its warehouses. They were originally deployed ahead of 2019’s Black Friday period, but have become a common site at the retailer’s main Burton facility to help carry orders between picking stations.

“At times product ranges online have been optimised, but more lines continue to be brought back every day,” the retailer said in today’s statement.

Learning process

Boots said it is using what it has learned from the past eight weeks of operating in a health emergency to introduce new safe shopping measures across its stores.

New non-techy changes consumers will see when they visit shops include upgraded colleague personal protective equipment (PPE), refreshed social distancing guides, customer hand sanitising stations, caps on the number of visitors permitted at one time, and one-way routes in some stores.

It added that a new wave of PPE is being rolled out including additional perspex screens to cover all counters, tills, self-checkouts and areas that have not been utilised in recent weeks.

Tracey Clements, chief operating officer of Boots UK and Ireland, said: “Many of the developments are based on feedback from our colleagues who are looking forward to welcoming back more customers.

“Hygiene, social distancing and protection for customers and colleagues continues to be our focus.”