Boots deploys mobile app for sales assistants

Boots has deployed a mobile app for store associates to help them find products for customers.

The app has been created in partnership with IBM and Apple to deliver a mobile solution for store associates. Customers can engage with staff on the shop floor with product enquiries, which can be found on the application loaded onto iPad devices.  

The new app uses the website's product database as well as analytics to quickly show product information, ratings and reviews, as well as look up inventory in store and online, thanks to real-time visibility of stock.

Using IBM's cloud platform, Bluemix, to quickly link to the retailer's applications and data, the app is able to direct customers to the nearest store if the product is out of stock, or create an online order for the item to be delivered in store or to the customer's home the next day.

Director of omnichannel and development at Boots, Robin Phillips, said the app was arming retail assistants with technology customers are familiar with themselves.

"It will help even our smallest stores feel like a flagship shop, with access to the entire Boots range at their fingertips," he said.

The entire fleet of 2,500 Boots stores have been equipped with 3,700 iPads to be used by store staff to assist customer queries on the shop floor.

Phillips described how at Christmas customers would come into the store waving an image of a product on their mobile phone asking if it was in stock, and store colleagues would be none the wiser.

The app was designed around colleagues, with two staff members travelling to California to work with IBM and Apple to create a satisfactory solution.

"It's very much colleague-centric," he said.

Mahmoud Naghshineh, general manager, Apple partnership, IBM, said: "Our collaboration with Boots UK is delivering a more contemporary approach to customer service. By empowering its colleagues with up-to-date data and product information delivered to the Apple device, Boots UK is leading amongst retailers by creating an enriched shopping experience that helps personalize customer engagement and enables faster service."

Phillips said there is a lot of digital change on the horizon for Boots over the next six months. He told Essential Retail that as well as building "nice shiny stuff for customers" the retailer is working on gaining a single view of the customer, which would, in the long term, improve the cognitive technologies which currently power the app's product recommendation engine.  

Boots already has a great deal of data from its Advantage Card which launched in 1997. The card has 15 million active members and 70% of sales at Boots are linked to a loyalty card. 

"Increasingly we should have a memory of the customer, and we are building that capability," he said. "All the sorts of things you see, you have to power them with the right data and you need to know who you're talking to so you have to have an up-to-date record,"

Boots is also working on developing the app into a mobile point of sale terminal, as well as looking at the possibility of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), so store associates can use IBM's Sale Assist app on their personal devices.

Phillips also said the retailer will shortly be rolling out a piece of technology which helps with the increase in click & collect orders. He said the technology the retailer is currently trialling empowers colleagues to know where the customer's parcel is as they walk into the store so it can be handed over immediately.

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