London Drugs is deploying Apple iPads to all of its stores to bring customers product information on the spot to aid their buying decisions.

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London Drugs to arm store staff with iPads

May 16th, 2012
London Drugs joins Rite Aid and Walgreens as drug chains that are leveraging iPad technology.

RICHMOND, British Columbia – London Drugs is deploying Apple iPads to all of its stores to bring customers product information on the spot to aid their buying decisions.

The western Canada drug chain, which has 74 stores, mostly in British Columbia and Alberta, said Wednesday that over the next two weeks shoppers will begin seeing store staff carrying the iPad tablets.

According to the company, the iPads are being distributed to provide customers with real-time information as they shop and to help them investigate third-party reviews and price comparisons on products. The retailer expects to complete the rollout of iPads to all of its stores by early June.

"We know we have the right prices and highly educated staff in our stores, and so this new ability to see first-hand information at the purchase decision further affirms this superior service commitment to our customers," Wynne Powell, president and chief executive officer of London Drugs, said in a statement. "Providing access to open information allows the customer and our staff to engage in a fully knowledgeable discussion about a product with the aid of online research at their fingertips."

With store associates toting iPads, customers will be able to research and view price comparisons of competitors, scan QR codes for quick product specifications and access third-party sites to compare several products — giving them added perspective on products they are seeking, London Drugs noted.

In addition, store staff can use the iPads to engage with customers via London Drugs' extensive social media channels, which include its Urban Lifestyle, Health, Beauty and Nerd blogs plus the more than 50 stores on Twitter feeds, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest.

"The opportunities are endless," according to Powell. "We look forward to our staff utilizing this information and sales tool with new ways we've never seen before."

London Drugs offers the full range of typical drug store merchandise, and pharmacy is at the center of its operations. Yet most of the stores have a footprint enabling them to offer a mix of products that's among the most diverse in the industry — notably a large electronics department, which has been a key shopper destination. Computers and computer supplies, software, televisions and home entertainment equipment, mobile phones and devices, household appliances, and a wide selection of cameras and photo equipment are found in almost every London Drugs outlet.

"We expect the iPads will be utilized primarily in London Drugs computers and electronics departments in the beginning," Powell explained, "but there is every reason for customers to also be able to compare kitchen appliances such as coffeemakers, as well as books and book reviews, what's hot in cosmetics, new fragrances and more."

Customers will also be able to review products as they walk the aisles by accessing new ratings and reviews on London Drugs said it has partnered with Bazaarvoice to leverage consumer-generated content by allowing shoppers to create and share ratings, reviews, and questions and answers about products and brands on the the retailer's website.

London Drugs planned use of the iPads takes a slightly different approach than that of two other drug chains that have put iPads in stores: Rite Aid and Walgreens.

Rite Aid's "wellness ambassadors," a key customer service feature of its new "wellness store" format, carry an iPad as they walk the aisles to assist customers with accessing information on an array of products, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Company executives have described the ambassador's role as providing a "bridge" to the pharmacy.

Meanwhile, Walgreens has equipped the "health guides" in its new "Well Experience" stores with iPads. Serving in a concierge-type role, the guides are based at a circular white desk at the head of the pharmacy area and use the iPad to help customers select OTC products, prepare for a clinic visit or an immunization, and accomplish other tasks. They facilitate customer visits for a new prescription, a refill or a consultation with a pharmacist.

For London Drugs, making use of the latest technology to spur customer engagement is nothing new. The chain has had free Wi-Fi in all of its stores since April 2011, and in December the retailer launched a new Photolab website that enables customers to access and print images from Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Picasa and, more recently, Instagram (which the retailer said was 2011's iPhone app of the year). The chain said the Photolab site has since seen increased sales and new customers.

And in October, London Drugs plans to go live with a redesigned online store. The drug chain has enlisted Seattle-based digital marketing provider LiveAreaLabs to develop and deploy an end-to-end e-commerce site and a branding strategy for the relaunch of the web store, which serve both online and mobile customers. LiveAreaLabs also is slated to develop three shopping applications for cameras, computers and cosmetics that will help shoppers find products that match their needs.

"We are investing heavily in new technologies in our stores and completely revamping our e-commerce store," stated Powell. "The social media integration on our photolab site, London Drugs' successful social media campaigns, and BazaarVoice ratings and reviews are just the beginning."