Walgreens Rolls Out New Mobile Payments Technology for Stores

January 11, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Brick-and-mortar stores these days are amply aware of their online counterparts. It’s not hard to see the potential handwriting on the wall, where an online business will sink its physical counterpart on the strength of lower prices and vastly lower overhead. Astute physical businesses, therefore, have worked to bring elements of online shopping into their own operations while trying to take advantage of their own benefits like immediacy of product. A new connection between Zebra Technologies and Walgreens, meanwhile, may help do just that.

With the new partnership, Zebra is poised to supply tablets and mobile computers to Walgreens locations, where employees can put these to work carrying out a range of tasks. Workers can set up orders, consult planograms for product location within stores, look up product data, or even route products for delivery either to the store or to the customer’s own home. Ultimately, this should free up time for employees to assist more customers.

Steve Turner, Walgreens’ senior vice president and chief information officer, noted “Every customer has a unique need when shopping, so each experience needs to be personalized for it to be successful.  Zebra’s mobile solutions make it easy and frictionless for our team members to complete store management tasks and assist shoppers, so that we can focus on delivering the best possible experience for customers every time.”

It’s not a bad idea, but it may not have the kind of impact that Walgreens is likely hoping for. Since this is employee-facing rather than customer-facing, it doesn’t provide a lot of impact to the customers themselves. Sure, this will have indirect customer impact—being able to order goods and answer questions will certainly help customers—but the customers still have to go through an employee to get access to these benefits. Why not put that power directly in the consumers’ hands instead of only giving them access to it second-hand?

Maybe giving customers access to corporate ordering seems like a bad idea, but Walgreens has a lot of competitors in the field. Start with Rite Aid and CVS and go from there to grocery stores and hometown pharmacies and the issue is clear. Walgreens needs a way to distinguish itself from that mass, and this plan seems to fall a bit short.