Health retail organisation, National Pharmacies, is navigating a perfect storm of significant changes: government reforms, economic conditions, retail confidence, emerging technologies, and a more informed consumer that is spoilt for choice.
When a new managing director arrived in 2013, a new vision was set to become more ‘customer-centric’, which indirectly exposed many of the organisation’s traditional operating models as lacking and in need of modernisation.
“At the time, we lacked the technology to electronically engage with our 350,000-strong membership, hampered by our member administration database scattered across three different platforms and only having email addresses for five per cent of our members,” says GM of technology and innovation, Ryan Klose.
Armed with the support of the executive and board, Klose and his team set out to build a platform that would engage each member in a secure, personal and convenient way.
Under pressure to maintain tech budgets at previous year levels, attention was shifted to quickly transform the IT organisation and existing platforms to operate at a lower cost.
“Fostering a fresh approach to operational outsourcing and use of cloud platforms enabled us to unlock the costly legacy services, enabling us to organically reinvest into our new technology play,” he says.
National Pharmacies needed to engineer several IT platforms and in the past 12 months, the organisation has built a new mobile app for consumers and employees, giving each party the right information to change their in-store and online shopping experience.
The app joins an online store, eDM communications, digital magazine, eOffers and gamification as part of the organisation’s arsenal to further engage its members who are using mobile, web, and social media channels and also shopping at physical stores.
Members are using the app to exchange information with pharmacists, access a library of health information, and make purchases that trigger the same rewards and promotions available in-store.
“The app also triggers a customer’s phone to vibrate when a prescription is ready in store so they can leave a prescription and shop instead of waiting at the counter,” says Klose.
National Pharmacies has also transitioned to cloud platforms in recent years and its technical innovation lies in its library of adaptive APIs in business and data interactions between the consumer, the company’s backend systems, and with third-party providers.
“The emphasis of business rules and consumer engagement techniques are abstracted into the middle layer, our API library,” he says. “Our APIs are considered adaptive due to how they have been granulated at a level where business transactions will often call or re-use two or three APIs instead of the traditional large API.”
National Pharmacies didn’t just build a platform to deliver services to its consumers; it engineered a platform for the consumer to engage with its services or the organisation’s network of suppliers, says Klose.
“Today we are connected to consumers through mobile, online, web and dynamic email content and services delivered directly to each consumer, the organisation and our partners. We are essentially a services broker.”
Big retail results
The transformation has enabled National Pharmacies to cut costs by reducing the number of employees required to manage the organisation’s membership.
A reduction in the use post and paper has resulted in early cost savings of around 50 per cent; and the time to on-board new members has dropped from 14 days to 14 minutes.
In addition, staff at the organisation’s stores also use tablets to engage with members, providing real-time information and assistance on membership administration matters. In the past, members were required to complete paper forms, which were mailed to a department so information could be re-entered into systems.
Members also no longer need to email or phone to make address or minor product changes; they can now access this information online. This has cut the volume of calls made to the call centre by 30 per cent.
For Klose, innovation is building belief in people to achieve transformational changes.
“It’s a challenging a mindset or belief in what we unconsciously accept,” he says. “The role of the CIO is more as an educator and ‘strategy guide’, coaching the organisation to consider the ‘what if’ and ‘this way’ with technology,” he says.