Walgreens is using handheld mobile computers and tablets from Zebra Technologies in all of its U.S. stores for capabilities such as assisted selling, inventory management and order set-up for customers who want items shipped to the store or to their homes, according to a Zebra Technologies press release.
The retailer is using Zebra's ET50 tablet and TC51 mobile computer. The companies plan to team up next week at the National Retail Federation Annual Convention & EXPO in New York City to demonstrate how Walgreens is leveraging the devices to enhance its store operations.
The TC51 is the same device that Target adopted throughout its store locations in 2017 as it replaced the Apple iPod Touch devices that its store employees previously had been using as part of the retailer's MyDevice program.
For a while now, Walgreens has been living with the threat that online pharmacy moves by other companies could deliver devastating blows to its core business. That threat has yet to materialize in full, though throughout 2018 the retailer did see same-store sales declines and weakness in its non-beauty, non-pharmacy businesses. Stock downgrades toward the end of the year deepened the pain, even as Walgreens ended 2018 by reporting that sales in its first quarter of 2019 were up almost 10%.
Walgreens also in recent months has been forging partnerships with the likes of Alibaba, Kroger and Birchbox, and has even invested in some new technology programs, such as an online overstock marketplace.
The adoption of new mobile devices from Zebra is another technology investment, one aimed at driving increased sales, as well as enabling more efficient — and perhaps lower cost — store operations. Just last month, Zebra's annual Global Shopper Study found that almost two-thirds of store associates believed that they could provide better customer service and shopper experiences if they were equipped with new mobile devices.
If the pharmacy market is due for a major disruption, there probably is no better time for Walgreens to begin to upgrade the tools its store associates have, and in doing so transform how its stores operate.