On Wednesday, Walgreens announced a partnership with Adobe to release its Covid-19 vaccine portal and an updated version of its myWalgreens app.

Using the online portal, customers can get vaccine information, check their eligibility, register for appointments, receive reminders and more. Customers can use the myWalgreens app to access services such as 24/7 pharmacy chat, personalized health advice and vaccine appointment information. In March alone, Walgreens said it provided over 4 million people their first vaccine shot. The company also pointed out that the myWalgreens app has been downloaded nearly 70 million times and has more than 56 million members.

The portal and app are the result of work done through a strategic partnership Walgreens Boots Alliance, the pharmacy’s parent company, has with Adobe and Microsoft. Using Adobe Experience Cloud and applications like Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Analytics, the portal was “delivered in a few short weeks, through a coordinated effort with teams spanning IT, product, marketing, retail and more,” said the company in a press release.

SEE: Working from home: How to get remote right (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The Covid-19 pandemic forced many companies to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. This has been especially true for healthcare companies and those responding to the pandemic, such as Walgreens.

Alyssa Raine, group vice president of customer marketing platforms for Walgreens, spoke with me about the Covid-19 vaccine portal, myWalgreens app, Adobe partnership and how they all fit into the company’s overall digital strategy. The following is a transcript of our interview, edited for readability.

Bill Detwiler: Alyssa, thank you for being here. I really appreciate it. So at Adobe Summit this week, Walgreens is set to announce a partnership with Adobe on your new Covid-19 vaccine portal. Can you give me a rundown on how the portal works, and what was Adobe’s role in bringing that to customers?

Alyssa Raine, Group Vice President of Customer Marketing Platforms, Walgreens
Image: Walgreen Co.

Alyssa Raine: Absolutely. The Covid-19 vaccine portal makes it as easy as possible for customers and patients to schedule their vaccine. It makes it easy for customers to understand if there’s vaccines available, if they’re eligible to be able to book their first dose, and to be able to see where they are in terms of getting that first dose and the second dose. If you go to the Walgreens app or walgreens.com, you can get access to the vaccine portal to make it as easy as possible for you to get your vaccine.

Bill Detwiler: So how has Walgreens’ approach to vaccine scheduling, because even before the Covid-19 pandemic, people got annual flu shots, or they got other vaccines on a regular basis. So how has Walgreens approach to vaccine scheduling and maybe even your digital strategy overall changed as a result of the pandemic?

Alyssa Raine: Yeah, absolutely. So Walgreens was one of the first to administer the vaccine, the flu vaccine, outside of doctor’s appointments almost a decade ago. What’s really happened with Covid-19 is that we’ve leaned into what we can do in terms of the pharmacists and administering clearly the Covid-19 vaccine, but Covid-19 testing as well. It’s been really great to learn all that the pharmacist can do to be taking care of their community in ways that make health as accessible as possible.

The second thing that Covid-19 has really helped us do is be able to lean in to technology and our stores to be able to deliver the experiences that our customers need, given how much things have changed over the past year, and how they will continue to change for the next year. And the third thing that Covid-19 has really helped us do is figure out how we can work really quickly across the organization. So clearly marketing and being customer first, also partnering with the pharmacist with store operations, with privacy, with data, with IT, it’s really helped us work cross-functionally so that we can work quickly together to be able to serve our customer’s needs.

It’s been clearly a difficult year, but has really helped us lean into how we can help our customers through unlocking how we work as the organization.

myWalgreens app
Image: Walgreen Co.

Bill Detwiler: And was that a challenge to bring all those different groups together to really change how you were engaging with customers. Because within any organization, under normal circumstances it’s hard to combat siloed data or siloed processes and bring people together to do things. And it just sounds like an extraordinary effort to do that in the midst of a pandemic when not only most people and most of your customers, their work and life has changed, but your own internal employees, their work and life has changed; they’re probably working remotely. How did you overcome that challenge?

Alyssa Raine: Honestly, it was not a large challenge because we are so focused on our purpose in terms of taking care of the health and wellbeing of our customers, our communities, our patients.

I still remember day one of finding the first Covid-19 case in the United States, and we all came together and worked every single day, including weekends, in terms of how we could unlock what we needed to unlock to take care of our team members, to take care of our stores, to take care of our communities, to take care of our patients.

And so because we were so focused on our purpose, and our purpose has been so clear for over 120 years, it really helped us move quickly. I will say that I had relationships build quickly over that time period that hadn’t existed before. And those relationships have helped us not only deliver during Covid-19, but also as we think of coming out of Covid-19, and how we really can focus to take care of our customers, our communities, our patients, and our team members.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Covid-19 vaccine portal is a scalable solution

Bill Detwiler: So let’s talk about some of that evolution that you just mentioned; how do you see your vaccine portal evolving as we go from a time during the pandemic where there was limited supply, and that was the major constraint on delivering vaccines, to a time now that we’re getting into where maybe vaccine hesitancy is more of an issue, and that may be the biggest factor in getting more vaccine distributed. How will the portal and Walgreens’ strategy evolve to address that changing situation?

Alyssa Raine: It’s a great question. The first thing is that what’s great about the portal is that it’s completely scalable. And so us not being confined by the portal, or by supply is really key in terms of how we vaccinate as many people who want to be vaccinated as quickly as possible. We then are really working against four strategic pillars to help educate and take care of our customers, given all the unknowns around Covid-19.

So the first is our pharmacists. We are training our pharmacists daily on the latest in terms of Covid-19, testing, the vaccine, and how to keep our communities as healthy as possible.

The second thing we’re doing is we are on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, creating content that’s helpful to our customers, our patients, and our communities, because it has been an evolving situation since the beginning of the pandemic and will continue to be. So we continue to be working daily, again sometimes hourly, to create the content that will really help our customers and our patients, and even our team members know what’s the latest.

The third is that we have strategic partnerships in terms of how we are partnering with others to help get the most relevant and recent information out there. So civic leaders, government officials, faith-based organizations, we’re partnering with all of them to really help educate and support our communities, our customers, and our patients. If you think about it we have over 9,000 locations, which means we serve a lot of different types of communities. And so it’s important to us that we have a diverse number of partnerships so that we really are taking care of those diverse needs.

And the last strategic pillar is influencers. We’re partnering with influencers who are trusted in their communities, so that we’re able to help them get their vaccines, and for them to be able to share why they’re getting their vaccines with the people that really respect and trust those influencers. So those are the four things that we’re doing as we’re trying to help make sure that we’re sharing the most relevant information as we continue to be working through this global pandemic.

See: Flu prevention: Walgreens tracks influenza activity with Esri location analytics (TechRepublic)

Digital transformation is about blending the digital and physical

Bill Detwiler: You talked about partnerships, and I think that’s really important, because it takes more than one organization, one team, to really handle an event like the pandemic, but also just to handle regular transformation that you would have. And I know you and I are talking today really about a partnership you have with Adobe. So what I’d love to get your take on it is how does the portal and the work you’re doing with Adobe fit into Walgreens’ overall digital transformation strategy?

Alyssa Raine: Absolutely. We at Walgreens are focused on two things, health and our digital transformation. A year ago we announced our partnership with Adobe and it has been a fantastic first year. We launched our first use cases back in November that were more sending up the pipes, putting water through the pipes. And what we’re focusing now on is our most key strategic initiatives, and how Adobe can help us unlock them.

myWalgreens personalized health alerts
Image: Walgreen Co.

First was Covid-19, which we are announcing this week. We then are focusing on pickup. We have pickup in as little as 30 minutes across our 9,000 locations. And so we are partnering with Adobe on further unlocking pickup. We also have our value strategy that we’re partnering with Adobe on continuing to unlock, so that we are providing the most personal value to all of the 8 million customers that we interact with every single day.

And then myWalgreens, myWalgreens app has completely changed how we look at loyalty and how we’re building relationships with our customers. And we’re partnering with Adobe to unlock myWalgreens so that we can continue to serve the very personal and continuously evolving needs of our customers and our patients.

Bill Detwiler: I think again, that’s really a great segue to my next question. And I’d love to wrap up with your thoughts around what does Walgreens see as the biggest effects of technology, and how technology is going to change that relationship with your customer, as you were just talking about with myWalgreens, over the next few years?

Alyssa Raine: Great question. Technology has changed everything in terms of how we all live in both our work and our personal lives. When I look at technology and I look at our stores, I look at how our customers are interacting with our stores and with our digital platforms, and they’re seeing it as one in the same, it’s just Walgreens to them.

I think the future is not going to be about stores, seen as traditional, and digital, seen as the latest in technology. I think they are all going to come together. I like to joke that our stores, which we’ve had since 1901, that is the original owned channel when you think about the experience that you’re able to deliver in the store; we now are just able to scale that and that experience that you have with Walgreens across more touch points, physical stores, digital touchpoints, but again, from a customer perspective, they’re just going to see one thing, they’ll see Walgreens. And it’s up to us, continue to deliver the best experience and most personal experience we possibly can to our customers, particularly given health is something that’s just so personal to begin with.