When you step into the Walgreens on Roosevelt Road in Chicago’s South Loop, one thing quickly becomes clear: This doesn’t look like any Walgreens you’ve ever seen, anywhere.

With a distinctly different layout from traditional Walgreens stores that includes a dedicated Order Pickup area, self-checkout stands and digital kiosks staffed by Walgreens team members, you might find yourself double-checking the sign outside to make sure you’ve come to the right place.

Walgreens customers are welcomed into the Chicago test location's lobby that contains multiple digital kiosks for fast and easy shopping.

The location is part of two store tests taking place in Chicago and Aubrey, Texas—outside Dallas—as centers for store and pharmacy innovation, with the two locations offering different design concepts with separate testing objectives.

“We are always looking to test new concepts, technologies and practices that can help improve the customer, patient and team member experience,” says Min Cho, Walgreens chief format concepts and design officer. “The Chicago store is testing a digital-forward model that’s responsive to the changing omnichannel shopping patterns of our customers, while the store in Aubrey provides a fresh look at health and wellness that’s consistent with both customer demands and Walgreens transformation to a healthcare company."

Going digital in Chicago
The Chicago test is set up as a digital-led store in the heart of the city’s thriving South Loop neighborhood and directly next to a busy elevated train station (known locally as the “L”). It’s designed to meet the changing shopping habits of city dwellers and on-the-go commuters, focusing on increased convenience and speed through digital pickup, pharmacy and grab-and-go solutions. Its unique elements include:
  • Designated online Order Pickup area: One way to shop is to order online, then come into the store and pick up the order like at other Walgreens nationwide. The difference is the concept store has a large, designated Order Pickup area designed to make the process of picking up in store faster and easier.
  • Digital kiosks: The digital-forward concept introduces a new way to shop in store by placing an order from one of several digital kiosks. As customers enter, they’re met by a greeter in the lobby area who is there to welcome and assist them with digital shopping. The kiosks offer Walgreens full catalog of items that are then fulfilled by Walgreens team members and can be picked up and paid for within minutes at the Order Pickup desk.
  • Self-checkout: If customers prefer to do their own shopping, they can visit The Essentials area that features products just like in a normal Walgreens. The shelves are stocked with more than 4,000 SKUs across all the essential categories: grocery, health & wellness and personal care, and include two self-checkout stands to maximize speed. The section is meant to offer the ultimate grab-and-go options to allow shoppers to get in and out of the store quickly.
  • Pharmacy check-in kiosks: At peak times, pharmacy lines in a traditional store can sometimes mean a long wait. Pharmacy kiosks eliminate lines by allowing patients to select the reason for their visit, be it prescription, immunization, consultation or something else, so the pharmacy team knows precisely what the patient’s needs are before they even step up to the counter. Once in the virtual queue, customers can be seated, or do some additional shopping, as they’re able to be called to the pharmacy counter via text message or alerted on the digital display board, with careful attention paid to patient privacy. Once at the pharmacy window, patients are now allowed more privacy and can have more intimate discussions with the pharmacy staff, without a line of people behind them.

The large, designated Order Pickup area makes the process of picking up in store faster and easier.

“We’ve seen customer shopping habits develop around ordering ahead online with in-store pickup, so we’ve developed the Chicago concept store to meet those demands,” says Syed Arij, Walgreens vice president product management, Operations. “Customers have also asked us to cut wait times at the front registers and at the pharmacy, so we’ve responded to that by testing self-checkout stations and digital kiosks to check-in for prescriptions, refills and consultations with the pharmacist, which will allow the patient to be served more efficiently.”

Highlighting health & wellness in Texas

While the Chicago store is testing digital-led innovation in an urban environment, the store design in suburban Aubrey was created to test support for customers’ changing health and wellness needs through updates to the pharmacy and front of store. The store design has more of the familiar look and feel of a traditional Walgreens store, but with new concepts that include:
  • Moving pharmacy to the front: The most striking change in the Aubrey concept store is the shift of the pharmacy and healthcare services from its traditional place at the back of the store to the front to make the experience more prominent and convenient for patients and customers. The pharmacy shares elements of the digital-forward approach with its Chicago counterpart, with check-in kiosks and digital display boards.
  • Increased number of healthcare products: The health & wellness concept design introduces even greater number of healthcare SKUs to patients and customers than are normally available in a traditional Walgreens.
  • Improved signage: Improved signage and other design elements help customers navigate the store’s new format, including new aisle signs and an overall store directory at the entrance. Additionally, the health & wellness aisles have new signage with recommendations and more information regarding specific health needs is accessible via QR codes. 
  • Assisted registers and self-checkout: Similar to the self-checkout registers in the Chicago concept, the Aubrey store also includes self-checkout registers to speed up the checkout process, but places them in a more traditional location at the front of the store.

The test location in Aubrey, Texas moves the pharmacy to the front of the store to make it more accessible for patients, and incorporates check-in kiosks, and digital display boards.
Walgreens will continue testing and trying new things at these two locations, with no current plans to roll out concept testing to additional stores until learnings about what works and what doesn’t are better understood.
“We’re excited about what we’ve already discovered, and the prospect of what else we’ll find from these two concept stores,” says Cho. “But at this point we don’t want to make assumptions about anything, so we’ll keep testing, tweaking and learning based on customer, patient and team member feedback, and then decide what, if anything, makes sense to implement on a larger scale.”