robin phillips boots sales assist app

Boots has unveiled a new app for its staff, developed with IBM and Apple, designed to make it easier for them to help customers find the products they want.

In what all three partners are describing as a world first, the retailer has rolled out the app to more than 2,500 of its UK health and beauty stores, installing it on 3,700 iPads that are now being carried by shop floor assistants.

Called Sales Assist, the app enables Boots staff to look up any product for a customer, present a picture of it on their iPad, find the price and any offers on it, show other recommended products and online customer reviews, and discover if it is in stock, or order it from another location if necessary.

Boots UK’s director of omnichannel and development, Robin Phillips, said the app was a critical tool for in-store service and to assist with its growing Order & Collect business, which allowed customers to order a product up to 8pm and collect it from 12pm onwards the next day from any store of their choice.

Phillips said the app meant an end to the days when shop assistants struggled to know what a product was when asked by a customer or how to find it, never mind find out if it was in stock or order it when necessary.

“We are very proud at Boots to be launching a world first with IBM,” Phillips said, adding that the app was “an essential piece of glue” that enabled it to integrate its digital and in-store presence to deliver a better shopping environment.

“The unique tool allows our colleagues to quickly show product information, ratings and reviews, look up inventory online and make recommendations based on online analytics, all from the shop floor.

“It will even help our smallest stores feel like a flagship shop, with access to the entire Boots range at their fingertips.”

Shamayun Miah, partner and vice president at IBM, described the launch as “an exciting day” for IBM, Apple and Boots working together. He said it was now more critical than ever for retailers such as Boots to have instant solutions to customer inquiries on the shop floor when failing to do so meant those customers could quickly go elsewhere, thanks to social media and the internet.

Meanwhile, Danny Bagge, head of retail for IBM UK, told The Grocer IBM was “talking to the big four” in UK grocery about its Quickpay app, which had the potential for “queue-busting and omnichannel payment”, both of which could solve the inherent delays of in-store customer processing.

“The biggest problem in grocery is productivity in store, ie queuing and checkouts, so if we can automate that process better it would be massive. And we can reduce the time taken by 50%, which is fantastic.”

Bagge explained that the IBM Quickpay app enabled customers and store staff to carry out transactions using mobile devices, with the ability to administer loyalty points, offers and customer tokens, which were now more usually physically exchanged, taking time and causing in-store delays.

Bagge said grocery’s inherently big scales of staff, customers and products caused security issues but IBM was working on solutions to enable it to deploy its app with food retailers.