CWH trials ‘Siri for business’


Chemist Warehouse
Image by Francisco Anzola https://www.flickr.com/photos/fran001/

Chemist Warehouse is poised to open its first NZ store, as it trials new voice technology to replace scanning

New Zealand media is reporting that Chemist Warehouse is to open its first store this week, in the Wagener Place shopping complex in the St Lukes area of Auckland.

The complex is across the road from the Westfield St Lukes shopping centre, which contains the Life Pharmacy and Unichem. Another medical centre pharmacy is nearby.

According to Stuff.co.nz, the store was intended to open over Labour Weekend (October 21-23) but remained closed.

Pharmacy Today says the new store “doesn’t look too imposing” but quotes a staff member from the Warehouse Stationery next door, who says that for other pharmacies, Chemist Warehouse will be “bad for business”.

Chris Wilkinson, managing director of the First Retail Group, told Pharmacy Today in September that “I anticipate it will flourish within populous markets, first in Auckland and then Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Canterbury”.

He has now told Stuff that Chemist Warehouse’s bulk merchandise and cheap prices are likely to appeal to shoppers.

“This will have a transformational effect on consumer expectations and shopping patterns for traditional pharmacy products, but also other consumer lines that were once unique to pharmacy but have shifted to supermarkets and the discount chains like The Warehouse,” he said.

Meanwhile on this side of the Tasman, iTnews reports that Chemist Warehouse/My Chemist are piloting voice technology “in the pursuit of frictionless retail”.

It’s reportedly hoping to use this technology to replace scanning when unpacking product.

The pilot is seeing a staff member open a box and issue voice commands into an Android device; these commands would then be reconciled later against order information kept in the group’s point of sale system. Any discrepancies would then be automatically highlighted.

Chemist Warehouse reportedly wants to achieve a 50% improvement in efficiency before it expands the system across its 400 retail outlets.

“There is a lot of the technology to put stock into boxes but not a lot of technology to take stock out of boxes and reconcile stock,” Mark Finocchiaro, managing partner and director of Chemist Warehouse Group, told iTnews.

“In a pharmacy, there are some drugs worth $1 and some drugs worth $22,000, and they come mixed together. We have to reconcile that stock, for legal reasons and for commercial reasons.

“My analogy is Siri for business,” he says.

“[With] Siri or Cortana – the experience is a little bit of a novelty. In the world of industry, voice is pretty mature but very plain. It does not have personality but a purpose.”

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