Emerging Technologies

The Human Touch

National Pharmacies brings together store members, employees, and suppliers using Oracle Cloud Platform.

By Jeff Erickson

July/August 2016

Australia’s National Pharmacies is determined to make each of its 350,000 dues-paying members feel valued. That means going beyond giving them the right product mix, online health information, and mobile apps with rewards and relevant promotions. And it means having store employees who know the names of members when they walk in and why they came.

“This is not about a shopping experience. It’s about being a member of something,” says Ryan Klose, general manager of technology and innovation at National Pharmacies. Members pay the company an annual fee for personal treatment and exclusive benefits above what a typical pharmacy or optical store patron would expect. “We’ve been a membership retail and health organization for 105 years, and we continue to harness a uniqueness in engagement and service that also strengthens our growth,” he says.

To create that personal experience, Klose and his team must keep information flowing among three distinct groups: members, employees, and suppliers. Here’s how they do it.

Members stay connected to National Pharmacies through a single mobile application, which each member uses to exchange information with pharmacists, access an exclusive library of health information, and make purchases that trigger the same rewards and promotions they get with in-store transactions.

National Pharmacies
Headquarters: Adelaide, Australia
Industry: Healthcare, Retail
Oracle products:
  • Oracle Mobile Cloud Service
  • Oracle Process Cloud Service
  • Oracle Documents Cloud Service
  • Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service
  • Oracle Mobile Application Framework
  • Oracle Identity Management
  • Oracle Database Appliance
  • Oracle Database
  • Oracle SOA Suite

The mobile app, built on Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, includes an electronic membership card that mirrors the plastic one National Pharmacies’ members traditionally carry. “We’ve used some clever techniques within the mobile app to prove that it’s not a fraudulent card,” Klose says.

Developing the mobile app in the cloud comes with several advantages. “We thought when we started scaling to 30,000 and 50,000 users and more it would be a challenge for us,” Klose says. “Oracle Mobile Cloud Service allows us to scale very well, and it gives us easy access to different forms of analytics for our members.”

As Klose and his team gear up to support between 150,000 and 300,000 users, they’ve implemented single sign-on using Oracle Identity Management running on Oracle Database Appliance on premises. The appliance is a simple one-box solution, he says, that enables the company to tell a simple security story to its board members and healthcare regulators. “We can say, ‘Look, we’re putting all this data in our office, and we’re locking the door behind it,’” Klose says.

Connect the Mobile and In-Store Experience

When a member enters one of National Pharmacies’ 100 stores, employees have instant access to the same information the member is carrying in his or her mobile app. “Employees can’t be running to the back office to look stuff up,” Klose says. “They must be able to access the Oracle Retail system and CRM [customer relationship management] system while with the customer.”

Oracle Mobile Cloud Service allows us to scale very well.”
–Ryan Klose, General Manager of Technology and Innovation, National Pharmacies

Klose and his team used Oracle Mobile Application Framework running on premises to develop a number of tablet apps for store employees. The apps connect to National Pharmacies’ back-end Oracle Retail, dispensary, CRM, finance, and supply chain systems via web services, and the employee tablets call the web services.

Klose and his team built the mobile applications using the right technology for each job—a cloud application for the highly scalable mobile app for members and an on-premises Oracle Mobile Application Framework app for employees who are constantly connected to the company’s back-end systems. For both members and employees, Klose and his team made sure to “keep it simple and maximize the personal conversation between them,” he says.

Keep Suppliers in the Loop

Klose and his team are also working with National Pharmacies’ trusted suppliers in the beauty category to explore direct conversation with members. “We believe we can create a flow that will allow our suppliers to target direct offers to segments of our members,” he says.

To organize that effort, the team is building on Oracle Process Cloud Service, Oracle Documents Cloud Service, and Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service. With these services and Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, National Pharmacies will be able to complete the lifecycle of a promotional campaign by digitally connecting everyone involved in near-real time.

“We have marketing involved, we have legal involved, and we have the technology teams involved,” Klose says. “We have the sales and the store people involved, so the stores know what’s going on when a member comes in. We’ve got the warehouses involved to make sure the stock is going to be on the shelf when a promotional offer hits.”

Promotional offers at National Pharmacies come in all sizes. “We’re not just talking 100 campaigns a year. We’re talking thousands of campaigns that are going through all the time, some hitting only 100 people and some hitting 50,000 members,” Klose says.

With its cloud platform in place, including Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, National Pharmacies can generate the right offer at the right time for the right members. “We can generate a ‘hot weather’ offer when it’s 40 degrees Celsius tomorrow,” Klose says. “We can activate offers across our various consumer channels within hours.”

Not only will promotional offers be created quickly, but store employees will know the background behind each offer. “When a member walks in with six vouchers, the person behind the counter will know why they have those vouchers,” Klose says. “For example, they can say, ‘Congratulations, I understand you’ve now been a member for five years.’ And the process just appears seamless to our members and vendors.”

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Photography by Luca Bravo, Unsplash