Q&A with Colin Armstrong, Walgreens Boots Alliance

 

Today I'm so happy to share a great Q&A session with Colin Armstrong, who spearheaded the recent launch of a Hoop.la community for Walgreens Boots Alliance. The new YourGoodSkin(TM) brand leverages an innovative approach, deeply involving thousands of women in the creation and development of the skin care line itself.  

colin-armstrong-headshot

How does online community figure into the YourGoodSkin brand story?

The whole brand ethos of YourGoodSkin is that it has been, and will continue to be, co-created by women.  Having an active and engaged community has been our main tool for achieving this.  Around 3 years ago when the first ideas for the brand were being formed, we established a ‘research’ community of women.  As the brand evolved, the community became more and more engaged and helped shape pretty much everything you see – the product range, the packaging, the marketing materials.  Every step of the way we consulted our community. 

Our brand team were so enormously impressed by the power and influence of the community that it became one of our main digital deliverables to support the brand launch. 

They wanted YourGoodSkin to be all about community – so we moved from our private research community and onto a brand new Hoop.la public community.  We launched just over a month ago and our community is thriving – our members will continue to shape everything YourGoodSkin does.

In moving from a pure research community to a full-fledged member site, what were some of the key challenges you faced?

Well, we had to think about the bigger picture – we definitely weren’t looking to simply recreate the research community.  The first key aspect to consider is that our research community members were ‘recruited’ whereas our public community would need people to join because they wanted to.  Additionally, the conversations on the research community were often very specific and led by our research needs, whereas our public community would be about organic conversation, principally driven by our members.  So, our challenge was to create a community that was both welcoming to our research ladies, but also made sense to members of the public. 

When we designed our full-fledged member site, we principally focussed on community purpose, relevance, and ‘stickiness’ (i.e. giving people a reason to stay on, and come back to, our community).  We also did a lot of work to really understand our persona for the brand – get to the root of her needs, drivers, and how a community could help complement this.  Then using all of this information we designed our site.

This project involved cooperation and input across many functional teams within WBA; what one thing did you do to ensure that the hard launch deadline was met?

You’re right.  This project had a hard launch deadline as the URL for our brand site was printed on product packaging and the community is also referenced in many of our marketing materials!! And the launch date for the brand was absolutely set in stone so we had to deliver.  We had a bunch of challenges along the way, and a few sleepless nights, but I think the single biggest thing we did was to plan for a ‘soft’ launch. 

Before doing our public launch, we opened our new community up privately – inviting only our current research members.  This allowed us an incubation period to address any snags raised to us before launching to the public.  Once we’d done this piece, the public launch several weeks later felt much less stressful.

How did you communicate the platform shift to existing members of the research community?

We took this piece very seriously as it was important the transition was handled in a considerate way for our research community members.  Having as many women as possible transfer from the research community to the YourGoodSkin community was a big objective – this would help ensure we had an active community from day one rather than starting off with an empty community! 

We sent a sequence of emails over a time period – the first was a ‘coming soon’ message, the second introduced the new YourGoodSkin community, the third introduced Bex who is our fantastic Community Manager, and then the fourth and final email was a reveal of the brand ahead of it being launched.  Each of these emails had an ‘opt-in’ clause for being invited to our new community.  Those who opted-in received the invitation email to our new community.

What are some of the unique ways you’re building in virality to the project?

Well, we’ve done this a couple of ways.  Firstly, we have a member-get-member program.  This is an incentivised scheme for members to invite their friends and family to our community.  This is built into our Hoop.la platform and is working really well – not to mention that it’s highly configurable so we can change the business rules at any point. 

Secondly, we’ve introduced social sharing opportunities throughout our site.  We realised very early on that we needed to complement, and work alongside, the social giants such as Facebook.  Trying to compete with them wasn’t the right strategy so we’ve designed our site with mutual social harmony in mind.  We even have a great 28-day coaching program for our Skin Balancing Concentrate product, which gives users the opportunity to receive their coaching notifications through Facebook Messenger.

You just had the UK launch of the brand; how did it go?

The brand is doing really well.  It’s exceeding the sales forecast by a significant amount.  My also wife loves it - and she’s a very harsh critic, so it must be a great product range!!

What are some of the KPIs you’ll be watching as the community grows?

We have a combination of Google Analytics and some custom analytics that Social Strata have built into our Hoop.la control panel.  Initially, it was all about the number of registered community members.  That will always be an important statistic, but as we grow we’re looking to widen our perspective. 

Understanding membership engagement is key – a community lives or dies by the number of active members.  Additionally, we’re able to get a geographic breakdown of our stats for our three key markets of the US, UK and Republic of Ireland.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Well, I have to say, the Social Strata team were truly fantastic on this project.  A really collaborative partner throughout.  There were a few times during delivery that I needed to flex more work into Social Strata as the team’s pace of development was so rapid and totally reliable.  Having been through the full cycle with Social Strata – pre-sales, delivery and support – I can honestly say they’ve been an immense partner for us and definitely the right choice.

 

Thank you Colin, it was such a pleasure working with you and the whole WBA team!

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