How Superdrug is gearing up for its much-anticipated marketplace

Andrew Cobb
Andrew Cobb, IT director of Superdrug owner AS Watson.

Superdrug’s online offering is about to get huge this month when it flags off on its marketplace.

And the launch has become so significant because Boots, Superdrug’s biggest competitor, revealed earlier this month that it is developing a rival market.

The man tasked with building Superdrug’s marketplace is AS Watson IT Director Andrew Cobb, who has been working hard to integrate over 200 brands into its offering.

Cobb has high ambitions for its market, which he says will “remove listing barriers” for health and beauty brands. “This initiative provides a flexible business opportunity to hundreds of offline and online businesses and the support they need to succeed in the digital world,” he says.

“There’s an appetite to buy things outside the normal range of products,” says Cobb, explaining that the marketplace gives people access to niche or innovative brands that have a stocked product form to switch to superdrugs. There is no complete infrastructure”.

Those brands can benefit from Superdrug’s traffic and brand equity, which in turn will boost the retailer’s sales.

“The sales opportunity is quite significant,” says Cobb.

Superdrug is working to upgrade its website.

Superdrug will not physically stock the products sold on its new marketplace as brands place orders themselves.

Cobb has worked with marketplace software specialist Miracle to build the platform in just a few months.

He and his team have been working over the past few months to add hundreds of brands that have signed up so far and add vendors to Superdrug’s marketplace infrastructure.

User Experience Improvement

Marketplace isn’t the only major project that Cobb, who joined AS Watson in 2015, has led over the past year.

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Last September, they began upgrading Superdrug’s website, moving it to SAP’s Commerce Cloud, a process that was completed by the end of June.

Cobb says the main reason for the move was to “help the trading team develop customer experiences faster”.

“It was a really good move because it gave us the additional capacity and volume to be able to cope with the volume in Black Friday and peak trading for Christmas.”

One of the main improvements to the customer experience has been the navigation of product category and product catalog pages.

Superdrug can now rapidly develop these pages allowing business operations teams to adjust the look and feel of the pages allowing for a more unique and personalized customer experience.

“We have a vision for continued investment in technology”

Cobb has also revamped the front end of the website, so from a customer’s point of view, it will look cleaner. The new platform allows the retailer to create more customer incentives, such as more purchase bundles.

technology investment

Tech has clearly been a priority for AS Watson, who this year injected an additional £100.6 million into technology to accelerate digital transformation.

Cobb believes that investing in technology is more important than ever in a post-pandemic world.

“We’re in a world now where you can’t give people what they want if you don’t invest in technology,” he says.

It is also integral to ensure that the workpiece is firing on all cylinders.

“Whether it’s hybrid work capabilities, good equipment, consumer grade applications for use in a head office or store, you have to keep relevant, and you have to keep updated,” he says.

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“We have a vision to continue investing in technology and making it relevant to the business.”

Superdrug is improving the online user experience
Superdrug is improving the online user experience

Cobb and his team are definitely doing business right now because the projects that were put on hold gave the green light to a business focused on tackling COVID.

“The floodgates are opening, and everyone wants technical projects. So whether it’s a hybrid way of working to give people flexibility or is it just a huge list of projects in the supply chain where distribution centers are looking at productivity and automation, we’ve seen a sudden increase in demand.

rise of robots

Cobb’s focus in the coming year is on productivity and automation. His team is working with a piece of software called Blue Prism, which is a robotic process automation and manually looks at intensive processes to figure out how to put it in one of the company’s software robots.

“We have three software robots — Ruby, Roxy and Archie,” says Cobb.

“All three are now busy doing something for either the finance team or the commercial team.”

This includes inserting new lines into its enterprise resource planning [ERP] System and even doing online bundle building.

From robots to marketplaces, Cobb is putting technology at the heart of Superdrug and helping it deliver more products and better experiences.

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