Boots the Chemist and Alliance Pharmacies, collectively known as Alliance Boots Limited, hold approximately 17% of the UK market share. They possess some 3000 outlets.
Due to competition from supermarket chains and alterations to consumer behaviors, the company is adapting its product range and retail methodologies. Recent diversifications include optical services, footwear, sandwiches, electrical products, and cosmetics. Additionally, kiosk technology has been adopted in the form of Kodak photo booths.
Presenting the Problem:
As a 150-year-old company, Boots has a strong reputation as a chemist and pharmaceutical company. However, this reputation does not take into account Boots’ recent product diversifications. Consumers may be utilizing Boots stores for their pharmaceutical needs, but not for their other products, such as electronics or cosmetics. Therefore, the problem is how to increase consumer awareness of Boots’ variety of products.
Boots’ company profits have stagnated in recent years, despite a merger in 2005 and recent product diversifications. It has been hypothesized that this is due to lack of knowledge on the part of consumers regarding Boots’ product lines.
The problem therefore has two parts:
- stagnation of Boots’ sales.
- Identifying current behaviors in Boots customers and how to alter it.
Cause: Boots’ problems are believed to be the results of a strong and recognizable brand name in conjunction with new and shifting services and products.
Associations: Customer perceptions, marketing strategy, competitor activities and retail trends.
Effects: The lack of consumer knowledge regarding Boosts’ product lines and services has caused a lack of consumers in these areas of service. This has meant that, in comparison to its expansions, Boot’s revenues have halted and possibly even dropped.
The target of the study will be both current consumers in Boots stores and consumers in those businesses which surround Boots stores. The goal will be to discern how consumers behave and what technologies could be used to alter those behaviors in a manner useful to Boots stores.
Outcomes, Actors, and Data Spotlight:
The resultant protocol will be responsive to different factors that influence the effectiveness for kiosk technologies in Boots stores. These factors will include customer behavior and demands, kiosk capabilities, and technological specifications. This protocol will be useful in determining where to utilize kiosk technology in the stores.
The proposal is that the study develop methods for analyzing both the quantitative and qualitative data that can be applied to assessing kiosk feasibility in Boots’ stores. In other words, the study will form a means of assessing if and where kiosk technology will be useful in Boots’ stores.
Various constraints have been identified with the project.
- Individuality: each consumer and retail experience is different. Therefore, the study must take into account the variations created by differing consumes, locations, and stores before it can form an effective protocol.
- Regional Differences: Location of stores may influence consumer behaviors and activities. The study must take into account these variables.
- Data Access and Timing: Boots has not yet responded to requests for cooperation; however, it is hoped that the potential benefits will cause them to respond eventually. A follow-up contact will be made in January. Once established, slow responses on the part of the organization could slow progress in the study.
- Storage: Ideally, data will be stored in digital format. This method will pose no storage difficulties, due to the ease of storing large quantities of data in digital form. However, if paper storage is necessary, then storage space may become an issue at a later date.
- Literature: Preliminary research suggests that there is limited literature on the subject of kiosks. This increases the need for primary research and personal observations. Much of what literature does exist appears to have been written by those providing kiosk technologies, and therefore is likely to be biased. Thus, research is needed to counterpoint these sparse sources.
- Skills: Some consumers are more technologically savvy than others. Moreover, some kiosk interfaces are easier to navigate than others. This must be taken into account when performing the study and analysis.
In view of the discussed context and constraints, we can formulate the following research question:
What protocols can be developed to help Boots to increase it’s sales and revenues via kiosk technologies?
These tasks will need to all be performed in order to successfully complete the study.
- Literature: While current literature on the subject is minimal, texts relating to retail strategy, product identification, and consumer behaviors do exist. Reviewing such literature and assessing it’s relevance to our study will be integral to the study’s success. Initial reviews suggest some literature is useful on a conceptual level, and therefore should be applied to the study.
- Problem Scenario: Once data from the company is available, it can be synchronized with outside data to ensure a more viable and relevant outcome.
- Preparation of Domain: Although Boots has not yet responded to requests for contact regarding the study, the potential usefulness of the results leads to the hope that they will do so. A contact is planned for the New Year to follow up. They will have full access to the results and conclusions of the study.
Current investigation imply that Kodak photography is the only current utilization of kiosk technology that Boots has utilized. Moreover, the company’s revenues for non-wholesale retail activities have stagnated in recent years despite expansion and product diversification (see appendix 1).
- Practical Access to Tools: Various models are available to assess consumer behaviors and demands as well as the roles of marketing and consumer awareness (see below). These will be used in conjunction with data from the organization to understand current practices. Moreover, further information regarding market strategy has been requested. This can be evaluated against the best practice models.
This review will likely reveal areas of weakness. It will then be possible to evaluate the utilization of kiosk technologies in improving the strategies.
- Practical Documentation: The author will utilize her preferred research technique, which is to document information and observations in written form. Due to the novelty of the subject, it is not possible to give details regarding how the results will be codified and presented. However, extant literature (Yin 1994) indicates that case studies will be useful as a means of exemplifying the general data findings, and the report will contain at least two from differing types of stores. Moreover, the lack of information from the organization on its preferred format prevent further detailing of this aspect of the study at this stage.
The following will apply to the study:
- Primary Data:
Attention should be paid to consumer demands and expectations. The data will be used to help consider the best manner in which to provide for these demands and expectations, as well as potentially increasing product and service awareness. Observation allows the researcher to in a sense enter in to the ‘thick of action’ as far researching a phenomenon is concerned. It offers the researcher a unique first had experience in to the subject being investigated. By observing the actions, practices and behavior of the sample population, the researcher can obtain a unique insight into the research topic. One of the most effective methods of observation is called ‘participant observation’ (Denscombe 1998, p 140). This is where they researcher assumes a role and infiltrates relevant scenarios in order to obtain a better understanding of the research topic. It would also be necessary to use interviews as one of the primary methods of data collection for this research project
- Research Method: Customer attitudes will be assessed by surveys and questionnaires administered in and around Boots stores. It is viewed as crucial to question both active customers in stores and those around them, as there may be attitude differences involved in the regularity of purchases at Boots stores. The study will include closed questionnaires on a 5-point Likert scales and open questions soliciting more discursive responses. Therefore, results can be used to triangulate and validate each other (Bryman 1995). This research will be using a positivist research paradigm because of the scientific nature of the subject-matter. In order to make any binding conclusive assertions as to the influence of breast milk on breast cancer, it would be necessary to understand all related phenomena via the use of empirical tests and evidence.
- Research Styles: A mixture of styles will be used, including using statistical analysis of primary and secondary data to support qualitative results. This will achieve triangulation, which is recommended in IS literature. An integrative approach is seen as giving more validity to overall findings given the variety of factors influencing the question.
- Data Locations: Locations will be within and outside of Boots outlet stores. Consumer trends will be from a wider geographic range surrounding Boots stores.
- Data Collection Protocol:The author will collect the data. The concern is designing a questionnaire and survey that is clear and usable. Respondents will be both consumers from within Boots stores and those who are in the vicinity of the stores, but not actually consumers in them.
Surveys involve measuring facts and attitudes via the use of posing questions to applicable individuals. The reason why surveys are so crucial is because they provide a means through which hypotheses can be ‘put in to action’ by converting them into measures. In other words, surveys turn hypotheses into question which relevant individuals can provide responses to. Once the results from the survey have been collected, the researcher can then study the results in order to consider whether or not their hypotheses are binding on the real world (May 2001, p 88).
Surveys can be so effective in that a single survey is able to verify or deny the applicability of a give theory. One key characteristic of surveys is the fact that though they can be rigorous, they have the ability of removing all forms of personal bias from a research (May 2001, p 90).
- Primary Data Processing: this will occur in two stages:
- Codification of results: tabulation of quantitative findings with standard deviation and ranking reasons people shop at Boots stores. Analysis of qualitative findings and areas where they support or contradict statistical analyses.
- Analysis of results: Triangulation of both data sets, analysis of features and trends. Examination of differences and concurrences between primary and secondary data. Identifying of the most desirable features of kiosk technology in relation to their use to Boots stores. Identification of specifications necessary for the retail support of Boots through kiosk technology.
Outlines of Literature Review:
As noted before, literature on this topic is rare. Thus, media and company sources must be validated in order to be made useful for the study. Moreover, literature on marketing and retail sources will be reviewed and employed where applicable. A large quantity of this literature is American, and it will be necessary to take into account cultural differences when considering them.
- Keywords: Kiosk Technologies, Retail Technologies, Information Systems, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Strategy and Development, Retail Support, Boots, and Pharmaceutical Retail.
- Basic Definitions and Terms: In understanding technology, we follow existing literature and include basic elements of human behavior in it. “Technology is the most fundamental of the core capabilities of a firm. It is a systematic body of knowledge about how natural and artificial things function and interact” (Itami and Numagami 1992: 119).
Kiosks are automated devices that provide customers with information
- Primary Sources: Due to the novelty of the study, multiple sources relating to research methodologies were used. In addition, marketing and retail journals will be required. Theory relating to the interaction of technology and the retail experience will be a helpful field. The following sources have been identified by preliminary reading and keyword/title searches:
Ajari, P. & Benkard, C. L. (2005). “Demand estimation with heterogeneous consumers and unobserved product characteristics: A hedonic approach”. Journal of Political Economy, 113, 1239–1276.
Berry, S. (1994). Estimating discrete choice models of product differentiation. RAND Journal of Economics, 25, 242–262.
Bryman, A. (1995) Quantity and Quality in Social Research, Routledge, London, UK
Business Wire (2005). Friendlyway Unveils New Software Suite; Friendlyway Software Suite Delivers for a New Generation of Rich Media Digital Displays and Kiosk Solutions, Business Wire, 2nd May
Compter Talk for the Pharmicist. Online Archive. Available at:
Denscombe, M (1998) The good research guide for small-scale social research projects, Open university press, p 158-167
Gowrisankaran, G. and Rysman, M (2007) Dynamics of Consumer Demand for New Durable Goods” available at:
Gauvain, J.L. et al (1995). “The Spoken Voice Component of the MASK kiosk.” Available at:
Itami, H and Numagami, T (1992). “Dynamic Interaction between Strategy and Technology” Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 13, Special Issue: Fundamental Themes in Strategy Process Research. (Winter), pp. 119-135
Mediational Inferences in Organizational Research Then, Now, and Beyond. By: Mathieu, John E.; Deshon, Richard P.; Bergh, Donald D.. Organizational Research Methods, Apr2008, Vol. 11 Issue 2, p203-223
Rehg, J.M., Loughlin, M. and Waters, K. (1997). “Vision for a smart kiosk,” cvpr, p. 690, 1997 IEEE Computer Society Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR’97)
Robson, C. (1993) Real World Research, Oxford, Blackwell.
Rowley, J. and Slack, F. (2003). “Kiosks in Retailing: the Quiet Revolution,” International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, Vol 31. Number 6, pp 329-339
Drug Store News (2006) New kiosk technology serves to broaden retailers’ reach. Drug Store News, 7/17/2006, Vol. 28 Issue 9, p35-35
Murphy, S (2006)New kiosk technology to help retailers broaden reach.. Retailing Today, 6/26/2006, Vol. 45 Issue 12, p4-56
Convenience Store News (2004)Consumers Embrace Self-Service. Convenience Store News, 1/12/2004, Vol. 40 Issue 1, p70
May, T (2001)(3rd ed.) Social Research: Issues, methods and process, Open University press, p 88-147
Song, I. & Chintagunta, P. (2003). A micromodel of new product adoption with heterogeneous and forward-looking consumers: An application to the digital camera category. Quantitative Marketing and Economics, 1, 371–407.
McGee, Richard (2008)Teaching and Learning Responsible Research Conduct: Influences of Prior Experiences on Acceptance of New Ideas. Accountability in Research: Policies & Quality Assurance, Jan-Mar2008, Vol. 15 Issue 1, p30-62
Yin, R.K. (1994) Case Study Research Design and Methods, 2nd ed., Sage Publications, Newbury Park.
- Map of Important Areas: The literature review will roughly mirror these points:
- Introductory definition of the topic and terms. Overview of the literature that informs the central aspects of the study
- Identification of existing concepts relating to the use of technology as a support tool for retail and how it is evolving with consumer capabilities.
- Supply information relating to the effect of kiosk technologies as a retail tool in countries where it is more common and better researched.
- Identify best practice models already existing for kiosk technologies and what abilities would best apply to Boots context. These may or may not include touch screen, voice, and/or interactive features.
- Outline issues of marketing strategy and retail theory. Guide on how to measure consumer demand and behaviors.
- Originality: The study hopes to address a major gap in knowledge regarding kiosk technologies in the context of retail support in the UK. Originality derives both from the primary research conducted and cross-cultural references of kiosk technologies in the context of the UK.
- Review Conclusions: Hopefully the conclusions of the study will result in a useful best practice protocol that can be used in similar situations. This will hopefully provide a process that can assess the variety of factors influencing kiosk desirability in a given setting.
Appendix 1: Boots Group Plc. Financial performance 2000 – 2006. (Source Alliance Boots Results Archive found at
http://production.investis.com/allianceboots/results/results_archive/b_archive/ Accessed 1st December 2007.) :
|Year ended||Revenue (£m)||Profit before tax (£m)||Net profit (£m)|
|31 March 2006 *||5,027.4||348.9||303.4|
|31 March 2005||5,469.1||427.6||302.4|
|31 March 2004||5,325.0||579.9||411.5|
|31 March 2003||5,325.2||494.9||301.6|
|31 March 2002||5,328.3||595.8||404.3|
|31 March 2001||5,220.9||492.2||333.2|
|31 March 2000||5,187.0||561.7||399.0|
|SBIT Induction Check List September 2007|
|1. All students, including repeating ones, must try to complete this checklist by the end of induction week or the end of week 1 at the very latest.|
2. The checklist requires a tick üin EVERY box as confirmation that you have done everything that is needed to begin the course.
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|1.||ü||I have located the email section of WebCT|
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