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Home / Blog / Re:Capture Your Audience – Boots Stores

Welcome to the third episode of Re:Capture Your Audience, where we take a look back at classic advertising campaigns of yesteryear and reimagine them for the present. We analyse what has changed in the intervening years and what it will take to capture our audience today.

In the first two instalments we looked at two iconic television ads, Hamlet’s Photobooth and Guinness Surfer.


For this episode we are going back to a time when the concept of television was merely theoretical and nearly two decades before Logie Baird produced a first working TV system.


Boots the Chemist is one of the UK’s longest running companies and has a huge imprint on the British high street, and is often many people’s first port of calls for everything from cough medicine to perfume to sandwiches.


The future of retail is going to be sculpted increasingly by incredibly exciting developments in connectivity, personalisation and artificial intelligence. But first, lets take a look at Boots advertising at the beginning of the 20th Century.


Back to future 1


As Boots expanded their retail empire throughout the UK in the early 1900’s from their original Nottingham home, they required a strong advertising campaign to make potential customers aware of the new retail destination.

The below example is a classic print advertisement to announce the opening of a new store in Blackpool.  

Those who know Boots well, will be aware of their wide range of products available, however they sadly no longer sell some of the wares advertised here. There was once a time you could have picked up silverware, leather goods and fancy goods (no, us neither) at your local Boots.




Over a century has passed since this advert was printed, and both retail and advertising have grown almost beyond recognition.


Keeping with the objective of attracting customers into local stores, we are going to look at the tactics at our disposal in 2016 (and a bit of crystal ball future gazing) to see what it would take to Re:capture Our Audience.  




Although we are tempted to jump straight to discussing 360 degree video virtual assistants connected to your spectacles (don’t worry we will get onto that in a few moments) we will start with the basics.

Whereas in the 1900s you could only know if certain products or services were available at the local shop by dragging yourself to them in person, or sending a lesser Victorian oik to do it for you; we are fortunate to live in an age where the the term “Googling” is common parlance.

In fact, search engines are the number one tool for users to research products or brand information (however other platforms are growing for under 25s)



You will notice that the Yellow Pages (or similar) are not even on this chart, showing how things have changed for customers. This is so important for brands to understand; they are so concerned about providing the best customer experience on their own websites, however the very first point of contact a customer will have is on a search engine. SEO is just as much about optimising the experience  on search engines as it is improving the rankings.


The example below of Boots’ local search listings show a few areas for improvement; inconsistent naming conventions, missing images, poor images and lack of customer reviews.


This means it is imperative that brands like Boots with a huge number of stores have accurate, detailed and relevant information when people are trying to find out more. Failure to do so could result in frustrated, or worse, lost customers.





There are a few fundamental practices brands need to undertake to ensure their local results are as well optmised as possible.


1. Correct Google My Business listings



                           Phone Number

                           Product / service categories

2. Rich Google My Business listings

                           Exterior photos

                           Interior photos

                           Staff details / photos


3. Optimised website store locator details – comprising all of the above

4. Accurate and consistent 3rd party listing data

5. Nurturing positive store reviews


We won’t go into too much detail about how to do these – the guys at will have you covered if you want to find out more.




Now for some more sexy stuff.


You have got your local listing accurate and showing up in all the right places. Now it’s time to take it up a level. We have all used Google Street View to navigate and have a nosey round places we are about to visit, but a few forward thinking brands are using the same technology to allow users to go around their retail spaces.


This may seem like a simple gimmick, and in a lot of cases it is, however there are some practical uses that would make a brand more accessible to customers. Imagine you are wheelchair user and want to scope out whether a building is suitable to navigate; an interactive map would be perfect for this.

Similarly, Google works with numerous organisations to map the inside of large buildings, such as airports, museums and shopping centres. This could easily be applied to inside Boots stores, to allow people to easily locate the products they need. Internal merchandising schematics could easily be formatted for use by Google and automatically uploaded.

Combine this with simple GPS on your phone, and wandering around shops aimlessly looking for that elusive product will be a thing of the past.







Now we must take a slight leap into the future. However this is not simply a blind jump, the technology is there and it has certainly been applied in a mainstream setting. Virtual reality and augmented reality have taken leaps and bounds in the last few years with Sony, Google, Xbox and Samsung all developing numerous platforms and hardware.


Google have recently heavily promoted their virtual reality tour of Abbey Road studios, which shows the application of the technology brilliantly. You may be thinking that this is all well and good for entertainment purposes, and that there is little application for high street retail.


However, for a health and beauty company like Boots, the uses could be vast; Beauty tutorials, fitness classes, parenting how to’s, product reviews. If you could be up close and personal to someone (virtually) giving a demonstration, that is surely more engaging than simply watching it on laptop screens. 



Now, let’s marry two developing technologies together. Augmented reality and wearable technology, in particular glasses.


Although Google has (temporarily?) suspended production on it’s Glass hardware, young social media upstarts Snapchat have recently announced it is venturing into wearable spectacles. Although the function of these is likely to be rooted firmly in fun, it may work as a gateway to such technology becoming accepted by the mainstream.



I can envisage a (not too distant) future where you could walk into a Boots store, tell your glasses (or that your connected medicine cabinet knows) that you need a certain product; a small overlay will then appear in the corner of your glasses directing you to the exact place it is in the store, with details on price and dosage you should get based on your current usage.


It may sound a little far fetched, but if you asked customers whether they would have been able to pay in store without talking to a shop assistant, using a mobile computer that fits in your pocket only a decade ago they would have looked at you like you were crazy.




The proliferation of the internet of things, or connected devices, is paving the way for such an amazing future that will make almost all aspects of life automated. Central heating that is triggered by the weather, your body temperature or how far away from home you are; this will not only just make things more simple for us as human beings, but increasing efficiency and using less power may actually benefit the human race.


Smart watches that understand body temperature, health conditions, heart rate etc could be hooked up to a virtual doctor or Boots pharmacist to monitor your well being. If there is something wrong or you need a certain product, it could be ordered automatically – ready for you to pick up in store or delivered direct by drone.


Again, this all sounds the stuff of science fiction, but Google and Amazon have just released their speakers with artificial intelligence powered home assistants. These are like highly developed versions of Siri on your iPhone and incorporate much of the machine learning of services like Google Now, which provide answers to questions you have not even asked. For example, it will know that you drive to play football at roughly the same time every Sunday – if there is traffic on the route and torrential downpours, it will give you advance warning to leave in plenty of time and wear appropriate clothing.



Some forecasters even believe that such technology might see the death of traditional websites. If you can get all the information you need directly from personal assistants and complete transactions with them, why would you need to read reams of text on a screen.




Dutch airline KLM certainly believe this, putting a lot of focus in the medium term on messenger apps such as WhatsApp to communicate with customers.


KLM social media manager Karlijn Vogel-Meijer said.“People are not going to websites anymore, they want to be on the platforms of their choice. They are comparing airlines and any products on external platforms, they are not listening to the brands anymore but are forming their opinion based on the opinions of others,”


So called Chatbots have grown in usage over the last year, replacing a lot of the simple, repeatable tasks a customer service agent might have been expected to conduct in the past. Questions about opening times, stock availability and order information are all easily answered through a database being queried then portrayed in a conversational manner. If the Chatbot can’t answer the query or doesn’t understand the question, a human can then easily step in and continue the conversation.


All the time the customer will not even notice they aren’t speaking to a real person.

If you then combine this artificial intelligence technology with voice recognition and connected health monitoring devices, long queues at the doctors for minor ailments will be reduced, allowing doctors to focus on patients that desperately do need help.


Such a development, could easily place Boots back at the heart of the community and catering to society’s well-being, just like its founders envisioned over 100 years ago.






Unfortunately this next section isn’t going to put your mind at ease if you are concerned that AI is going to put people out of jobs and make is more reliant on ambivalent technology. 


Boots has one of, if not the most successful loyalty cards in the world. 15 million people in the UK have one in their purse or wallet. That’s around a quarter of the population.


If Boots were able to phase in the use of RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) chips into the cards, the possibilities for personalised advertising on a mass scale would be huge.

Imagine a customer walking down the street towards a digital billboard; a sensor in the unit would pick up the RFID information and would display a message relevant to that specific customer. The advert displayed to a pregnant women would be much different than that displayed to an elderly gentleman.



The benefits of this would be massive to a retailer; not only would they be able to make their advertising hyper relevant to a wide variety of their customer base, they would also be able to measure the direct impact of advertising. If customers were exposed to the advertising and then went on to buy, you could directly attribute that sale to the advertising.


You could even do split testing of creative to determine what messaging works the best; the system could then work intelligently to display the most effective advertising based on the test.


A brand that literally knows your every movement, buying habits, health condition and, through simple deduction sexual activity, is quite a thing to fathom and can be quite disconcerting.


Back to future 4


A lot of the technology may seem like the stuff of sci-fi shows like Black Mirror and Humans, but think back just 20 years and today’s technology would seem unimaginable.


However, like most advances in technology, there may be some resistance to start with, but it doesn’t take long for it become a norm that is accepted, and then it won’t be long before we can’t live without it.


I wonder what Jesse Boot would make of all this when he set out his retail mission in the mid 1850s to cater to the health of the British people at an affordable cost.


At MAGNAFI we work with brands to ensure they reach relevant audiences with engaging and entertaining content. Contact us today to see how we can transform your business.