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Countdown Pharmacy

Delivering a best-in-class digital experience for the online pharmacy at speed.
Countdown website redesign on a laptop

“Can you help us design and build our Pharmacy website in a month?” That was the challenge set by Countdown’s Digital Experience Manager in the wake of New Zealand’s first COVID-19 lockdown.  With dramatic increases in online shopping and new players entering the market, there was huge momentum to expand their nationwide footprint of 34 in-store pharmacies into the digital realm.

A new Online Pharmacy squad was formed with the aim of delivering a best-in-class digital and logistics experience as quickly as possible. Launch requirements included build of a physical online fulfilment centre with a dedicated pharmacist, a new operating model, delivery logistics and the full end-to-end digital solution. Utilising an off-the-shelf e-commerce platform for speed, Countdown set itself an aggressive deadline of 1 July 2020 for launch.

DAN was engaged 5 weeks ahead of that intended date, when it transpired that there was much less “out of the box” reusable design available with the e-commerce solution than expected.  Our task was to design an MVP solution that included information architecture, primary purchase and account management journeys, content planning, email communications and a digital style guide.

Eating the elephant one bite at a time

Our first task was to understand and agree on exactly what was needed in the timeframe. We worked collaboratively with the Online Pharmacy squad to prioritise deliverables and quickly produce a high-level IA diagram, which enabled us to chunk the work into specific journey and page design requirements. We then worked with the development partner to agree which designs were more urgent and would “unblock” their development pipeline.

The result was a tightly scoped plan that had design deliverables prioritised and scheduled on a day-by-day basis, which formed our Kanban board.

Our original plan-on-a-page for the 5 week project

We front-loaded design work on global assets (e.g. header/footer, form design) and unique flows such as information to be collected for “pharmacy only” medicines. The Countdown Pharmacy brand identity was still being developed in the early stages of the project, so we initially worked in mid-fidelity designs and later overlaid the final style guide.  We also saved time by drawing from the best available patterns from Countdown online shopping including future-state concepts (not currently built).

Fast, iterative, remote

To finalise designs as quickly as possible we established a cadence of daily stand-ups, daily design reviews and twice-weekly design approvals - all conducted remotely using digital collaboration software to share and review our work with Countdown Pharmacy’s Product Owner and Digital Experience Manager.

Collecting feedback on mid-fidelity flows

Once we had an established scope and rhythm, we were able to scale up our resources for the second half of the project, delivering a time efficiency of four days saved. Our design work was released to the development partner as soon as it was signed off, and we carried out development support in parallel with progressing other design work.

We completed our final design handover in full and on time.

The results

Countdown were able to launch a fully functional Pharmacy website in a matter of weeks, with best-of-breed purchase and checkout flows, interaction patterns and supporting content. The MVP site met all functional requirements and has already transacted over a thousand orders in the first 3 months. Importantly the availability of the website meant customers were able to have their Pharmacy orders fulfilled during the second lockdown, with a next day delivery guarantee in most areas.

Product owner Liz Horne said: “As a result of this project, we've been able to provide our customers with another convenient option to shop with Countdown, and we're already looking at more ways to enhance the service. Very early on we identified just how much UX and UI input was required, and without the tireless efforts and insight from the DAN team the project wouldn't have been as successful as it was. By strategically prioritising the absolute essentials, we were able to deliver working designs for the Developers in record time. Iterations were kept to a minimum, reflective of the outstanding work being done - hardly any changes were needed. Furthermore, the team also took the opportunity to provide future views, some of which we were able to implement post-launch. The team took the time to fully understand the proposition and delivered on all requirements. A great collaborative effort.

It's been a real pleasure working with you all. I've learned a lot and the internal feedback has been so positive, and generally in awe of what was able to be accomplished.” 

...the internal feedback has been so positive, and generally in awe of what was able to be accomplished.