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Walgreens: At the Corner of Mobile and Mortar

With more than 8500 stores around the country, there is bound to be a Walgreens near you to fill prescriptions and/or pick up your photos. If you don’t want to physically visit the store, Walgreens also owns several Web properties, including Drugstore.com and Beauty.com. Soon, though, your local Walgreens could also be at the forefront of mobile marketing technology.

walgreens-storeWalgreens’ latest mobile apps are taking retail to a whole level by marrying smartphones with in-store shopping. According to App Annies, Walgreens’ app is the 3rd most popular retail app—topped only by Groupon and Amazon! This comes as no surprise, since the Walgreens’ mobile app is a like well-honed Swiss Army knife, providing useful shopping tools, prescription refills, and a photo print service that allows for easy in-store pickup.

Walgreens’ first app appeared in the iTunes store in 2011—18 months ahead of rival CVS Caremark Corp—and the nation’s number one pharmacy chain has never looked back. “Mobile is just going through the roof,” Walgreen Chief Financial Officer Wade Miquelon noted during a recent investors conference. For example:

  • More than half of Walgreens’ online refill requests come through a mobile app
  • More than one mobile prescription takes place each second
  • 55 percent of app owners used the app while in-store during 2013; up 42 percent from 2012
  • 40 percent of digital print orders now come from mobile
  • In 2013, mobile made up 51 percent of all Walgreens online traffic
  • More than half of Walgreens outbound marketing e-mails are read on a smartphone or tablet

Now, the company that invented the malted milkshake in 1922 is once again driving innovation—this time by rolling out a pilot for mobile iBeacon messages and coupons. The iBeacons allow mobile prompts to be pushed out directly to customers in store, based on their location. The 10-store pilot in New York City Duane Reed stores (owned by Walgreens) is allowing Walgreens to test iBeacon technology in preparation for nationwide rollout.

Tim McCauley, Senior Director of Mobile Commerce at Walgreens , explains their pilot approach: “We will try out a lot of these technologies, test them out quickly and get a feel for, ‘here’s what this technology can do,’ so those quick innovations, quick proof of concepts that never see a customer, we do multiple iterations of those every week.”

According to McCauley, the iBeacon pilot uses geo-fences around stores to help speed up the process of accessing the app. Apple’s Passbook, Google Wallet, and Samsung Wallet are all being tested as well, and are being tied into Walgreens’ loyalty program and in-store prompts.

Some of the additional features included in the pilot include:

  • Quick access to individual Balance® Rewards loyalty program barcode
  • Paperless coupons scorecard indicating the specific number clipped and the savings associated with each
  • A floor map displaying a bird’s-eye view of the store location
  • Product locator for item search and location plotting of the item via the in-store map
  • Scanner options allowing for instant product scans revealing detailed item information
  • Mobile coupon clipping for immediate redemption at POS, facilitating a seamless value-added experience via Balance Rewards
  • Instant Instagram 4X4 prints directly to a Duane Reade location

Conclusion
Walgreens CEO, Greg Wasson, spoke at the Shop.org summit last year and summarized their overall strategy: “Our goal is to blur the lines between channels…we want to weave digital experiences in and around the store, giving consumers a single, seamless Walgreens experience.

If the iBeacon pilot is any indication, then Walgreens is well on its way to meeting this goal. Sometime soon a majority of Americans will experience iBeacon technology for the first time, and it looks like it may well be at their friendly neighborhood Walgreens.

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Chris Mycek

Chris Mycek

Having worked on both the client and agency sides, Chris is recognized as an expert in his field. His experience in developing category-leading brands within the pharmaceutical, biotech, and consumer healthcare categories has paralleled his ability to integrate new channels and technologies into the marketing mix. When added to the depth of commercial innovation expertise that the Cadient has formed across its teams, Chris’ experience and team represent an important bridge to help both existing and future clients achieve unprecedented success.
 
 Chris, along with his team, partner with Cadient’s Commercial Innovation and customer engagement divisions to help life science companies optimize the marketing performance of their brands and marketing initiatives.


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