Walgreens declares mobile coupons a success, will grow beacons

Drugstore chain Walgreens (NYSE:WAG) has quietly been advancing mobile programs, including a pharmacy app and digital coupons via a partnership with Coupons.com.

Walgreens partnered with Coupons.com in 2011 and is about to advance a new iBeacon initiative to push messages to shoppers.

The retailer's growing loyalty program includes a mobile component that lets shoppers log in, view offers and manage loyalty points, or "Balance Rewards," reported Supermarket News.

Approximately 55 percent of app owners used the app while in-store in 2013 and 40 percent of digital print orders to the photo center now come from mobile, according to the Cadient Group. It's a digital halo, of sorts, created by Walgreen's pharmacy app. That app has been so successful for the chain that a mobile prescription is placed nearly every second.

"This is a huge year in terms of transforming the shopping experience," Rich Lesperance, Walgreens senior director of loyalty and insights told attendees at the Shopper Marketing Conference & Expo in Minneapolis.

Some stores allow shoppers to select a digital receipt delivered in a text message or email. These can deliver digital coupons for future redemption, based on recent purchases, or offers that can be loaded onto loyalty cards.

The goal, Lesperance said, is to provide practical utilities. To that end, the retailer has been testing a push messaging program at its Duane Reade stores in New York, that builds on its already widely adopted pharmacy app. And it's one that should help the chain gain ground with millennials.

"Millennials are very open to sharing data, more open than anyone over 34. For them, Duane Reade and Walgreens will become their preferred place for pharmacy," Chris Mycek, chief customer officer at digital marketing agency Cadient Group. Beacons give a pharmacy chain "the ability to optimize and increase average order size, to increase its loyalty base with the "young invisibles" (as the Affordable Care Act called them), to establish an affinity and loyalty with millennnials now."

According to Mycek, who does not work with Walgreens, the retailer already has the third most popular retail app in the market, topped only by Groupon and Amazon. Shoppers can use the app to access shopping tools, prescription refills and a photo print service.

"If you make a better shopping experience with things like NFC (and Apple Pay)—being able to pay with a phone is very attractive to millennnials… Walgreens will naturally get the spillover when targeting the patient that is spending a bit of money."

For more:
- See this Supermarket News story

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