Walgreens finds mobile customers to be better customers

By Neil Versel
04:15 am

Walgreens iPad appPharmacy chain Walgreen Co. already has said that mobile technology is an integral part of its strategy for driving more traffic into its 8,300 stores nationwide. Internal company research shows why.

Data recently presented by Tim McCauley, senior director for mobile commerce at Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens indicates that customers who engage with Walgreens in person, online and via mobile apps spend six times more than those who only visit stores. Even those who just use the apps before visiting stores and not Walgreens websites generate four times the sales than store-only customers.

"This has definitely exceeded our expectations," McCauley tells MobiHealthNews.

And thus the retail pharmacy giant is betting heavily on mobility. "We take mobile very seriously," McCauley says. "We want [customers] to engage with us by using our app."

Walgreens has 10 mobile apps and mobile websites, including versions of its flagship app for Amazon Kindle and native apps for iPad and Android tablets, as well as a medication reminder app and pill tracker called RxMindMe. And they are proving highly popular, according to a presentation McCauley gave this month at an event called the Mcommerce Summit.

The Walgreens app was on Apple's list of top 100 apps for 2012 and won an Appy award for "best retail mobile app" at South by Southwest 2013 in March.

Walgreens gets upwards of 12 million visits a week to its online sites — Walgreens.com, Drugstore.com, Beauty.com, SkinStore.com and VisionDirect.com — and half come from mobile devices, McCauley reports.

More than half of online refill requests come through a mobile app, up from 10 percent in 2010. McCauley says the chain fills a mobile prescription request every second. McCauley says customers appear to love the speed and convenience of ordering refills by scanning the bar code on pill bottles with their phone's or tablet's camera.

Mobile refilling by scanning outpaces online refill requests at all times of day except between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and a brief point around 3:30 a.m., McCauley notes, highlighting the convenience factor of mobile devices during off hours. "Convenience is definitely a key," he says.

Mobility fits nicely into the Walgreens' three main corporate strategies: delivering what the company calls the "well experience" for its customers; transforming community pharmacy into a hub of healthcare and health information; and creating an "unprecedented global platform," according to McCauley.

Walgreens wants to "concentrate engagement" in its app, with features including a pill reminder, mobile refilling, ordering photographic services and a means of tracking points from the chain's Balance Rewards loyalty card, he explains.

Part of transforming the community pharmacy means making the drugstore a one-stop shop for all kinds of minor health services, with pharmacists dispensing advice to the extent of their licenses and nurse practitioners treating routine ailments at walk-in clinics, McCauley explains.

Pill tracking and refill reminders help improve medication adherence, which is good for patients and pharmacies alike. "We want to make sure our customers take their medications as directed by doctors," McCauley says. Unfilled prescriptions also represent lost sales, and whenever a prescription is filled but not picked up, Walgreens has to absorb the cost of restocking the medication.

The Walgreens mobile apps help customers find retail locations and hours, refill prescriptions, set personal medication reminders, look up medication information, order photographic services and make appointments at in-store Take Care Health System clinics. These apps provide access to a digital version of Walgreens' popular weekly advertising circulars and allow users to create shopping lists, including list reminders. Inside the store, customers can see aisle maps of specific branches so they can easily find what they need, and also find mobile coupons.

In February, Walgreens released an application programming interface (API) so software developers can build the prescription scanning and refilling technology into their own apps and connect with Walgreens stores. "We've come to realize the speed of innovation through our developer program," McCauley says.


The latest news in digital health delivered daily to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing!
Error! Something went wrong!