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Walgreens App Improving Customer Loyalty, Health Outcomes

Abhi Dhar

Abhi Dhar (A. Kotok)

Abhi Dhar, chief technology officer for electronic commerce at the Walgreens drug store chain, says the company’s mobile app helps build stronger connections with its customers, which is paying off in more customer loyalty and more medication adherence. Dhar described the Walgreens mobile app today at the mHealth + Telehealth World Congress meeting in Boston.

Walgreens, says Dhar, integrates its mobile app with its prominent retail presence to engage with customers both inside and outside its retail stores. Dahr notes that most Americans live within three miles of a Walgreens store.

Some 40 percent of its walk-in customers, he notes, load the Walgreens app inside its stores, reading store maps, using coupons, checking store circulars, and calling up its loyalty program. Dhar says Walgreens has 64 million members in its loyalty program.

But the app’s main objective is to engage the customer outside the store. To a few gasps from the audience, Dhar said a large segment of its customers call up the app in the bathroom, which he notes is the location of the medicine chest, and thus most of the customer’s medications.

The most popular service on the app is the prescription refill feature, which has grown markedly in use. In 2010, says Dhar, 10 percent of its refills came from digital sources (not just mobile). Today, more than half of its refills are entered from digital sources, which he says averages to one refill per second. The Walgreens app takes advantage of the smartphone’s camera to scan bar codes on the prescription label as part of the refill feature.

Dhar points out that its mobile app aims to do more than transfer current services to a mobile device, but engage the customer in more and different ways. For example, the Walgreens app integrates with fitness apps, such as FitBit, where increased evidence of exercise gains the customer more points with the Walgreens loyalty program.

Another service integrates with Foursquare, the location marketing app, to encourage flu shots at Walgreens clinics. Dhar says the program so far resulted in some 200,000 Foursquare check-ins at clinics for flu shots at 10 million Walgreens stores.

Walgreens, says Dhar, is extending mobile services to the Walgreens customer base by offering an application program interface or API that integrates with its mobile app, for refilling and transferring prescriptions. This is the second API offered by Walgreens, following an earlier one for photo processing.

The bottom line for Walgreens, of course, is the bottom line. Dhar says Walgreens customers using the mobile app and visit their stores are six times more profitable than store visitors only. For the patients reflling their prescriptions, the outcomes are no less compelling. More than 70 percent of the mobile customers that use the app for refill reminders, says Dhar, tell Walgreens their app helps keep them on track with their medications.

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