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Walgreens flexes mobile muscles, enables third-party photo-sharing apps to print-to-store

Walgreens is building on its already substantial mobile presence by integrating print-to-store functionality in several third-party photo-sharing applications in a move that could reflect a larger push toward becoming a digital company.

The move means that users of photo-sharing apps such as GroupShot, Kicksend, Pic Stitch, Pinweel and StillShot will now be able to print their images at Walgreens stores directly from the apps. The integration is being enabled by Walgreens new developer portal.

“The larger story here is that a retailer has opened up API’s for absorption by mobile vendors, this is a huge step and more retailers would be greatly benefited by following their lead on this,” said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis, Atlanta.

“The ability for the Walgreens mobile APP developers to go in and integrate with Walgreens print-to-store functionality is one step, I would believe,  in a much larger endeavor of opening up API’s for their business to go digital on a company-wide scale, enabling real-time data to be shared across all mobile devices,” she said.

“Allowing real-time data and interactive functionality within the apps will bring a higher engagement from the Walgreens consumers to the mobile, once this is completed and running smoothly, the transition of allowing this to happen on the mobile Web across platform and transition to tablets mobile Web is an easy, logical next step.”

Mobile innovation
This is the first time that Walgreens has allowed app developers to integrate its in-store services into their apps.

QuickPrints enables mobile users to print photos directly from their phone to any of the 7,907 Walgreens stores nationwide in about an hour. It was previously only available in Walgreens iPhone and Android apps.

The revenue from photo orders sent to be printed at Walgreen will be shared by app developers and Walgreens.

By including the QuickPrints functionality in a broader array of apps, Walgreens can expose its print-to-store capabilities to more consumers.

“Walgreens is a bricks-and-mortar retailer utilizing APIs to bring mobile innovation to a decades old photo finishing service, creating smartphone access and the convenience of its 7,907 retail locations in the U.S.,” said Robert Elfinger, a spokesman at Walgreens, Deerfield, IL.

“Our goal is to encourage mobile developers to include QuickPrints SDK within their application,” he said.

“We are always looking for innovative ways to bring our valuable services to customers as well as leverage the best, most convenient store network in the country.”

Photo-sharing opportunities
Consumers are increasingly using their phones to take photos. At the same time, photo-sharing apps are growing as mobile users look for ways to enhance their photos to share them with friends and families.

In a recent sign of just how big photo-sharing apps are becoming, Facebook acquired photo-sharing app Instagram for $1 billion in April.

Additionally, brands are increasingly incorporating photo sharing into their mobile offerings.

Elmer’s Products Inc. recently introduced a photo-sharing application meant to help parents capture and share milestones such as the first day back to school (see story).

Additionally, Crystal Cruises recently released its first smartphone application that enables travelers to share photos via social media, email and traditional mail as part of its multichannel rebranding effort (see story).

To support the developer-oriented strategy, Walgreens will host its first Mobile Photo Hack Day event on Saturday, Aug. 11, at its downtown Chicago office. The event will provide developers the opportunity to meet, collaborate and showcase their creative implementations of the QuickPrints SDK in their applications.

“Consumers are asking to use the functionality that is being added to the hardware by the carriers, and it is time for businesses to allow their vendors to access and enable this functionality,” Ms. Troutman said.

“The digital age of mobile is growing and becoming sophisticated fast from the consumers side to the business side, and for a change of pace, is allowing the consumers to demand growth and higher functionality from businesses they interact with through mobile,” she said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York