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CVS debuts revamped app as it battles Walgreens for mhealth leadership

CVS/pharmacy is competing with Walgreens, another pioneer in the mobile health sector, by rolling out a revamped mobile application with a more user-friendly layout, text alert options for prescription pick-up and a streamlined experience in the ExtraCare rewards section, proving that pharmacies must offer in-store features on mobile to retain customer loyalty.

The new app offers an intuitive layout with easy access to frequently used features such as refilling prescriptions, redeeming ExtraCare rewards and locating a nearby store. Users can also check for potential drug interactions and redeem rewards or coupons by digitally sending them to their ExtraCare Rewards cards via their mobile device.

“With its new app, CVS/pharmacy has taken steps to remove friction from its customer’s journey with new features and more seamless integration with its loyalty and rewards program,” said Puneet Mehta, CEO of MobileROI, New York. “As we have seen with Starbucks, a mobile app that automatically and instinctively manages loyalty points is sure to attract and engage mobile users.

“I applaud CVS/pharmacy for continuing to think of ways that it can authentically participate in its customers’ lives – like its tool that allows users to check whether prescriptions they are taking will react to anything else they are taking. The app provides a mobile output for the chain’s in-store offerings, including ordering photos saved in their smartphone for print, managing prescriptions and more.”

Enhancing shopping experience
The app’s redesign focuses on providing a more streamlined shopping experience for the customer, beginning with a user-friendly and more personalized home screen. Consumers will also be able to navigate the new toolbar and set up text notifications when prescriptions are available to be picked up more easily.

If a customer is in need of a specific product, he or she can use the app to discover whether it is stocked in their nearby CVS store.

The app’s existing features are also a big draw for health enthusiasts seeking simple ways of locating services or products.

Consumers searching for health care at a MinuteClinic may find out whether their local store has one, and can browse available services and check if their insurance provider is compatible with the clinic.

“CVS/pharmacy’s app offers a number of features that consumers are beginning to expect from the many retailers with which they interact with a regular basis – from more convenience when it comes to repeat purchases to seeing how those purchases benefit them in the form of their loyalty program,” said Shira Anderson, marketing manager at Como, Israel.

“And with smartphones offering new payment options, including barcodes and the ability to check out with the push of a button, consumers are going to gravitate to apps with such features more in the year ahead.”

The app also has a strong commerce angle, with an increased focus on offering consumers quick access to weekly promotions via the myWeekly Ad feature. Users can view new deals when they log in and enjoy a customized experience, with the circular first showcasing items that will likely be of interest to the customer, based on previous purchase history.

If users find deals to their liking, they can use the app to create a shopping list to save time when they visit a CVS store, and also send coupons to redeem with those purchases directly to their ExtraCare rewards cards.

CVS and Walgreens are also competing by offering a plethora of prescription refill and pick-up options, suggesting that consumers are demanding pharmacy tasks to be available on mobile due to sheer convenience. CVS customers will now be able to import prescriptions for refill from their in-app medication history, or order a new prescription by scanning the bar code on an existing bottle.

Another way that CVS is marketing itself as a mobile health companion is via the Drug Interaction option, which allows users to check whether a new prescription might have adverse effects with their other medications and foods, lifestyle and other over-the-counter products. Consumers using this can feel assured that they are consuming their prescriptions in the safest manner.

Rise of mhealth
With pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS leading the pack, the mobile health sector has been gaining considerable traction. Consumers are gravitating toward fitness wearables including Fitbit and Jawbone, and more brands are rolling out digital wellness platforms and loyalty programs to retain and garner new customers (see story).

Walgreens recently teamed with WebMD to develop a digital health platform that creates personalized goals for users seeking to make a lifestyle change. Customers will also be able to reap more Walgreens Balance Rewards for completing their goals, and can use the WebMD app to purchase or refill prescriptions at Walgreens stores.

This cross-partnership will likely result in both brands gaining new clients, and is a strategy that CVS may also be able to benefit from. While CVS does have extensive consumer support for its ExtraCare Rewards on mobile, teaming up with another health brand or platform could help bring it to an even wider base of potential clients.

“It would be interesting to see the chain implement beacons in-store to further bridge consumers’ online and offline worlds,” Mr. Mehta said. ‘For instance, alerting someone when she passes an aisle that has the product she added to her mobile cart last week without completing the purchase.

‘Mobile programs will need to go beyond the dissemination of offers and features, no matter how unique they are. While CVS/pharmacy has made great steps towards offering a utility to consumers, the next step of its mobile evolution will need to focus on anticipating an individual’s needs or wants and providing a personal experience in real-time,” he said.

“For example, anticipating when a shopper may be running low on shampoo based on the historical frequency at which she purchases her hair care and prompting her via a push alert to pick it up while she is in the store today.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily,  New York