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Walgreens embraces customer convenience with interactive lock screen notifications

Walgreens, the largest United States drugstore chain, is again taking the pharmacy services space to new heights with an update to its mobile application that lets users interact with refill and pill notifications  – without the app having to be open.

When notifications come in, the user needs only to swipe left on them to reveal actions, such as “refill” and “take,” to effectively manage his or her health. It is the latest example of how mobile can be deployed to offer consumers more choice for convenient care as pharmacy chains move deeper into the healthcare-services field.

“The mobile lock screen is the most valuable media real estate on earth,” said Scott Townsend, director of agency programs for Urban Airship, Portland, OR. “Walgreens understands the need to create and own unique mobile moments for their brand on the lock screen.  

“Interactive notifications are a great way to drive action directly from the notification without having to open the app,” he said.  

Evolving society
The update is part of the evolution society is seeing in mobile customer expectations.  Marketing and advertising are transforming to meet consumer demands because consumers are firmly in control.

Increasing the value of mobile real estate.

“We have put a lot of work into perfecting the interactive notification experience for marketers and consumers alike,” Mr. Townsend said. “Now more than ever, marketing messages need to be personally relevant to create moments that matter. 

“Consumers expect experiences to be quicker to show value,” he said. “Magical. They want simplicity like single click navigation, immediately interactive experiences, personal experiences that interact with the Internet of Things, customer service that is more subtle, more present, more real-time.”

The app update also allows devices running on iOS 8.1 or higher to link Balance Rewards for healthy choices to HealthKit, Apple’s health and fitness data-sharing tool. For instance, Walgreens app users will be able to automatically share fitness data and earn Balance Rewards points for walking and running.

In another new feature, the app now gives users in-store easier access to features such as clipped coupons and a view of available redeemable rewards points.

Walgreens’ app update comes as pre-sales of Apple Watch apps surge, pointing to a new era of faster user message consumption and small-screen challenges for marketers.

“The Apple Watch is going to change what consumers expect from the companies they do business with and it will drive an even greater need for precision targeted, glance-able communications that focus on good old fashioned customer service,” Mr. Townsend said.

While Walgreens’ app update aims to extend the impact of loyalty to incorporate real-world behaviors, it also is about connecting preventative health activities that translate into tangible value.

“Walgreens’ leveraging one of the newer features of iOS8 tied to actionable notifications is a great example of a brand maximizing the impact and flexibility of the operating system to create a seamless experience that does not require the user to open the application,” said Tom Edwards, executive vice president of digital strategy and innovation with The Marketing Arm, Dallas.

“By providing tools that reduce friction and extend beyond simple engagement they are demonstrating the power of mobile to enhance the customers experience.”

In its latest deep dive into the growing mobile health space, Walgreens late last year gave California and Michigan users of its Web site and mobile application round-the-clock access to doctors. The service, which is gradually rolling out to other states and markets, lets users consult virtually with MDLive certified physicians who can also prescribe medication for a range of acute conditions.

Chat feature
In 2013, Walgreens launched its Pharmacy Chat feature, which allowed users to chat live 24/7 with pharmacy staff.

Pioneering the mobile pharmacy space.

“For large retailers with repeat customer purchases, commerce-enabled apps can pay off,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president for business development and sales with Unbound Commerce, Boston. “Opt-in prescription refill alerts via proximity push notifications are a perfect example of effective, non-intrusive, in-app commerce.

“Since these alerts pop-up without the app being open, Walgreens can gauge redemption rates and tweak the functionality, to find the right balance between commerce and convenience to ensure they are adding utility, versus intrusiveness,” he said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York