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Walgreens expands mobile payments portfolio via Android Pay-supported Balance Rewards

Walgreens is the first retailer to integrate Android Pay into its loyalty program, underscoring the need for other marketers to roll out mobile payment solutions compatible with all operating systems or risk alienating a large base of non-iOS customers.

Walgreens Balance Rewards members are now able to apply their loyalty accounts at the point of sale using Android Pay, a feature previously only available for users of the payment platform’s iOS counterpart. The pharmacy chain’s latest integration offers the Android contingent of its 85 million loyalty members the ability to enjoy more seamless checkout experiences, highlighting the need for similar brands to ensure their rewards programs are compatible with Android payment solutions.

“We rolled out Android Pay when it was Google Wallet,” said Kate Paduchowski, senior mobile product manager at Walgreens. “We thought it was very important to improve upon the experience, so that’s when we started talking about integrating Android Pay into Balance Rewards.

“It’s a great way to expand our mobile payments offerings for our customers.”

Two-tap checkouts
Android device owners can now take advantage of Balance Rewards’ benefits, which include faster checkout experiences and easier ways of earning and redeeming loyalty points. Walgreens is the first retailer to integrate Android Pay with its loyalty platform across all stores.

Consumers can download the Android Pay application from the Google Play store and add their Balance Rewards account information to it. This will enable Balance Rewards members to hold their smartphone up to the PIN pad at checkout to apply the appropriate rewards information.

Walgreens’ Balance Rewards program automatically identifies each user’s device

To pay for purchases in-store, users can once again hold their Android device up to the PIN pad, which will complete the transaction via NFC technology.

Android Pay is accepted at approximately 8,200 Walgreens stores in the United States. Individuals can input a variety of payment methods – such as credit cards, debit cards and EMV chip credit cards – into the app.

Balance Rewards is also integrated with Apple Pay, enabling iOS users to leverage the same two-tap checkout options now offered to Android customers.

Keeping up with competition
Walgreens’ decision to integrate Android Pay with its Balance Rewards program suggests that other pharmacy chains would be well-suited to do the same, especially as they ramp up their mobile payment and loyalty offerings to appeal to a wider range of consumers.

For instance, CVS Health recently joined the slew of marketers rolling out their own mobile payments services with the introduction of CVS Pay, an in-application feature that enables customers to pay for items, pick up prescriptions and collect loyalty points using a single bar code (see story).

Mobile payments have been gaining steam with consumers in many demographics, likely due to their sheer convenience.

Individuals are embracing mobile payment apps, with more than 25 percent of smartphone owners in the United States using these platforms at least once a month, according to new research from Parks Associates (see story).

In addition to providing customers with the utmost convenience and added perks, retailers should also ensure they offer mobile payment options that are compatible with any operating system. Many marketers have rolled out solutions specifically geared toward iPhone users, which alienates a large portion of customers owning Android or Windows devices.

To maximize the outreach and usage of a loyalty program, brands must consider all types of devices used by their core customers and adjust their mobile offerings accordingly.

“We’re making it very simple and convenient for our customers to use Balance Rewards at checkout,” Ms. Paduchowski said.