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Walgreens exec: NFC payments doubled following Apple Pay integration

NEW YORK – A Walgreens executive at the Mobile Women to Watch 2015 Summit discussed the drugstore chain’s mobile strategies and achievements, including seeing in-store NFC payments double after integrating with innovative partners such as Apple Pay.

During the “Walgreens: Simplifying Mobile Strategy to Strengthen Consumer Relationships” session, the executive detailed five primary lessons that Walgreens abides by when developing mobile strategy, including striving for simplicity, honing in on details in mobile and using mobile as a link between the physical and digital world.

“Mobile is one of the most intimate technologies we have out there,” said Deepika Pandey, group vice president, digital marketing & customer experience, Walgreens, Chicago, IL. “There’s so much opportunity with mobile to create transformative experiences and change how customers think of your brand.”

Mobile Women to Watch 2015 Summit is a Mobile Marketer presentation.

Scaling innovation
Walgreens focuses extensively on scaling innovation in conjunction with mobile strategy, due to 55 percent of its traffic coming from mobile. To streamline customer outreach methods, the brand has combined its marketing and mobile teams, and is careful about sending relevant messages through paid media efforts and social media.

Walgreens has also worked diligently to create a successful rewards program, Balance Rewards, which 82 million members and allows consumers to scan receipts with their smartphones to add them into their loyalty accounts.

“We really wanted it to be an omnichannel program and integrate it across online, mobile and in-store,” Ms. Pandey said. “In terms of growing that program, our strategy on loyalty has been that it should not just be a discount program. It is also about rewarding customers for the simple steps they can take to better manage their health.”

Walgreens also stressed the importance of collaborating with innovative partners. The brand, one of Apple Passbook’s first partners, integrated its loyalty program with Passbook and saw its position in the app store jump from 66 to 8.

Within the first week of launching Apple Pay, Walgreens saw in-store NFC payments double.

“Payment fits into our broader digital wallet strategy,” Ms. Pandey said. “For us, a digital wallet is more than just payments; it’s about transforming the checkout experience.”

Lessons for retailers
Retailers should keep in mind that simple always wins, especially when creating user-friendly mobile applications.

“We want you to think about the experience and we want to focus on simplicity,” Ms. Pandey said. “Refill by scan was our first killer feature on mobile, and it really allowed us to scale our efforts and put us on the map for mobile. It’s something that really resonated with our customers.”

Secondly, retailers should pay attention to the details in mobile. When Walgreens sought to boost its photo business, it created the QuickPrints platform that allows guests to take their pictures from their mobile devices or social media profiles, enter the least amount of information necessary and pick up the print photos at any Walgreens in less than a few hours.

“It really changed the momentum in our photo business,” Ms. Pandey said. “Forty percent of Web print orders are now coming from mobile devices.”

Lastly, bridging a link between the physical and digital world will enhance both the in-store and mobile commerce experiences. The brand’s app recognizes when a customer is in a Walgreens bricks-and-mortar store and pulls up specific features, such as in-store maps, product locators, scanners for user reviews, coupons and weekly ads, which has been a huge push for promoting its paperless coupons.

“The value to this is that when you are a retailer all about convenience, shaving a few seconds off that checkout experience is huge,” Ms. Pandey said. “All of these little innovations add up to change the customers’ experience.”

Final Take
Deepika Pandey is GVP of Digital Marketing & Customer Experience, Walgreens, Chicago, IL