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Walgreens’ new app anticipates users’ needs with intelligent messaging

Walgreens anticipates customers’ needs in the first redesign of its mobile application in several years, using widgets to bring forward contextual, timely messages on the home screen so users can get in and out as quickly as possible.

The intelligent messaging feature provides one-touch access for users to act upon whatever relevant message is displayed, such as prescription refills, prescription ready for pickup, pill reminder and Balance Rewards. The focus on anticipating mobile users’ needs is in line with a current trend in mobile marketing also being adopted by Google, Apple and others.

“The bigger theme that you are starting to see is trying to be more anticipatory,” said Benjamin Weiss, mobile product manager at Walgreens. “We are doing that on the home screen

“You hit home screen, open it, get all the information you need and close it,” he said.

Home screen widgets
As mobile adoption grows and consumers spend more time with their devices, their expectations for utility, speed and ease of use are increasing all the time, something Walgreens is hoping to address with the redesign.

With the redesign, Walgreens has fundamentally changed the foundation of the app to make it easier to layer on new features and experiences going forward.

When a prescription is ready to be refilled, a reminder will show up on the home screen and users can hit a button to refill it or skip it. Similarly, users who have set up reminders for when they need to take a pill will also see these on the home screen.

As the use of in-app messaging has grown, a number of marketers have introduced inboxes to their mobile app so that users can easily find them.

Walgreens is taking this idea a step further. The inbox is still there but the most relevant and timely messages are now also pushed out to the home screen.

Another widget displays when users are in a Walgreens store, prominently displaying their Balance Rewards points total on the home screen as well as a bar code that can be scanned to easily redeem rewards and earn points.

Crucial tasks
The app weighs whether messages should be sent to the inbox or to a home screen widget, assessing how recent it is, how relevant it is and other factors to make this decision.

“We have so many differ points where we can deliver information” Mr. Weiss said.   “We looked at how could we deliver this information in a very concise way.

“We are doing research with customers about which messages are valuable enough to you that you want to be alerted to this as you open the app,” he said “We are using that knowledge and will determine which use cases we want to delivery. Over time, we will add more.”

Walgreens already offered an industry-leading app but, after years of updates, the user experience had started to become unwieldy, and the chain began looking for a way to help users access the information they want in an even faster and easier way.

The Walgreens app had worked off the same user architecture since it launched. The more important new features showed up as an icon on the home screen. Eventually, it became apparent that the old dashboard was not scalable as the app continued to evolve.

Additionally, users were sticking with the one or two features they knew, because they simply were not aware of newer features or felt overwhelmed.

Do no harm
With the relaunch, Walgreens is hoping to drive further engagement with the features customers are already familiar with while making them more aware of some of the app’s other capabilities.

The app has also been redesigned with a new look and feel, with the goal of delivering a very clean experience that is very simple for customers to use.

Walgreens also focused on making the app faster wherever possible, streamlining core tasks such as clipping coupons and uploading photos.

In the retail shopping section, Walgreens replaced the old adaptive experience with a new native search and browsing experience to make it faster.

Bringing as much native capability as possible to provide speed was a key focus of the redesign.

“We have a very loved app,” said Ray Kim, senior manager user experience for mobile at Walgreens. “The first thing was, do no harm.

“Our in-house research showed that one thing we couldn’t break was the intense focus on completing tasks,” he said. “It has to be about utility.

“We set out to make the app extremely task focused, adding features without adding clutter and complexity for the user.”

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