Walgreens has integrated its Balance Rewards loyalty program with Google's Android Pay mobile payment system, the drugstore retailer said Monday.
The development means that those Balance Rewards members can redeem or collect their rewards points via either Android Pay or rival Apple Pay at Walgreens' 8,200 U.S. stores.
Walgreens has more than 85 million active Balance Rewards members.
While mobile shopping has grown in leaps and bounds and has helped to blur lines (at least in customers’ minds) between shopping in store and online, payments via mobile have faced slower adoption. That’s partly because Apple Pay and Android Pay aren’t available at many retailers, leaving consumers with a patchwork of payment options.
But integrating loyalty points could help boost mobile use, especially for retailers like drugstores and grocery stores that customers frequent more often during a given week.
While Wal-Mart, like Starbucks, has launched its own mobile payment app (including a fully integrated loyalty program) now available in all U.S. stores, Walgreens is going in the opposite direction, and says it’s the first retailer to integrate its loyalty program through both Apple Pay and Android Pay.
“We’re proud to have been the first retailer to integrate our loyalty program with the two leading mobile payment providers, and to give our customers another channel for greater access, choice and convenience with our loyalty program,” Abhi Dhar, Walgreens senior vice president and chief information officer, said in a statement.
Retailers largely prefer Apple Pay over Android Pay and other rival mobile payment solutions, according to Piper Jaffray research published in March. While 44% of U.S. retailers are either currently using or have expressed interest in implementing mobile wallet readers across their brick-and-mortar stores, 67% cited a preference for Apple Pay readers, compared to just 18% apiece for Android Pay and Google Wallet.