The rewards war is on. On the heels of Walgreen Co.’s launch of the Balance Rewards customer loyalty program, CVS/pharmacy has stepped up its ExtraCare rewards. The move by CVS also comes as Rite Aid Corp. enhances its wellness+ program.


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Loyalty plans emerge as new battleground for drug chains

October 8th, 2012

NEW YORK – The rewards war is on. On the heels of Walgreen Co.’s launch of the Balance Rewards customer loyalty program, CVS/pharmacy has stepped up its ExtraCare rewards. The move by CVS also comes as Rite Aid Corp. enhances its wellness+ program.

Through December 15, ExtraCare members can double their quarterly ExtraBucks Rewards by signing up to do so online or in stores.

“With 15 years of leadership and innovation under our belt, we have learned what works when it comes to delivering personalized value to our customers,” said CVS chief marketing officer Rob Price. “Our ExtraCare members love earning and cashing in ExtraBucks Rewards. They think of it as ‘free CVS money’, so we are excited to give them the opportunity to earn double the rewards this fall.”

Shoppers can sign up for the double rewards at CVS.com/doublebucks or by printing a sign-up slip in a store’s ExtraCare Coupon Center.

Once enrolled, ExtraCare members will earn 4% back — instead of 2% — of nearly all dollars spent on everyday ­purchases. The double rewards will be paid out starting January 1.

With more than 70 million active members, ExtraCare is the largest frequent shopper program. Cardholders this year have received more than $1.6 billion in savings and rewards. From the in-store coupon center, opt-in programs such as ExtraCare Beauty Club and ExtraCare Advantage for Diabetes, to the newest “Send to Card” digital savings offering, customers have many options for receiving savings and ­rewards.

Members can log on to CVS.com/extracare or access the CVS mobile app to view what personalized ExtraSavings and ExtraBucks Rewards are available. They can then choose to “Print” or “Send to Card” their coupon savings and rewards. Additionally, members are able to use the CVS mobile app to digitally store their card in their smartphone and therefore avoid having to carry it when shopping.

Customers can also follow twitter.com/CVS_Extra and facebook.com/CVS to learn about the available upcoming promotions.

At Walgreens, the company says Balance Rewards is distinguished by advanced technology making it as customer-friendly as possible, strong wellness positioning, and a structure around rewards, not discounts.

More than 1 million customers signed up for the program during an online-only enrollment period in September, according to the chain. Enrollees had a chance to enter Walgreens’ 10 Million Point Giveaway, with customers who referred friends and family members to the program earning additional entries. Ten grand prize winners received 1 million points each.

Walgreens senior vice president and chief experience officer Graham Atkinson called Balance Rewards “distinctive,” saying it features “easy enrollment, instant points and endless rewards as well as ways to get, stay and live well at ­Walgreens.”

While Walgreens was the last of the three mega U.S. drug chains to launch a frequent shopper program, executives say Balance Rewards has the potential to become the largest in the country.

Although not stating a membership target number, divisional vice president of loyalty and insights Adam Holyk noted that Walgreens has well over 100 million customers entering its 7,900-plus stores ­annually.

Holyk indicated that Shoppers Drug Mart’s Shoppers Optimum Rewards program, which boasts a third of Canada’s population as members, provides a reference point for Walgreens’ objectives. Before joining Walgreens, Holyk led analytics and loyalty groups at both Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw Cos. in ­Canada.

Rite Aid last month expanded the Load2Card capability for the growing wellness+ program. Members now have +UP Rewards loaded automatically to their cards. The rewards had been printed at the bottom of register receipts, and customers had to bring them to a store for ­redemption.

The +UP rewards are earned when certain products or groups of items are purchased, and they can be used like cash toward a qualifying purchase.

Rite Aid says the new functionality made it the first drug chain to enable customers to automatically load all weekly program rewards directly onto their cards. In January Rite Aid became the first drug chain to give customers the option to load store and manufacturer coupons directly to their cards when it launched the Load2Card ­capability.

The direct download of +UPs to cards is “just the latest example of how we are constantly seeking innovative ways to make sure our award-winning wellness+ program continues to deliver the best value and convenience to our most loyal customers,” said chief operating officer Ken Martindale. “Since the beginning, wellness+ has differentiated itself from other loyalty programs because it uniquely combines health and wellness rewards with shopping discounts. We’re committed to not only setting but raising the bar when it comes to building customer loyalty.”

Martindale said the national rollout of the Load2Card feature for +UPs followed a successful seven-month test in four cities. Customers in the pilot program appreciated not having to worry about keeping their receipts and bringing them back to stores to redeem rewards, he said.

“The increased redemptions and sales in the pilot markets prove that many of our customers are taking advantage of this feature and we’re excited to offer this convenience to wellness+ members across the country,” Martindale said.

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