Walgreen Co. plans to roll out its long-awaited customer loyalty program this month and today began enabling shoppers to enroll online.

Walgreens, customer loyalty program, Balance Rewards, Graham Atkinson, shopper loyalty program, Walgreens mobile application

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Walgreens set to launch shopper loyalty program

September 6th, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. plans to roll out its long-awaited customer loyalty program this month and today began enabling shoppers to enroll online.

Walgreens said Thursday that the program, called Balance Rewards, has the potential to be the nation's largest consumer loyalty plan. The drug chain said the program will offer customers ways to save, earn points and get rewarded for purchases, services and healthy behaviors.

Plans call for the full loyalty program to launch in all Walgreens and Duane Reade drug stores nationwide on Sept. 16.

"We are initially opening enrollment in one of the most important programs in Walgreens history through online and mobile technology as a testament to the company's legacy of innovation," Graham Atkinson, senior vice president and chief experience officer at Walgreens, said in a statement. "The Balance Rewards program and its features build upon our efforts to give customers easy, multichannel access to health and daily living needs."

Part of the Walgreens mobile app, the Balance Rewards mobile card will enable members to scan their mobile devices at checkout to earn points and savings as well as redeem awards without carrying around a plastic card.

Walgreens noted that a key element of the online enrollment period, which runs to Sept. 15, is the release of the new Balance Rewards mobile card as part of the free Walgreens mobile application.

Balance Rewards benefits offered via the mobile app include the ability for members to scan their mobile devices at the register to earn points and savings and redeem awards without carrying around a plastic card, and the ability for members to review all purchases and points activity and special member savings anytime and anyplace within their mobile network area.

The chain said customers will have access to all Balance Rewards features starting with the full program launch on Sunday, Sept. 16.

Also during the online enrollment period, customers who join Balance Rewards can enter the Walgreens 10 Million Point Giveaway and earn additional entries into the sweepstakes by referring friends and family to the loyalty program. For each friend or family member referral who joins Balance Rewards, a customer earns an additional entry into the giveaway. Within five days of the end of the sweepstakes, 10 grand-prize winners will be randomly selected from the entry pool to receive 1 million points.

"Online enrollment for Balance Rewards is another step in our commitment to help our customers get, stay and live well," Atkinson added. "We hope the 10 Million Point Giveaway will not only encourage our customers to join Balance Rewards, but also share the unique combination of features of this loyalty program with their friends and family."

Of the nation's largest mass-market retailers, Walgreens until now has been one of a few chains without a customer loyalty program. Discount store giant Walmart, the country's biggest retailer, also doesn't have a shopper loyalty program. Walgreens' rivals in the chain drug arena, CVS Caremark Corp. and Rite Aid Corp., already operate successful customer rewards programs.

CVS/pharmacy's 10-year-old ExtraCare program is the country's largest retail rewards program, with about 70 million active cardholders. And Rite Aid's wellness+ program, launched chainwide in April 2010, now has more than 52 million members and is billed as the drug store industry's first customer loyalty program to provide health and wellness benefits along with the shopping discounts and special prices.

Walgreens has been testing its loyalty program for some time. Speaking at the Walgreens Vendor Summit in Lincolnshire, Ill. last fall, division vice president of loyalty Adam Holyk said the retailer was close to finalizing the program after an 18-month pilot in 130 stores in three markets — Richmond, Va.; Portland, Ore.; and Kansas City, Mo. — and was aiming to launch the program in its 2013 fiscal year.

Holyk said at the time that when the points-based program is rolled out, it will be the largest of its kind in all of retailing. "It will be big, and it will change how we and our vendors do business," he commented.