Walgreens uses app to connect with consumers of all ages

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DEERFIELD, Ill. — The Walgreens mobile app is making shopping more convenient for the drug chain’s customers, and it’s also showing that the technology is not just popular with Millennials but with older Americans as well.

More than 20% of the app users, according to Walgreens data, are 55 and older, which is more than twice the percentage of industry averages for other apps. For example, only 9% of all smartphone users who use shopping apps on a weekly basis are 55 and up, according to a 2017 survey by Forrester Research Inc. The Walgreens mobile app also recently received a 5-star rating from Apple App store users.

Walgreens mobile app_refill scan.

Prescription refill, including refill scan, remains
the most popular use for the app.

Kartik Subramanian, senior director of digital product at Walgreens, credits two of the app’s features, Pill Reminder and Refill by Scan, for the app’s popularity with older Americans. As Subramanian points out, 37% of those utilizing its mobile pharmacy tools are 55 and older. By contrast, only 10% of smartphone owners who use health and wellness apps at least weekly are in the 55-plus category, according to Forrester.

While prescription refill, including refill scan, remains the most popular use for the app, according to Subramanian, photo print ordering and paperless coupons are extremely popular with Walgreens customers as well. But the greatest benefit the app provides, Subramanian says, is saving time.

“One of our fundamental principles at Walgreens is to give back time to our customers,” he says. “How can we make shopping more convenient for our customers? Their most important asset is their time.”

And as he points out, being able to fill prescriptions or order photos on a smartphone certainly saves time — but it also results eventually in a trip to the store. “We didn’t design the app to drive traffic into the stores,” Subramanian says. “But that is a consequence of the app.” Another feature of the app is Pharmacy Chat, which enables customers to have access to trusted experts through the Walgreens site or mobile app 24/7.

Since first launching the app in 2009, Walgreens has continued to make updates that appeal to older customers in particular, including support of TouchID and secure auto-login, which address a key obstacle for users who struggle to remember or locate user credentials, a greater challenge for less frequent users of such apps. Simplified menus is another feature for infrequent mobile app users unfamiliar with conventions that become more familiar with use. Support for smartphones is another upgrade that offers font size options for apps, and Balance Rewards for healthy choices gives users shopper loyalty points if they use the app to track walking, cycling, weight management or blood ­pressure.

The approach the company takes in improving the app, according to Subramanian, includes customer care, design and being “extremely tuned” to feedback from customers. “We use a lot of customer research to give us insights to customer needs and how to address those needs,” he says.

But more than providing a convenience, the app is also helping to enhance medication adherence, Subramanian says, specifically with the pill reminder feature. “It enables customers to create a medication regimen,” he says, adding that this is even more beneficial for those customers with multiple prescriptions, which are usually older customers.

And with the paperless coupon feature, Subramanian says the app makes shopping and finding coupons an “enjoyable experience.” The app does this, he points out, through animation and other design tools that make searching for coupons fun. “And in turn,” Subramanian adds, “customers can redeem the coupons when they purchase the item in the store.”

The store locator feature is another tool the app provides so customers can find the nearest Walgreens to wherever they are at the time. Walgreens has also teamed up with Apple and Google so loyalty members can link up to Apple Pay and Android Pay and use their phones at any Walgreens checkout ­terminal.

And a new upgrade to the coupon feature introduced earlier this year enables customers to type in a key word, such as “shampoo” or “detergent,” to find coupons for those specific items.

It’s all about leveraging the power of mobile to make shopping more convenient and enjoyable for our customers,” Subramanian says.


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