To Compete Online, Walgreens Overhauls Its App and Loyalty Program

Move comes just days after Amazon announced its own pharmacy initiative

walgreens store
Walgreens has completely overhauled its customer loyalty program, including a redesigned app. Walgreens
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Pharmacy chain Walgreens is introducing a more robust loyalty program called myWalgreens today, part of a thorough overhaul including a fully redesigned mobile app, the company announced.

“This is a new beginning for Walgreens in a lot of ways,” CMO Pat McLean told Adweek. “It’s a redesigned mobile app experience that is a gateway to all things Walgreens.”

In turn, it’s also a new way for customers to think about Walgreens, McLean said, as more than a physical retail storefront. “The real benefit here, it’s an app and a mobile-first experience,” he added.

It’s a fitting—and necessary—time for Walgreens to bulk up its digital and ecommerce capabilities. Not only has the pandemic accelerated consumer adoption of digital payments and shopping, but online behemoths are making new investments in healthcare and pharmacy.

Case in point: Walgreens’ news comes in the same week that Amazon announced Amazon Pharmacy, its own prescription fulfillment and delivery business. Meanwhile, competitor CVS also began offering contactless payment via third-party service providers PayPal and Venmo this week.

These moves by the online giant and Walgreens’ chief pharmacy rival—CVS is the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S. when it comes to prescription revenue and locations; Walgreens is the second—mean the competition to retain market share is more intense than ever.

“It will reposition the Walgreens brand by utilizing myWalgreens and Walgreens pickup as the ultimate convenience and the ultimate personalization when it comes to health and well-being,” McLean explained, adding that beginning this weekend Walgreens will begin airing a “fully integrated” ad campaign to promote the new app.

An advantage Walgreens has over at least its online rivals is its more than 9,000 physical stores, which become more user friendly via the app by providing tools to schedule immunizations, scan prescription refills and purchase items in-store with a digital wallet. The app itself features a number of health and wellness services for customers, including a 24/7 pharmacy chat and the ability to book appointments, personalized health and wellness advice, and real-time flu alerts. Walgreens noted that the previous version of the app had been downloaded more than 65 million times.

Customers are also able to add a payment method for contactless checkout on the app, with the option of choosing a digital receipt as well as donating their cash rewards to a charity (Walgreens will offer a curated list of local organizations, as well as its own philanthropic effort, U.S. Red Nose Day).

The myWalgreens app also simplifies the retailer’s digital touch points while expanding the number of services, making it an important platform to fend off not only Amazon, but other providers of prescription medications from Walmart to Kroger.

“People didn’t have a single digital place to go to interact with Walgreens,” McLean pointed out, a challenge myWalgreens hopes to solve in creating a more consistent and seamless experience. “There is now one single place for customers to go to access all things Walgreens.”

While Walgreens has been in the midst of a digital transformation for some time, the development of the myWalgreens loyalty program (replacing Balance Rewards) occurred during the pandemic.

“This has been months and months in the making,” McLean said of the effort. “This was all done in the Covid environment. This has really been a terrific cross-functional effort across Walgreens.”

With what it describes as a “reinvention” of the customer experience, the retailer is also touting what it claims is the fastest same-day pickup offering of as little as within 30 minutes of ordering online or on the app for health and wellness items.

@RichCollings Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.