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CVS, Walgreens drive post-holiday engagements via mobile to deepen relationships

December 30, 2013

CVS/pharmacy and Walgreens targeted mobile-wielding shoppers this holiday season, turning their focus post-Dec. 25 to printing photos, including ones shot with customers’ smartphones.

Pre-Christmas, the major pharmacies leveraged mobile to meet shoppers’ every needs, from filling prescriptions to purchasing gifts to printing photos and even to offering frozen and pre-packaged meals and snacks. Post-holidays, CVS and Walgreens aim to build the relationships they initiated during the holidays, in part by offering to print consumers’ photos.

“Many retailers would like to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for consumers, but not all can achieve this,” said Karen Pattani-Hason, director of new business and partnerships at Aurnhammer, New York. “CVS and Walgreens are valuable to consumers for prescriptions, but they can’t control their margins on prescription drugs.

“Getting consumers in the door to buy higher margin merchandise is a key strategy for these retailers, which means they have to make the shopping experience as convenient as possible,” she said. “Photo prints are a great draw for these retailers, especially during the holidays.

“Leveraging these two traffic builders – prescriptions and holiday photo prints – while making it easier to purchase other items via mobile – translates into higher sales for these retailers.”

Reflecting back
In the weeks before Christmas, Walgreens released a shopping guide available online or through its mobile application, “Happy and Healthy, Your Guide to Easy Holiday Solutions from Walgreens.”

Pre-Dec. 25, CVS’s Web page said: “Christmas Joy Starts Here. See the many ways we can help you celebrate the season,” including photo cards and gifts.

CVS’s Web site offered 20 percent off photo cards and 25 percent off photo gifts.

On YouTube, one CVSPharmacyVideos was titled, “#SOS: Last-minute finds at CVS.”

Pre-Christmas, both pharmacies apps featured links to their gifts sections.

After Dec. 25, the pharmacies’ Web sites and apps began promoting photo services and photo printing, instinctively understanding that many consumers would be interested.

Photo services on Walgreens’ app

Developing followers
Walgreens net earnings for the quarter ending Nov. 30 were $695 million, a 68.3 percent increase from the year-ago quarter.

CVS net earnings for the three months ended Sept. 30, were $32 billion, up 5.8 percent from the same period last year.

CVS and Walgreens holiday sales figures were not available at press time. Retail sales commonly slow down during the first few months of a calendar year.

One way CVS and Walgreens are keeping mcommerce momentum rolling post-holidays is by promoting online photo services, including printing and processing services via their apps.

In September, Walgreens reported that more than 40 percent of its photo print orders came from mobile (see story).

Imprinting memories
At that time time Walgreens updated its iPhone app with a function that creates photo collage cards.

Immediately upon opening Walgreens app, a “What’s New” box appears, with information about photo cards, collage prints and store searches.

The main page’s call-to-action has users “tap here” to set their preferred store and see store deals.

An ad on CVS’s app’s main page promotes photo prints for 19 cents each, and
same-day photo processing and pick up.

The app enables consumers to print photos right from their phones, easily accessing a users smartphone photo album, if the user allows access.

Added conveniences include a store finder, a mobile card for mcommerce and a scanner to refill prescriptions.

“During the holiday season there is this tremendous ecommerce,” said Chris G. Christoper, Jr., director of United States macroeconomics and global consumer at IHS Economics, Lexington, MA. “Online sales [and] the bricks-and-mortars are off the roof.

“[Afterward], they have to cruise along until it happens again,” he said. “There’s a down time, even at UPS and FedEx.

“During December, all those packages to deliver – it shoots off the roof.”

Looking ahead
The start of a new year is a traditional time for retailers to regroup and review their last quarter’s sales and traffic.

Retailers analyze their mcommerce strategy to see what did and did not work and then build on the strengths.

Both CVS and Walmart offer online shopping via branded apps, which they promoted pre-holiday. They may also want to leverage online orders and delivery service post-Christmas.

Mr. Christopher said retailers often introduce special features and offers during the holiday season.

“They want to make it easier for people,” he said. “All the things they introduced, they will have to carry through and there will be more improvement.

“They learn from their mistakes.”

Simplifying shopping
“Mobile makes shopping more convenient,” said Aurnhammer’s Ms. Pattani-Hason. “Convenience often means making fewer physical stops while shopping.

“If a customer can refill a prescription and order holiday photo prints via mobile, then grab milk and other essentials while picking up, plus a last minute gift, all facilitated by a mobile web circular and/or in-app coupons and discounts, we can see how mobile has greatly eased that customer’s shopping journey and reduced the number of stops required,” she said. “Until Sears can provide this kind of convenience, they will trail pharmacies in performance.”

CVS has been very innovative in driving traffic from its outbound digital marketing efforts to its mobile app.

“If you’ve ever filled a prescription at CVS, or if you have a CVS Extra Care loyalty card, you have likely received emails promoting their mobile app,” Ms. Pattani-Hason said. “The mobile app stores information about your prescriptions, which makes refills easier to process.

“Once you’ve opted into that communications stream, they can send other marketing communications your way,” she said. “Leveraging this mobile communications channel is a key marketing strategy for pharmacies.”

Easing access
According to Mai Lee Ua, senior manager in public relations at Walgreens, Chicago, Walgreens helps people get, stay and live well, and its app is a convenient solution that helps people manage their health and daily living needs anywhere, anytime.

As an omni-channel retailer, it is very important for Walgreens to make shopping easy for its customers, whether that is in-store or online, according to Ms. Ua.

Walgreens has more than 8,100 stores in the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

There are more than 7,500 CVS/pharmacy and Longs Drug stores in the U.S.

CVS could not be reached for comment by press deadline.

CVS and Walgreens apps are available for free download.

CVS has an iPad tablet app and iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry apps.

Walgreens has both iOS and Android tablet apps and iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps.

Going forward
Moving into 2014, CVS and Walgreens will benefit from strengthening their mcommerce and their apps, especially apps with names that easily can be found during searches.

While the major pharmacies may need to continue to grow and maintain their mcommerce bases, their recognizable names do work to their advantage.

Consumers searching for CVS or Walgreens apps will easily find them.

“Since the amount of apps is constantly growing, we think app search will be getting much more important in the future,” said Uwe Flade, founder and CCO of Knicket, Berlin.

Knicket is an app search engine for use on mobile devices.

“Consumers also will be able to communicate with the companies easier and faster through the mobile channels,” Mr. Flade said.

Final Take
Kari Jensen is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York


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Kari Jensen is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer, New York. Reach her at

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