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Q&A: Duane Reade’s Calvin Peters on combining social, mobile and content

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September 15, 2014

Duane Reade app

Duane Reade app

Walgreen Co.’s Duane Reade is one of the fastest-growing retailers on Twitter in addition to being the most widely followed pharmacy worldwide on that social platform. Behind that growth is laser-focused thinking on how best to use mobile, social and content development to maintain relevance with the target customer in their daily routines.

The New York-based retailer aims to activate and leverage multiple platforms with its digital marketing efforts. Integrated strategies are usually implemented across the board seamlessly with each promotional campaign that Duane Reade rolls out.

“Our digital/social strategy has been focused around strategically highlighting, procuring and disseminating user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM) as the core for expanding our online social presence or share-of-voice (SOV) while allowing Duane Reade to own category narratives across the board,” said Calvin Peters, PR and digital marketing director at Duane Reade, New York.

In this Q&A, Mr. Peters discusses Duane Reade’s customer engagement with mobile and social efforts, the pharmacy chain’s mobile and social achievements this year, cross-pollination with its parent Walgreens and PR’s role in mobile. Please read on.

Why should mobile and social matter to a pharmacy chain?

Calvin Peters is PR and digital marketing director at Duane Reade

Calvin Peters is PR and digital marketing director at Duane Reade

Mobile, social and content strategies are all key execution points for the successful retail chain of today.

You have to always look for relevant ways to communicate value-added content to customers when it’s most actionable in their daily routines.

We are a digital-forward organization and we realize mobile, social and content are intrinsically linked.

Our brand ambassador and organic influencer advocate content touches on every critical point of the sales cycle. Their unique and authentic content generated speaks to why they are deciding to purchase particular product at Duane Reade, what the in-store customer experience is through key path-to-purchase insights outlining the shopper marketing elements engaged upon during the process and how the post-purchase experience with that product integrates into their personal lifestyles moving forward.

How engaged are your customers on mobile and social? Does that engagement result in sales? Is there a straight line between the marketing and the result that can be measured?
Without going into specific numbers, our CGM [consumer-generated media] focused social amplification programs from both a corporate and vendor perspective garners ongoing engagement from our owned social channels across the board.

The reason we receive great engagement is by a localized SAM (social asset management)/Influencer advocate approach, strategically capitalizing on our #ParallelPersuasion equation elements and convenient relevance tactics when integrating our mobile opportunities at scale.

Over the years, data has shown the most trusted content by consumers is:

• Recommendations from peers
• Consumer opinions posted online
• Editorial content such as newspaper articles

What are you proudest of in terms of your mobile achievements so far this year?
I would say the #DR Allergy Poncho activation that proved how a localized social voice and actionable, value-added, authentic CGM can be powerful with a mobile-lead campaign.

The first week jump in Poncho users spoke this:

March 17 through March 24, we saw 1034 new accounts created, 910 of them are still active.

Also, the emails that went out to users saw a 60 percent open rate and the SMS coupons saw a 4-5 percent click-through rate throughout the activation.

And social — have you hit any milestones that you are proud of?
I would say the 1 million Twitter milestone right around the Duane Reade Twitter case study publishing was a big one (#DR1MM).

We were able to highlight the fact that we were the fastest-growing retailer on Twitter year-over-year, in addition to being the most widely followed pharmacy in the world on Twitter.

Which three programs have performed best so far this year? And which platforms work best for you?
I would say our #DRBigGame Superbowl social promo, #DRAllergy Poncho mobile campaign and the ROC beauty campaign #Eyes4NY.

Is there any cross-pollination between Walgreens, your corporate parent, and Duane Reade?
Yes indeed.

We work directly with and leverage everything from the Walgreens enterprise family of companies.

We get to test social, mobile and content from both corporate and vendor initiatives in the New York metro market specific for Duane Reade based on our store footprint, but these programs can be integrated on a national scale with Walgreens if deemed feasible.

Is the New York market treated differently for mobile and social marketing? Do New Yorkers respond differently?
The New York metro market is a localized play and we perceive many other markets across the U.S. within that framework and execute accordingly.

We do have an advantage here with Duane Reade due to our vast store footprint within a major metro area.

You also handle public relations. Has that task blended in with social?
I believe we do a really good job at Duane Reade in activating and leveraging multiple platforms in regards to our digital marketing efforts.
Integrated strategies are usually implemented across the board seamlessly with each promotional campaign we roll out.

This is due to the dual role I’m able to play within the company as the public relations/digital communications manager. It facilitates us being able to easily initiate campaigns involving the corporate Web site, social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest, our DR VIP Blogger Team generating content via their own social platforms, blogs, vlogs and Google +, in addition to tying in traditional PR tactics to help drive our digital/social momentum.

Strategically placed in-store creative assets, in-store radio and the iBeacon store integration test launched in May play an important role for relevantly reaching the customer while browsing our stores and at POS.

Again, the nature of my position facilitates me to be able to leverage traditional PR, digital, social and marketing channels, allowing corporate and vendor activation campaigns to be consistently launched by our team, integrating multiple communication channels in a comprehensive manner.

Our digital/social strategy has been focused around strategically highlighting, procuring and disseminating user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM) as the core for expanding our online social presence or share-of-voice (SOV) while allowing Duane Reade to own category narratives across the board.

My PR role within social media has led to the parallel persuasion equation and overall digital marketing strategy. This is something that is bigger than just Duane Reade and is truly a defining moment for retailers everywhere, as it represents an innovative approach for how retailers can reach their customers through all owned channels and engage with them in a relevant two-way conversation around content they trust.

To us, this is the very essence of the new approach to omnichannel customer communications.

So what is parallel persuasion? It is an approach to digital marketing that generates ROI through omnichannel engagement. It is an equation based on brand advocacy, brand voice, PR integration and conversation relevance.

In other words, we generate tangible revenue because we are able to seamlessly reach our customers across various platforms – whenever and wherever they are, with authentic and relevant consumer-generated media they crave and have now come to expect.

Brand advocacy + brand voice + PR integration + conversation relevance = ROI

What next should the market expect to see from Duane Reade from a mobile and social standpoint?
We’ve just released the Duane Reade Universal mobile application 3.0 for iPhone and iPad that includes additions like:

• Clipping from the weekly AD
• Shopping List with customer coupon stats

For iPhone only:

• Added animation for coupons expiring soon
• Promos and offer icon: New feature which will house all marketing and promotions

You will see continuous updates to our Duane Reade mobile application and socially viable technologies such as expanded iBeacon functionality and various mobile, social and content strategies to aid our consumers in-store and out. Stay tuned.

Click here to read the previous story on Duane Reade titled, “How Duane Reade leverages mobile for persuasive social engagement”

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Mickey Alam Khan is editor in chief of Mobile Commerce Daily, Mobile Marketer and Luxury Daily. Reach him at mickey@napean.com.

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