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What works: Walgreens or CVS’ mobile loyalty program

July 13, 2012

Is there a formula for mobile?

Walgreens and CVS are both strong examples of how mobile has shaken up the pharmaceutical industry. Although both companies have delved into multiple mediums, here is a look at how the two compare with iPhone applications and optimized sites.

“The goal for the mobile site is to be yet another convenient and accessible way for shoppers to access the information they need to shop, save or manage prescriptions at CVS/pharmacy,” said Erin Pensa, director of public relations for CVS/pharmacy, Woonsocket, RI.

“Through the mobile app customers can refill prescriptions, shop right in the app, and most recently, we updated the app to allow ExtraCare cardholders to store their ExtraCare card in the app to make it easier and more convenient for shoppers who prefer not to carry their ExtraCare card to take advantage of ExtraSavings and ExtraBucks Rewards,” she said.


Mobile site
CVS offers three different mobile sites for specific departments. There are mobile sites for CVS’ photography services, a site that helps find users nearby clinics and a main site where users can refill prescriptions, view local deals and manage their loyalty card membership.

The main mobile site is accessible at and features a swipable gallery at the top of the page that promotes current services such as same-day photo printing and prescription refill.

Additionally, the site plays up CVS’ reward program with links that encourage users to sign-up with an account that can be used to manage their family’s prescriptions and access savings and rewards.

The process to sign up for a account is simple and straight-forward with a page that asks users to fill out basic information such as email, date of birth and name.

The site also heavily promotes the company’s iPhone app with a link that connects users directly to Apple’s App Store. Making features such as an app download as easy as possible from a mobile Web site is essential in racking up downloads, and CVS is smart to directly take users to the App Store.

Instead of driving mobile commerce, CVS is aiming to drive users in-store via the mobile site. For example, consumers can search for local ads by using their device’s built-in GPS and pick specific stores as their set location. From there, consumers are able to view local deals and add items to their shopping lists.

CVS’ mobile site

One of the main purposes behind the site is to help users refill their prescriptions via their device.

Consumers with a CVS account or guest members can refill prescriptions via the site by entering the store location and typing in the prescription number on the bottle. Users can also transfer their prescriptions to other CVS stores.

“We’re committed to offering customers a highly personalized experience across all channels so they can choose how they want to engage with CVS/pharmacy,” Ms. Pensa said.

“To accomplish this, we’ve significantly expanded the mobile options available to digitally-minded customers,” she said. “At the heart of both and the mobile offerings is ExtraCare, CVS/pharmacy’s savings and rewards program, which is one of the main vehicles with which personalization is being delivered to customers in new and innovative ways.”

IPhone app
Unlike CVS mobile Web strategy with multiple sites, the company has one branded app that combines multiple focuses into one place.

Via the app, consumers can search for deals by either their location, address or through their shopping list.

The app primarily targets CVS consumers with a log-in account. Via the app, CVS loyalty members can refill prescriptions directly from their account and manage their membership information and rewards.

Additionally, the app features bar code scanning for both QR codes and prescription bottles. Many retailers have equipped their mobile apps with bar code scanners that are aimed at making the in-store shopping experience easier for consumers.

Similarly to the site, the app also lets consumers find nearby stores by using their location and filtering results by criteria such as store hours or a drive-through pharmacy. However, the app includes more options than the mobile site to slim down results.

The CVS iPhone app

The bottom line: Loyalty is key
CVS’ mobile sites and app are highly targeted towards helping the retailer build its loyalty program. Although non-members can use both the app and site to refill prescriptions, the process is significantly sped up and streamlined for members.


Mobile site
Walgreens’ mobile site is

Similarly to CVS, Walgreens uses location to make its mobile site personalized and to drive foot traffic.

Using the device’s built-in GPS, consumers can view a list or map of nearby stores. Additionally, each listing includes detailed information about stores such as specific services that are available at individual stores.

However, Walgreens’ mobile site is also commerce-enabled that lets users shop the company’s products and directly check-out through the site.

Many of Walgreens’ actions on the mobile site are based on whether a consumer has a Walgreens account, such as stored prescription information.

The guest experience of refilling a prescription on Walgreens’ mobile site is slick. The site shows consumers examples of how to enter the prescription information. For first-time users all that is required to refill a prescription is an email address. If a consumer has made a refill in the past, the email address is saved on file and can be skipped.

Walgreens’ mobile site

Calls-to-action to download the Walgreens app are less obvious on Walgreens’ mobile site. A link at the bottom of the page sends users directly to Apple’s App Store to download the app, but the copy is small and easy to miss. With the higher loyalty attached to an app, Walgreeens should consider making a click-to-download feature more prominent on the site.

Similarly, a small link at the bottom of the page urges consumers to sign up for Walgreens’ text alert program. This could also be more prominently promoted on the site.

“Pharmaceutical retailers, similar to any other business in the retail space, have a primary objective of driving sales,” said Adel Jalili, interactive art director at Mile 9, Calabasas, CA.

“There are many benefits to having a dedicated mobile app and site for the store itself versus having the user search Google for similar product information and price comparison,” he said. “The most important aspect is the behavioral data that mobile apps and sites allow retailers to collect and subsequently tailor the shopping experience for consumers and therefore create a higher conversion rate.”

Mr. Jalili is not affiliated with Walgreens. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Walgreens did not respond to press inquiries.

IPhone app
Walgreens’ iPhone app has the same built-in commerce functions to let users shop directly from the app. However, the app also lets users find individual items in-store.

Another major difference between the Walgreens mobile site and app is the coupon feature. Consumers can view current coupons on items that can be redeemed in-store via a bar code that employees scan at the point of sale.

Consumers are also encouraged to sign up for Walgreens’ text message alert program that keeps users up-to-date on current deals and offers.

The Walgreens iPhone app

Not many retailers are using bar code scanners for mobile coupons. By using the technology, Walgreens is not only showing that it takes mobile seriously but it is also able to tie its mobile coupon program to a SMS database and app.

Similar to CVS, Walgreens also offers remote photo printing, bar code scanning and weekly ads that let users add items to virtual shopping lists.

The pill reminder function is a smart, fun feature that lets users set their schedule for taking medications. A push notification is sent to users when it is time to take their pills.

The bottom line: App is king
Although Walgreens’ mobile site is effective in reaching a wide net of users with features such as prescription refill, the real value in Walgreens’ mobile strategy is in its app that keep users coming back with push notifications and coupons.

“Any shopper would find it ideal to have a customized app helping them create a more joyful and hassle-free shopping experience,” Mr. Jalili said.

“Whether the app aggregates similar products, finds available in-store coupons or simply points customers to the right aisle, it can go a long way by making the customer happy,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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One Response to “What works: Walgreens or CVS’ mobile loyalty program”

  1. Lina Arseneault Says:

    The pharmaceutical industry finally tunes into the Starbucks customer experience model! I love the Walgreens app, it’s fabulous. I especially like the “scan refill” feature and now the rewards card option for a virtual scan on every purchase. The in-store displays did a lot to raise my awareness of the app and its many features. It all started with the QR code on the purchase terminal. My pharmacist was thrilled to hear that I used “scan refill”. There’s a CVS located not 2 minutes away from the Walgreens I got to. There’s very little signage in that store that would suggest the existence of CVS mobile site and the promise of a better purchase experience. With health care electives just around the corner, it’s a clear choice for me: it’s the customer experience that tilts the scale. Walgreens is winning this race. @LinaArseneault

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