Walgreens Leads the Mobile Revolution in the Drugstore Industry

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Walgreens may be behind many other verticals in adopting e-commerce, and it’s certainly way behind digital pioneers such as Amazon.com. But as in so many other areas, the Chicago-based drugstore giant started mobile ahead of its competitors. And Walgreens is aiming to keep it that way.

It recently launched compatibility with the Windows Phone 8 platform. Last Black Friday, Walgreens held an app-based promotion, and while sales via mobile devices so far come to only about 0.04 percent of Walgreens’ total revenues, as Crain’s Chicago Business estimated, there’s no question digital traffic is taking off.

“Mobile is just going through the roof,” Walgreens Chief Financial Officer Wade Miquelon noted during an investors conference in May, according to the publication.[more]

In addition to its own site, Walgreens is logging traffic at several others that it has acquired since 2010: SkinStore.com, Drugstore.com, Beauty.com and VisionDirect.com. Walgreens says its app downloads leapt 500 percent and doubled last year. In that way, the chain is focusing on the digital ecosystem rather than just its site, and it’s emphasizing touchpoints, not channels.

“We’re focusing on thinking about the customer, not about the channel because our customers think of Walgreens as an entity wherever they want to interact with us,” said Graham Atkinson, CMO of Walgreens, at a recent conference, according to Digiday.com. “We’ve got them into this thinking by having a common voice across touchpoints and by offering whatever they want wherever they want it.”

After a late start for the industry, Walgreens launched its iPad app in late 2011. Still, it was 18 months ahead of rival CVS Caremark, which just came out with its aisle-browsing app in March.

“They’ve done a lot of innovative things, they’ve done them really well and they’ve been fast about doing them,” Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester e-commerce analyst, told Crain’s.

Continuing to innovate, Walgreens also has opened up mobile to third-party developers, so a variety of health-related apps have integrated Walgreen’s prescription app. For instance, OnTimeRx, a pharmacist-developed app created to help patients stick to complicated medication schedules, now features a “refill at Walgreen’s” button, the publication said.

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