How Walgreens’ App Update Will Leverage Beacons To Improve The In-Store Experience

After a quiet test of the technology last spring, the major drug store chain aims to take its omnichannel strategy to the next level. Will customers respond?

Walgreens latest app update aims to deliver a more personalized in-store mobile experience through beacons, offering customers increased access to deals and coupons while they shop in Walgreens stores across the U.S.

The quiet but significant app update represents two major shifts: a continued investment on the part of Walgreens (and its competitors) in beacon technology, as well as a growing acceptance that mobile devices are no longer simply tools of pre-purchase research — they’re an in-store shopping aid that has a concrete impact on a consumer’s purchase decision in real-time.

Walgreens first announced plans to test beacons at a sample of its Duane Reade locations back in February. Now, it appears that the company will take a holistic approach to the rollout, using the Bluetooth devices to attempt to offer shoppers personalized deals based on their location within the bulk of its U.S. stores.

Targeting Or Retargeting?

But while this is undoubtedly a step forward for mass use of beacon technology — and proximity marketing in general — it will be interesting to see how customers respond to the new app experience, and how Walgreens expands its use of the technology going forward. After all, much has been written about consumer hesitancy around too many push notifications while shopping, even if the notifications or messages are presenting a coupon or an offer.

In addition to using beacons to communicate with the mobile device of any consumer near a certain display, will Walgreens leverage the technology’s potential as a retargeting tool? This would mean delivering offers to shoppers based on past visits, purchases, and behavior — and may perhaps prove a much more effective way to build relationships with repeat customers. In today’s on-demand era, where people expect a greater degree of immediacy and personalization than ever, leveraging both historical and real-time data is critical to ensuring that they don’t silence notifications — or just uninstall the app altogether.

But according to leadership, Walgreens has seen the writing on the wall, and these digital changes are something that shoppers are eager to see.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen a growing demand from our customers to provide value and a seamless shopping experience whether they visit us in-store, online or through the Walgreens mobile app,” said Linda Filler, Walgreens’ president of retail products and chief merchandising officer, following the initial beacon test and paperless coupon program. Now, in terms of bridging the online and offline shopping experience through mobile, it seems that Walgreens has taken a big next step.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.