Walgreens Bets on Mobile for Black Friday

Like it or not, Black Friday is bearing down on us. This could be the year in which mobile steps to center stage.

Even drugstore chain Walgreens expects a surge in in-store traffic this Friday, and it’s getting ready with a new version of its mobile app meant to drive people in store and help them save.

Walgreens will push mobile time-limited deals through its app to get people into the store to redeem the offers before time is up. Rich Lesperance, head of digital and emerging media at Walgreens, believes that not taking advantage of mobile for Black Friday is a missed opportunity.

How will mobile play a role in Black Friday for Walgreens?
This Black Friday, people will be entering our stores armed with their smartphones. We’ve got a new version of our mobile app where we can draw people into the store now, using limited-time events, meaning a limited-time offer. [Think: come into the store within the next 20 minutes to get 50 percent off.] We can push the offer out to an existing app user, who will likely drive by at leat one Walgreens as they’re running around doing their Black Friday shopping.

Additionally, we’ve created a game within the app where we partnered with Starbucks and we give people a coupon for a free coffee when they play. It’s mostly a thank you to the many people who do have our app. Also, because our app rank jumped to one of the top 10 free apps when Apple’s Passbook launched, we realized we have an opportunity there. So we integrated Passbook into this initiative with Starbucks. You can add the deal into your Passbook.

Why is mobile the channel of choice for Black Friday?
People are out and about on Black Friday, and on a normal day we get 6 million people into our stores, and it’s even higher on Black Friday. I’m betting that the majority of these people have a mobile device when in our stores. Our mobile presence is really big. And we first got started when we let people refill their prescriptions from their mobile devices. What we’ve now noticed is that people are not just using our mobile assets to check their prescription or print photos anymore. They are shopping. They are checking the weekly circular, and they are using mobile to enhance their weekly shopping trip to Walgreens.

Overall, what’s Walgreens’ mobile strategy?
Mobile is the perfect opportunity to not only get people into the store but also to enrich their experience once they are here. That’s our strategy, to make the in-store experience better for customers. And we’ve made a large investment into mobile for that. It’s about integration, not replacing the in-store experience with a mobile one. We still want people to come into our stores. We just want them to have another tool in hand if they need help finding something, for example.

What are the biggest challenges facing brands in mobile?
One is figuring out that mobile is fundamentally a different experience than desktop, so brands need to figure out what their mobile experience will be about. Take your desktop experience, and moving it to mobile won’t work.

What’s your advice to brands just getting into mobile?
Don’t just do it to check off a box. Think about how it adds value to the customer. For us, it’s about blurring the lines between offline and online and great marketing and product development.