Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Walgreens taps mobile check-ins for rewards, offers


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Walgreens is ramping up its mobile strategy with several mobile check-in efforts that are geared at rewarding consumers who are shopping in-store.

The company is experimenting with a variety of mobile initiatives that include social media and location-based services. The goal behind the mobile check-in service is to alert consumers of deals and events that are happening in-store.

“With more than 8,000 locations, nearly two-thirds of which are within three miles of the United States population, we get a lot of check-ins,” said Rich Lesperance, director of marketing and ecommerce at Walgreens, Deerfield, IL.

“It is important for us to learn what they are most interested in, why they check-in at Walgreens and what we do to make their experience even better,” he said.

“In all cases we are aiming to give them an option to get something extra and enhancing the shopping experience through their phone.”

Mobile fill
Walgreens is working with location-based service LocalResponse on a social media and mobile initiative.

LocalResponse’s technology lets the company scour check-in services including Facebook Places, foursquare and Yelp among other location-based services. Once LocalResponse recognizes that a user is at a certain location, the service can send out relevant, store-specific offer to consumers via Twitter.

In order to connect with a user, consumers must post their check-in information to Twitter, which has public data that LocalResponse can use.

LocalResponse then sends a tweet from the Walgreens Twitter account within 60 seconds to the user with the offer. Each tweet includes a link that users can click on to view the deal.

Walgreens is currently sending out the Twitter deals to promote Halls cough drops.

According to LocalResponse, the average click-through-rate for campaigns such as the Walgreens example is 40 percent, showing the connection that social media plays in location-based check-ins.

A recent Walgreens promotion let users who checked-in to a store unlock a deal for a free four-pack of Energizer batteries.

Once a user opened the piece of locked content, they could text a time-sensitive keyword to a short code to receive a mobile coupon.

Additionally, during the flu season Walgreens donated one flu shot for every check-in to the company’s Way to Well Commitment program, which helps improve the health of American with healthcare resources, services and charitable programs.

“We believe check-ins are a worthwhile endeavor, and we can give customers a deeper sense that they are doing something valuable when they check in,” Mr. Lesperance said.

“Check-ins have been around for years, but we think this is a critical time for mobile marketing to move from a hobby to full legitimacy,” he said.

“We will keep innovating in this space as long as customers want us to.”

Check-in to rewards
Mobile check-ins are nothing new, but tying them to a reward or deal is a smart move for Walgreens.

Consumers are comfortable broadcasting their location across social media and giving them an incentive to interact with the brand where they are is a bonus.

Additionally, the offers are sensitive to seasonal items such as flu shots and cough drops that might match what a consumer is looking for in-store.

One of the main issues that marketers have with location-based services revolves around privacy.

According to LocalResponse, once a user broadcasts their whereabouts on a social site such as Twitter with public data, the dialogue for communicating directly with users is open.

The goal of similar location-based campaigns is to target a user who is sharing pieces of intent – or information that shows a consumer might be interested in letting others see their digital activity.

“We listen to hundreds of millions of pieces of intent on a daily basis, which can include everything from a mention on Twitter, a Facebook status update or an Instagram photo,” said Nihal Mehta, CEO of LocalResponse, New York.

“We call it a soft open-in if a user posts content publicly about a specific brand, and we think it gives permission to brands including Walgreens to send information back to those users,” he said.