October 31, 2012, 10:56 AM

Walgreens gives consumers a friendly push

Push notifications in the merchant’s app remind customers when to refill prescriptions.

Lead Photo

Push notifications can appear when an app is open or closed.

Walgreen Co. strives to offer convenience. So when expanding the functionality of its mobile commerce app, it looked for ways it could make life easier for its customers.

The app already enables a consumer to point her smartphone’s camera at the bar code on a prescription bottle to order a refill. Now it will remind consumers that it’s time to refill a prescription, if they choose to receive these automated push notifications, that is, messages sent at the retailer’s initiative.

The push notification appears as a window on a smartphone screen and is accompanied by an alert tone. The message can be delivered when the app is open or closed. Walgreens had already integrated text message and e-mail alerts into its mobile apps to, among other things, remind consumers to refill prescriptions.

“We’ve seen a measurable increase in customer responses when they receive refill reminders through more than one channel,” says Mark Shaffer, mobile planning and analysis manager at Walgreens, in a new report from Walgreens’ mobile marketing technology and services provider Urban Airship. “Our customers are not frustrated about receiving three messages—a text, an e-mail and a push notification. They appear to be fine with it. One hypothesis is that people don’t like to refill prescriptions, so if they receive them in three different formats, they kick into action. So push paired with other marketing channels has been a big win for us.”

Walgreens, No. 51 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400, is considering using push notifications for other purposes, including reminding customers when to take medications, alerting customers when a prescription is ready for pickup, notifying customers when photo prints are ready, and providing users with new in-app coupons.

“We actually see our push messages resulting in increased follow-through in refilling prescriptions, and we fully expect to see improved daily adherence when we provide push messaging with our daily pill reminder app,” Shaffer says. “It’s a win for Walgreens because if you take your pills more frequently we will see more refills in a year. That’s more revenue for us. But the bigger win is for the patient because when they’re completing their required health regimen they’re enjoying better outcomes and avoiding unnecessary time in the hospital, or the emergency room.”

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