January 21, 2011, 3:34 PM

Prescription scans are just what the doctor ordered

I couldn’t have had a better m-commerce experience.

Lead Photo

Using the Walgreens mobile app, customers can refill prescriptions in less than 10 seconds.

Walgreen Co. has achieved the incredible: a complete mobile commerce experience in less than 10 seconds that makes the customer very, very happy.

The other day I was preparing to refill a prescription. As usual, I was going into the Contacts section of my iPhone to pull up the local Walgreens store phone number to use the touch-tone refill service. Then I remembered: Walgreens has bar code scanning for prescription refills in its mobile app. So I opened the app, touched Refill by Scan, lined up in my camera view the bar code on the pill bottle, the app recognized it, and up popped a display showing the Walgreens where I usually go and a suggested pick-up time. I hit OK and the transaction was complete. I was blown away by the ease and convenience.

Remember, mobile commerce typically is not about browsing. Customers usually have something in mind when they’re shopping on a smartphone and they want to get in and out fast. Some retailers are joining Walgreens by integrating bar code scanning functionality in their mobile apps. Web-only Buy.com Inc. offers customers the ability to scan bar codes in competitors’ bricks-and-mortar stores to compare prices. And once the product detail page is on the screen (no typing of search terms involved), customers can buy by entering their Buy.com user name and password followed by just a couple touches. Company executives told me yesterday that customers have scanned everything from a $4,000 digital camera to Robitussin, and that they saw a huge spike in scans over the holidays.

And Buy.com upped the ante big-time on its mobile competitors: It integrated voice recognition technology so customers can just speak their search terms rather than have to type them out. This is a very advanced move on the part of Buy.com, one that eases and speeds up the mobile commerce experience in tremendous fashion.

Back to Walgreens, I just got to hand it to them. Their app now has a permanent position on my iPhone. And I explored the app and like the Weekly Ads feature that uses GPS to link you to the nearest store.

Aim high when building mobile apps. Buy.com told me it took a couple of in-house developers just a week to integrate bar code scanning into its app, adding up to minimal cost. Think of all the things a smartphone can do, and put that device to work for you and your app. You can make the increasing number of people using smartphones and the mobile web very happy, and very loyal.

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