Inside This Issue - Opinion
Walgreens ups the ante with loyalty program
September 17th, 2012
The rollout of Walgreens’ customer loyalty program, Balance Rewards, provides yet another example of the company’s determination to continuously reevaluate its business model and reinvent the chain drug store to better meet the needs of 21st century consumers.
Loyalty programs are nothing new. Many mass market retailers, including Shoppers Drug Mart and CVS/pharmacy, have long embraced them. Although it is getting into the game late, Walgreens has already been pushing the envelope with digital and mobile technology that allowed consumers multichannel access to sign up for Balance Rewards during a two-week online enrollment period that concluded September 15, one day before the program was formally launched.
In addition to strengthening customer loyalty, Balance Rewards will deliver a wealth of insights about shoppers to Walgreens executives as they continue to rethink store formats and the product mix, a process that has already yielded impressive results. The Walgreens flagship at State and Randolph in Chicago’s Loop and the store at 40 Wall St. operated by its Duane Reade subsidiary have raised the bar for the entire chain drug industry, and the Walgreens health and daily living format promises to make many of the innovations at those stores available in outlets across the country.
For most retailers, those accomplishments would be enough for one year. But under the visionary leadership of president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson, they are just part of the Walgreens story. In 2012 the company engaged in a protracted, high-risk battle with Express Scripts Inc. over fair contract renewal terms, a dispute that was settled in July on terms in keeping with Walgreens’ principles. It also reached an agreement that puts it on the road to acquire Alliance Boots, a merger that will create a global pharmacy-led retail and distribution network with a presence in some 25 countries.
Amid the whirl of activity that characterizes Walgreens today it’s easy to forget how far the company has come since Wasson became CEO in 2009. Long known for its conservative approach to change, the drug chain has transformed itself into one of the most forward-thinking retailers anywhere. Balance Rewards is just one more indication that, for today’s Walgreens, the status quo is never good enough.