Walgreens has one of the most dynamic and exciting loyalty programs in the industry today. They have combined many creative elements to make the program exciting and fun for their customers. Let’s take a look at what makes Balance Rewards so successful, and where the program could make some improvements.

What Balance Rewards Does Right

balance rewards does right

Many experts agree that Balance Rewards is the best example of a creative loyalty program in retail. The program combines many different elements that work harmoniously together to make an amazing and engaging customer experience.

1. Creative Ways to Earn Points

Customers have grown accustomed to earning points for dollars spent. It is the standard in almost any loyalty program. Shoppers are looking for different ways to earn, and Balance Rewards delivers.

balance rewards ways to earn

Walgreens wants their brand to be associated with a healthy and active lifestyle. That is why many of the ways you can earn points focus around living a healthy life. You can earn points for tracking physical activity, monitoring your weight, and even for quitting smoking. These points are rewarded by tracking progress in the built in tracker.

balance rewards tracking on site

The tracking tools on the site and on the app are extensive in their functionality and very easy to use. Everything that you track with this tool is awarded points, 20 points per activity tracked.

Balance Rewards also gives 500 points for filling a prescription or getting an immunization done at a Walgreens location. Walgreens has done a great job putting together a creative program that focuses on a fit and healthy lifestyle.

2. Program is Explained Very Well

A loyalty program is only effective if your customers understand how to earn and spend their points. Balance Rewards does a fantastic job educating customers on how to interact with the program. It starts with a video explanation of the program.

This video explains the program as a whole, which is a great intro for the program. The video is supplemented with a great explainer page that shows all the ways a customer can earn points.

balance rewards explainer page

This explainer page is fantastic. It shows all the ways a customer can earn points in a visually appealing way, it is easy to take in the information, and it provides links for more clarification if you need it. The program also has very easy redemption, which is also explained beautifully with its own page.

balance rewards redemption explainer

3. The Variety in How You Can Earn and Spend

Loyalty programs have constantly evolved throughout their history, moving from stamps to cards and then eventually to mobile apps and websites. While apps and websites are the most current way for customers to interact with a loyalty program it is not always the easiest for every customer.

balance rewards ways to interact

Younger shoppers will prefer to use the mobile app and website while older generations will find comfort in using a physical card they are familiar with. Walgreens recognizes that they have a diverse customer set and offer 4 ways to use the program for everyone’s convenience. You can use the Walgreens website, the mobile app, a physical card, or your account phone number.

What Balance Rewards Does Wrong

balance rewards does wrong

I just want to start by saying that the Balance Rewards program is one of the best put together programs I have come across in retail. The program is creative, explained very well and tailored to the brand image and customer needs. However, there are some things they could improve on.

1. Doesn’t Show Points in the Catalog View

Program members can earn points by taking advantage of special offers and promotions that are active. These can be accessed through the “points offers” section of the site. This section shows all the items that have a special points offer.

balance rewards no catalog view

The only problem is that within this product catalog view, you can not see how many points are being rewarded. Each product merely says “earn points”. It is not until you click on the item that it gives you more information on the points offer.

I would recommend that Walgreens adds more point information into the catalog view. This additional information will help shoppers see the point values quickly and will help both sales and program engagement.

2. Expiry of Points Should Be Dynamic

Balance Rewards points have a set expiry period of three years, or 6 months of no transactions. This means that 3 years from the day you earned some points they will expire regardless of if you have been actively earning.

balance rewards switch expiry

Here at Smile.io we have found that having a dynamic expiry date is a good compromise to capture the benefits of both having an expiry date and not having one. A dynamic expiry date allows points to continue to be valid from the last time a point was earned or spent. This way points don’t expire if a customer is still actively involved with the program. You can learn more about point expiry by reading “Should Loyalty Points Expire”.

A dynamic expiration period would ensure that customers are motivated to spend points, but will also avoid upset customers who have lost points for no good reason.

3. Restrictions on What Points Can Be Redeemed For

Walgreens has some restrictions on what your points can redeemed for, and unfortunately they are some of the most popular items that would be picked up at the retailer. Points cannot be redeemed for alcohol, dairy, stamps, tobacco, transportation passes, lottery tickets, and contact lenses.

balance rewards restrictions

Now I understand not rewarding points for vices like alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets. You dont want to come across as promoting these, but some of the other restrictions don’t make sense to me.

Dairy products, especially milk is one of the most popular items at any retailer that sells food. Combine that with the inability to use points for stamps and transportation passes, and you have created a bit of an inconvenience.

I believe Walgreens should start to remove some of these restrictions. At the very least they should allow shoppers to earn and spend points on dairy products, their customers would find that very helpful.

The Balance Rewards Program

Balance Rewards is one of the best examples of customer loyalty I have ever seen. It combines creative ways to earn  with a variety of ways to collect. It also has one of the best explanations of a program I have ever seen.

There are a couple areas the program could improve. The first is to display point offers directly in the catalog view, this will increase program visibility and encourage more sales. The second is to have a dynamic expiry date to ensure no one is left unhappy. My final recommendation is to remove some of the redemption restrictions to include dairy at the very least.

What program should I investigate next? Let me know on Twitter!

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