Walgreens Trials New Health Activity Initiative

By Rory Betteridge | 24 Sep 2015

Walgreens is pushing ahead with a plan to give its customers a wearable device that reports customers’ health data back to the pharmacy chain, rewarding good behaviour with in-store discounts.

The Balance Rewards initiative, powered by Alegeus Technologies and Hat Trick Motion, sees a wrist-strapped wearable or compatible mobile device link to the Walgreens POS, issuing automatic credits when the user checks out. Many of the details, such as exactly how much credit is given to customers, are still being ironed out, but the specific health data is expected to cover exercise load and intensity, as well as food purchases.

“We’re looking at everything from 1000 to 5000 reward points (equivalent of U$1-5),” said Alegeus’ Chief Strategy Officer John Park, who added that the rewards were expected to be capped at $500 per customer. “It doesn’t take a whole lot of dollars or incentives to change behaviour.”

In a way, Walgreens approach to consumer data is ingenious. Where other brands have run into hurdles with similar programs regarding invasions of customer’s privacy, Walgreens has the opportunity to package the program as an incentive scheme to encourage healthy behaviour in its customers.

“From a psychological perspective, it’s clever,” writes Evan Schuman for Computer World. “By rewarding behaviours seen as healthy, Walgreens can be seen as being truly interested in its customers’ well-being.”

“At the same time, given that American consumers are, after all, American consumers, there is little long-term risk that Walgreens’ incentives will balloon to the point where it will have to lower profits. In short, consumers love the idea of being healthy far more than they love doing what it takes to be healthy. For Walgreens, that’s a win-win.”

Schuman explained that the value of the reward didn’t matter as much as the simple fact that healthy choices were being rewarded at all, ‘especially if shoppers believe that it’s behaviour they should be doing anyway’. Schuman also considered the ‘Big Brother’ effect; customers that believed their activities were being monitored in some way would be more likely to make the encouraged choices.

While the scheme isn’t expected to revolutionise the health and fitness of everyday Americans, and the technology is cheatable, the belief is that it will at least steer Walgreens customers in the right direction.

“All we’re trying to do is move the needle just a little bit,” Park said.

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