Many people we encounter are introspective about what we are supposed to take away from a year of social change, especially considering a global pandemic that caused people to quarantine or shelter in place for extended periods of time. One learning is that while consumers depended on e-commerce outlets for daily household needs, they also became more sensitive to the needs of local businesses, their neighbors, and communities.
To put this into perspective, Amazon might have been a critical part of the supply chain for many households during 2020, but they weren’t exactly the face of suffering during the pandemic. The e-commerce giant recorded record revenue of $386 billion, up 38% from the previous year, with net profit increasing by 84%. We’re not denying Amazon its good result, but we can say the reality of the pandemic was seen more vividly in shuttered retail stores and restaurants along with many sad tales related by neighbors and friends.
As a leader in the daily spend pharmacy category, Walgreens was an essential business during 2020. The company took the opportunity to listen to its customers and they learned a lot. Alyssa Raine, Group Vice President Customer Marketing Platforms at Walgreens, said:
“In talking with our customers and our team members, we learned that taking care of the community is important to people, and it was one of the top things they wanted from myWalgreens. It’s only become more important as we’ve gone through a global pandemic together. For Walgreens, it was crucial to help our customers support their community in ways that were as easy as possible.”
Putting what it learned into action, Walgreens unveiled a new charitable donation feature in its myWalgreens loyalty program. Launched in early April, myWalgreens members can donate Walgreens Cash rewards directly to local nonprofits in their community via Walgreens.com or the myWalgreens app. This initiative is significant as it allows the company and its more than 100 million loyalty members to give back directly to the communities where they live. Every few months, new nonprofit organizations will be rotated in to keep choices fresh, educational, and timely.
To make this new feature possible, Walgreens collaborated with in/PACT and the GoodCoin Foundation, a social good technology company that develops cloud-based charitable giving technology and provides charitable giving solutions to purpose-driven clients seeking to drive meaningful engagement, loyalty, and sales through interactive social good programs. John McNeel, co-founder and CEO, in/PACT, describes this latest introduction by myWalgreens as a step towards the democratization of giving. He noted:
“We are creating more opportunities for more people to give more often to more charities…. an important part our platform is the discovery and education around nonprofits and the important work they’re doing.”
By offering this donation option on a digital platform, John pointed out that Walgreens is opening the feature to a younger generation. The desire for many people to stay attuned to their community and provide support to the groups of people that need the most attention is a focus of this program and a mission that aligns customer priorities with Walgreens’s values.
The program is hyper-localized, so depending on where myWalgreens members are shopping or where your account is located, they see a different set of nonprofits. When opening the app, the member experience presents three to five charities that correspond to the cause areas and that are in the geographic area near a Walgreens store. Members click on the nonprofit website and learn more about the mission and work that it’s doing. This educational journey helps people connect with the charities they value and stimulates donations.
Another one of the in/PACT mantras that John McNeel shared with us is to connect purpose to purchase. Alyssa Raine explained:
“Relationships matter, taking care of your neighbor matters. When you see that they’re going through hardship, taking care of them feels really good. As people shop, we want them to understand that they’re earning rewards, because this is first and foremost a loyalty program. It’s thanking and recognizing customers with the Walgreens Cash that they earn. You can, of course, use the rewards to buy a candy bar or shampoo. But helping people discover that some of their dollars could be used for something very meaningful, and to help people discover their own passion points, is an important part of what we’re doing.”
It seems that all parties benefit from this new feature of myWalgreens. Not everyone realizes that Nonprofits experienced a decline in donations during the pandemic. The mainstay of physical fundraising events was eliminated, and people prioritized basic household needs over supporting charitable causes. myWalgreens is recharging this channel, enabling its loyalty members to explore and discover charities that resonate with them, in turn bringing much needed support to local causes.
This might be one of the best examples of how a loyalty program can introduce a quotient of emotional loyalty into its program. We hope to see this become a trend as other loyalty programs search for ways to connect customers with their local communities.