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How Duane Reade leverages mobile for persuasive social engagement

duane reade

Duane Reade's Boo-tiful Legs campaign

Duane Reade uses relevant social content delivered with a mobile-first approach and a witty, local voice to deepen a relationship with New York that goes back decades while simultaneously driving a healthy return on investment.

The drugstore chain, which was acquired by Walgreens in 2010, has been a fixture in New York since the 1960s, today boasting more than 250 local stores. Recognizing that the city’s always on-the-go consumers are heavy mobile users and savvy shoppers, the chain has been building a social strategy over the past few years that relies heavily on content generated by brand ambassadors.

“From a Duane Reade perspective, we really made the commitment [to social] back in 2011 and that’s where we pretty much decided that our strategy would be content based and that content was in the form of consumer generated media,” said Calvin Peters, digital communications manager at Duane Reade. That consumer generated media, the tactics and strategy was across all of our social media platforms and we really rely on what I call the Parallel Persuasion Equation.

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“That encompasses pretty much the broad nature of four key components of our strategy that have to do with brand advocacy, our brand voice, PR integration and conversation,” he said. “All of that we’ve seen from the corporate and vendor activation side equal ROI for our individual campaigns.

“It is really our unique brand voice that we are able to portray in the New York metropolitan area and relate our brand vision and our brand strategy through the uniqueness of the social voice.”

Duane Reade’s mobile social strategy relies heavily on smart links to create seamless experiences for mobile users. One of the more successful campaigns drove a 137 percent sales lift in the first for the chain’s private label hosiery line.

The strategy continues to evolve, such as with the launch of an iBeacon pilot in 10 stores this spring, which enables the delivery of relevant offers to in-store shoppers.

Here, Mr. Peters discusses how Duane Reade tailors the strategy for mobile, what is the secret to the success of the strategy and how it might evolve going forward.

What role does mobile play in Duane Reade’s social strategy?
Everything we do is mobile first. The reason why is because as of 2014, I think a lot of brand marketers know, all major social platforms are engaged via a mobile device.

Content is key for us, it really gets into the creative strategy and how we are relating to customers in a relevant, seamless way that they are able to engage with us seamlessly and it makes sense in terms of our creative and content that is hitting these individuals’ mobile device.

In the creative aspect and the content that is hitting the mobile device, we use different smart links that enable us to track different engagements internally in a more dynamic way from our customers. We use not only smart links but the creative that goes into that specific social post to make sure that it is dynamic and relevant for a mobile device.

Some content you will see on a mobile device is tailored directly for a mobile device. For example, let’s say a coupon that is relevant to that content you just received via your phone. Instead of going into a log in, two or three clicks from a particular content post, it will take you exactly to a link in our mobile app. From that content, you will be taken straight to a coupon or special promotion via a mobile app page.

It is one click. You have that bar code on your phone and you use it for a transaction.

This is through our Balance Rewards initiatives. So if you are a Balance Rewards member, a lot of the content that you will receive will take you directly to our mobile promotions and coupons in our mobile app.

How does the iBeacon pilot currently going on in several Duane Reade locations enhance the program?
If you are in in-store mode and within the iBeacon experience that we are testing here in New York, you will be taken directly to coupons that are tailored for you. So, when you are in the store you are going to hit that coupon page, it is going to be based on your shopping history. It is one click. While you are walking around the store and if you usually buy toilet paper, you will be hit with – if it is relevant and it is available - a coupon for a particular brand of toilet tissue. It is one click, it is easy, it is seamless and you can use it directly at the register.

Is the program managed in-house or is Duane Reade working with a third party?
We do have a key partner that we work with on the content side and that is really our brand ambassador program. We call them our Duane Reade VIPs. Collective Bias is our agency of record and they do manage a lot of this content and a lot of the brand ambassadors for in-store execution on a campaign. We not only use the brand ambassador team to generate content and unique content that hits their respective community, we also use them to syndicate relevant public relations integration.

If we get a hit in a major publication, that link will be integrated in a relevant way within our VIP content. Our brand ambassadors have knowledge of what is hitting on the PR side and when relevant they have links and they mix those links in with their social posts and blog posts about a particular product.

The reason why that is important is that the most trusted digital content is recommendations online, editorial content and consumer opinions.

What do you think is the key to the success of the program?
I think what makes the Get Social program at Duane Reade unique is number one, our very strategic localized brand voice. You are not only getting information that is relevant for your environment. We are also keen on convenience relevance.

For example, we just finished a launch with the Poncho weather app. What the app allows us to do via SMS and email is target our consumers in a more relevant way with value-added component.

That component for this test was around the allergy season. The messaging is not traditional ad messaging. It is really speaking in a very specific social voice. And Poncho emulates that well. You get their social voice with the witty, fun, New York-centric social voice of Duane Reade. We craft messaging around an allergy coupon. It would hit consumers that actually signed up for this messaging on high allergy days. You would get a dollar off for Claritin at a time you most need it and that message will be sent via email and SMS to your mobile device.

What is an example of successful mobile social campaign from Duane Reade?
The Show Some Leg campaign is a campaign that has been really noted when it comes to forming a tangible link and sales data and correlating that with the social aspect in terms of impression numbers that we would see, pieces of content that was created and different campaigns on Twitter.

We’ve done three of these campaigns now for the Duane Reade brand hosiery line, including the Boo-tiful Legs one that ran around Halloween.

The original one was omni-channel with in-store radio, in-store signage that spoke to a specific hashtag that was getting a lot of focus. The Duane Reade VIPs aligned specific posts pre, during and post path to purchase insights around Duane Reade hosiery. Each was relevant to the specific community engaging.

The first week, we saw a 137 percent lift year-over-year for our Duane Reade hosiery line. In the fourth week, we still saw a 22 percent lift. And at 13 weeks after the campaign launched, we saw a 17 percent lift.

The year-to-date lift that we saw at the completion of the campaign was close to 20 percent in sales.

They way we look at it, in terms of the work that went into the campaign and the content generation, we saw a 10 to 1 return for our opted-in VIP content in the first week.

How would you like to see the program evolve going forward?
I would like to see the iBeacon test and the features that we offer in the in-store mode increase in terms of options and relevancy within the New York metropolitan area. Duane Reade and the New York metropolitan area really is the test ground from the Walgreens perspective.

Being able to take the content that we are great at generating from a consumer perspective and be able to integrate that into the in-store experience as well. Some people are more apt to engage with a value-added coupon, some would love to see opinions speaking to that exact product at the time they are shopping for it.

Associate Editor Chantal Tode covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM. Reach her at chantal@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Q&A, Duane Reade, Calvin Peters, social media, mobile marketing, mobile

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