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Walgreens expands Google Play search program based on early success

Walgreens Google Play

Walgreens leverages paid search on Google Play

As an early adopter of search ads in the Google Play store, Walgreens has found that being able to find a user at the moment of interest is driving downloads among qualified users, leading the retailer to expand the program. 

The paid search experience in the Google Play application store enables marketers to bid on keywords and become the first result searchers see, much like Google’s traditional search offerings. Since Walgreens began testing paid search on Google Play, it has found that there are opportunities for both brand and non-brand keywords. 

“Our strategy is focused on quality over quantity,” said Zach Barkus, senior manager for mobile marketing at Walgreens. “Driving the masses is wonderful but it doesn’t not drive quality use.”

“One reason we are so impressed with Google Play search is that we are able to find users at that moment of interest – whether its photo, pharmacy or coupons,” he said. “Because they are raising hand, we can meet them in that moment. They are a qualified user. 

“That is why we are so pleased and why we have continued to roll out new keywords.”

Qualified downloads
Walgreens’ app marketing strategy is focused on understanding how to best bring in the right users and retain those users over time. Typically, marketing is built around the core functions of the Walgreens app, which are pharmacy, photo and coupons. 

The retailer works with a number of different publishers to find and acquire users who will download and remain active on an app for a period of time. As the number of apps has grown, marketers are finding it increasingly difficult to get discovered and keep users coming back to the app. 

Typically, app marketing revolves around finding customer segments that might be interested in a specific app and running ads with publishers targeting these groups. 


With search ads in the Google Play app store, ads are served to consumers who are expressly looking for a certain type of app. 

Walgreens started working with search ads in Google Play in April. The initial test ran focused on the photo capabilities in the Walgreens app. 

“The performance was phenomenal,” reports Mr. Barkus. “It is one of the better performers that we’ve worked in the last two quarters.”

Staying ahead
Walgreens’ internal search team was able to take its learnings from Google’s traditional search offerings and leverage these in Google Play since the way that keyword inventory is built is similar. This allowed the team to easily stay ahead of what is and is not working. 

Walgreens’ Google Play search strategy complements it app marketing on social media – which is more about awareness – and adds to the retailer’s omnichannel push to be present wherever its customers are. 

One of the biggest recent developments in app marketing was the introduction of ad IDs, enabling Walgreens to understand who the user is across devices. 

However, the struggle continues to be finding qualified audiences, something search on Google Play helps the retailer address. 

“[Ad IDs] completely changed the game,” Mr. Barkus said. “It allowed us to start thinking about campaigns, become more specific for app retention and anything regarding mobile app marketing.”

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

 
Related content: Search, Walgreens, Google Play, search, Zach Barkus, mobile marketing, mobile

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