Retail & Innovation

Giving the gift of convenience, a present everyone loves

Walgreens spruces up its gift cards to offer customers a new array of shopping possibilities, during the holidays and beyond.
Steve Rausch, Walgreens Stories
What to give the person who has everything? For many, a gift card is the perfect solution.

And with the recent launch of a comprehensive new gift card program, Walgreens customers now have more shopping options and greater flexibility than ever before.

“For years, Walgreens offered its familiar red gift card with the iconic white script W to shoppers in its stores, but these cards came with some limitations,” says Ashley Fox, Walgreens category manager for grocery, household and general merchandise, who led the gift card overhaul process.

The old cards required a swipe through a magnetic stripe reader, but as card technology advanced, magnetic stripes disappeared in stores. Walgreens gift cards also couldn’t be used for purchases on, which became more problematic as e-commerce exploded.

 “It’s very important to us to provide an experience to our customers that is as good or better than what they’ve come to expect from using other gift cards, so we’ve spent the last few years changing our entire program to make that happen,” Fox says.

Making changes for the better

Fox and her team focused on four changes to improve the Walgreens gift card experience:
  • Enable physical cards to be used on and the Walgreens app, as well as in-store.
  • Create a digital gift card option.
  • Bring the card’s functionality up to industry standard in terms of technology and shelf appeal.
  • Make the physical card available for sale at other retailers.

“As we began to lay the foundation to enhance our gift card program, every step came down to making decisions based on what's best for our customers and what's best for Walgreens,” she says.

Diving into digital

Changing the DNA of a gift card isn’t easy. The back-end work required to enable a physical card to also work digitally called for significant time and investment. For example, systems needed to be updated and code needed to be rewritten to enable a new type of point-of-sale transaction.

“Now customers can redeem the new digital and physical Walgreens gift cards on and on our mobile app, so you can buy online and pick up in store, or have your purchase shipped to your home, just as easily as you would using a credit or debit card as payment,” says Fox.

And as online shopping rates continue to skyrocket, customers expect the convenience of being able to purchase a card anywhere in any way, and the ease of being able to send a gift card electronically in a matter of seconds.

The highest priority for improvements? Creating a digital gift card.

“Customers had come to expect that option,” explains Fox. “The digital gift card we created is now industry standard and provides so much more flexibility to our customers and how they shop.”

All of Walgreens new gift cards come in open denomination options where you can load any dollar value between $5 and $500. Additionally, they come in pre-set denominations of $20, $50, and $100.

More places to purchase

Today, it’s not uncommon for major retailers to sell third-party gift cards at kiosks in their stores. With the old Walgreens gift cards sold only in Walgreens stores, there was no other way for customers to purchase them. The new physical gift cards will soon be available at kiosks at other retailers, so customers have another convenient way to buy physical Walgreens gift cards outside of the company’s 9,000 stores.

Celebrating a new look

Improving card designs to make them more attractive at point-of-purchase was another important step in their evolution. Fox worked with Walgreens in-house creative team to develop vibrant and fun designs that carefully considered the use of colors and symbols to ensure they would be both attractive and culturally relevant, while staying on brand. That was especially true for the holiday designs, a time of year when Walgreens sells 40% of its gift cards.
Mary Harting, senior art director for Walgreens, led the team—including Nikki Andersen, Luke Tofilon, Lauren Joselane and Sara Brogan—that developed the visual rebrand for both physical and digital gift cards. The team dug into trend research, conducted competitive benchmarking and coordinated design ideas to make sure they worked seamlessly with the Walgreens brand.

“Now that we offer a digital option, it brings new, exciting possibilities from a design standpoint,” she says. “Although the dimensions are the same, digital cards have fewer design constraints than the physical cards do, so there’s endless opportunity for us to try new things to continue elevating the designs.”

As they worked through the process, it helped the creative team to remind themselves why they were doing what they were doing.

“A gift card isn’t about Walgreens, it’s about our customers who are inviting us to the special moments in their lives where they want to show their gratitude to people they care about,” says Yoonjung Park, Walgreens senior manager of creative advertising. “So, we needed to strike the right creative balance between our brand and the different ways our customers celebrate.”

The launch of the new Walgreens gift cards introduces a new array of shopping possibilities for Walgreens customers, with greater flexibility and functionality.

“This gave us the opportunity to meet customers in all of the ways they’re shopping, now and in the future,” says Fox. “We think they’re going to love it.”

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