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Loyalty Limelight: Walgreens Steps with Balance Picks Up Rewards Pace

Loyalty Limelight (light)-01The program: Walgreens Steps with Balance Rewards

In a nutshell: Walgreens in the spring launched Steps with Balance, an enhancement to its Balance Rewards Program, as a healthy-living incentive. The initiative grants points to members for walking, running, and weight management – 20 points for each mile logged and 20 points when a member records his or her weight at Walgreens.com/balance-steps. Points can be redeemed for pretty much anything in the store (prescriptions and dairy products excluded for regulatory reasons).

New Features: Steps with Balance Rewards goes beyond the gym-coach approach because it’s self-directed. In addition to earning points for certain activities, Steps with Balance members can also gain points for setting personal goals or by linking their membership to a wireless tracker, such as Fitbit, Withings and BodyMedia (Withings also offers wireless scales).

But what really elevates Steps from a “Drop and give me 20!” program is its important social component. The program is designed as a community initiative and encourages members to link up and share stories. Some members create walking teams, and the community members support each other as they strive to reach their individual goals.

The Takeaways: In loyalty marketing, the most competitive rewards portfolios are those that mix both hard and soft benefits, meaning something tangible (points, miles or discounts) with something experiential (an event or special service). The Steps with Balance Rewards Program, in addition to granting points, taps into the soft benefits reserve twice – first by rewarding members for improving their health and second by encouraging them to create or join a supportive community. This layering of recognition, and reward-earning opportunities, builds a foundation for increased involvement and long-term commitment.

Other distinguishing features:

—Walgreens made a strategic choice to launch the program among its employees first. As a result, they are intimately familiar with how it works and have become ambassadors.
—In addition to rewards, members earn badges that recognize personal progress as reflected in their community profiles.
—The Steps with Rewards dashboard includes an “events” feature that lists community races and similar activities, searchable by zip code.

These features demonstrate that Walgreens has taken a measured approach to creating a program that anticipates needs, and one that can be easily built upon. I look forward to the day when Steps with Balance offers a gamification component. It is not there yet, but I’ll be waiting with my sneakers on.

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