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Walgreens gets it wrong when marketing to me

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Here’s a quick marketing thought I had just now. I know I usually write about personal finance, but this week I’m stuck on marketing, so I hope this is useful to a few people.

Recently, I used my Snapfish account to order photos and I decided to pick them up at a nearby Walgreen’s. It was awesome — no shipping charges and the photos were ready in about an hour.

About five days later, I got this email:

Digital Photo Printing and Free Online Photo Sharing at Walgreens Photo Center

What’s going on here? Clearly, Walgreens is trying to maintain a relationship with me and upsell me to their own photo service. I understand this, but the method is so clumsy that I can’t resist commenting. (As a marketer, I also know you can’t always get it perfect, so this is just my suggestion, not me blaming Walgreens.)

Here’s what Walgreens knows about me: My name, my email address, the fact that I bought photos, and the Walgreen’s I ordered them from.

  • Their goal: To get money from me.

  • Their message: If you click through, you see a page called “Celebrate sweetness” about using their own proprietary photo service and ordering prints or personalized gifts. I sincerely believe that I have never been described as “sweet” in my whole life.

Teddy Bear Sweetness

Where did Walgreens go wrong?
And assuming they’re getting negative ROI on this campaign (I bet $100 they are), why is that? Let’s take it step by step.

They already know I use Snapfish. How likely is it that I’ll upload my photos to another service? Answer: zero likeliness. They’re taking a limited view of making money by assuming that I “should” spend my money through their service. But what about the other ways they make money? What about building a permission asset and giving people something they really care about?

What I would do
If I were Walgreen’s, I would take the same data they have — my name, my email address, the fact that I bought photos, and the local Walgreen’s location — and make a radically different pitch.

walgreensramit.png

Look what the I get: A personalized letter that gives them a coupon for a service they actually care about (Snapfish). Maybe they could even get Snapfish to foot the bill. And Walgreen’s gets me to come in to the store. Guess what happens then? I’m more likely to buy something, and I also have to talk to the manager, who will be trained to upsell me on a new service Walgreens is offering — perhaps something relating to photos?

The best way to make money isn’t always the quickest.

Thanks to Scott Hurff for the graphic. Scott Hurff (scotthurff.com) is an entrepreneur and founded Fuego (thefuego.com), a chillingly great modern men’s publication served up weekly by email. If you want the best information on wine, lifestyle, food, apparel, fashion and anything else any classy guy should know, sign up for Fuego.

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16 Comments on "Walgreens gets it wrong when marketing to me"

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Brandon
Brandon
8 years 11 months ago
Very interesting piece, Ramit. I’ve recently come in to the role of analyzing past marketing ventures at the company I work for to see what gets people motivated and what turns them away. We had a huge blunder not long ago by following the letter of the law, as it were, in regards to the difference between spam and bacn. They sent a mass email to every customer who had registered their email address, that chose either opt-in or opt-out to future mailings, of an account summary along with a small advertisement. It was informing them about a program they… Read more »
Mrs. Micah
8 years 11 months ago
I think it was particularly clumsy of them to advertise “Sweetest Day.” It’s not like people actually celebrate the day unless they work for a greeting card company or they’re really in love and looking for any excuse to celebrate it. Maybe if they had some Halloween deal with pictures of costumed kids or costumed adults, that would be a start. That would be a good way to communicate with customers who don’t use Snapfish–perhaps those who’d brought their prints in, letting them know that they could submit them online. I’d appreciate that kind of service. But you’re right, trying… Read more »
MJ
8 years 11 months ago
Actually, there are so many companies using the “personalized” letter with signature, sending to so many “potential customers” that I don’t buy it anymore. I find it fake – the signature is obviously “signed” from an image attachment and unlike real letters where you sign it one by one, email signatures are just from the (created) template. Furthermore, the tactic is so overused by people who are trying to sell things online. But I love your alternate idea on how Walgreens tie up with Snapfish for promotions. After I upload photos into Multiply (http://www.multiply.com), the site displays possible products (photos,… Read more »
April
April
8 years 11 months ago

Well, my first question woulda been, “WTF is Sweetest Day?”

I like your approach–shows they actually noticed you use Snapfish, and that they want to give you something useful. Their e-mail just looks like spam to me.

Akhil
Akhil
8 years 11 months ago

nice upsell of ElFuego at the end there!

Jonathan
Jonathan
8 years 11 months ago

very interesting article ramit.
It got my attention cause I work for the company :O

Jessica Austin
Jessica Austin
8 years 11 months ago

Very true…I am curious if you have any thoughts regarding Pez dispensers in the Walmart checkout aisles….good marketing or last ditch effort to sell candy that tastes like chalk? Have you written anything on this? THIS IS MY PASSION…no one has been able to unlock it yet….

Danny Howard
8 years 11 months ago
Hello, Walgreens is a low-cost convenience store. They put 2 and 2 together and figured out that if you like to pick up photos at their location you could use their service to order online. Maybe just maybe they are trying to respect your privacy as to whether you use Snapfish or whatever: their job is not to pry into your personal life but to furnish prints, and they thought they would spend near-zero effort to let you know there is another method for you to do that. Personally, if I got an impersonal “personalized” form letter e-mail from a… Read more »
ChessMan
ChessMan
8 years 11 months ago

I believe Walgreen doesn’t have a proprietary online photo service. It’s still Snapfish dressed up to look like a Walgreen website. I could be wrong, but my wife works for a competitor of Snapfish’s, so I’ll run it by her and let you know if I find out anything more.

Ryan
Ryan
8 years 10 months ago
I have to agree with one of the above comments. That manager would definitely not be the one sending out letters and I am SURE that he has much more essential profit driving tasks to complete than to speak to every customer who gets one of those letters. Which would be a lot of people if they actually expect to draw a reasonable number of people into the store. If they were going for a personal direct marketing approach they would send people door to door or have someone greeting customers asking if they are aware of their photo printing… Read more »
Sri
Sri
8 years 10 months ago

Sorry Ramit, you are all wrong on this one. Personalized letter for walgreens is definately not worth their time and effort. The photo business is not a big income earner for them.
They make more money selling pop and pringles at double the price of walmart.

Michelle
Michelle
8 years 8 months ago

I actually work for walgreens, in the photo finishing department. In response to the above comment, the photo department is actually our highest gross department in the entire store, including pharmacy. You would fall out of your chair if you knew what kind of profit was behind your memories 😉

photoJoe
photoJoe
8 years 7 months ago
You should consider doing some research. I’m a Head photo specialist for a Walgreens photo lab. a. Walgreens photo labs make u a very high % of the front end sales. b. If you would have started using walgreens.com, u would have saved roughly 4 cents a print. c. Sweetest Day was just the luck of the draw on advertisements you got, it will vary from Free Family Value ack, to Halloween to Cutest Baby Seach, the list goes on. and lastly your photo lab sees very little of a store manager. They have Head hoto Lab Specialists who are… Read more »
Arun N
8 years 4 months ago

I agree the Walgreen’s idea wasn’t the best, but your idea does nothing to me. On the contrary, it appears Cheesy.
Boomeranged, eh?

Ted Stryker
Ted Stryker
8 years 4 months ago

Wow – some people can whine about anything. Ramit – stick it!

DR
DR
7 years 7 months ago

Your story is sad but unrealistic the letter you have is a fake number and you made up the letter. Managers do not have time or even care about seeing you and its against company policy to do that.

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