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What do Walgreens and APIs have in common? Ubiquity.
The pharmacy giant partnered with Palo Alto, Calif.-based API management company Apigee to launch an open API around its QuickPrints service, allowing third-party developers to incorporate Walgreens photo printing service into their own photo-sharing applications. The new program launched with five partners – Pinwheel, GroupShot, Kicksend, Pic Stitch and StillShot.
“Really what it’s showing is that businesses of all types need new ways to reach consumers and new ways to scale,” said Marcia Kaufman, principal analyst with Needham, Mass.-based IT analyst group Hurwitz & Associates. “The API is really no longer just for an [online] company, it’s not just for Google.”
Walgreens initially launched QuickPrints as an app, but decided to also offer the QuickPrints SDK (software development kit) so any photo sharing service could include it. Third-party apps that use QuickPrints get a share of revenues after photos are purchased. For users of third-party apps supporting QuickPrints, they will now be able to select a photo for printing on their phone and pick it up an hour later at a Walgreens store, with no need to create a separate Walgreens account or login.
“We always had the vision of offering that functionality to third-party application developers,” said Joe Rago, senior product manager at Walgreens.
Rago said that this is the first step into the API world for Walgreens, but that it wouldn’t be the last. Taking advantage of the enormous digital photo market was his team’s first goal, but that eventually they plan on finding other ways to use APIs to expand Walgreens business.
“A good way of putting it is putting an API around our stores, bringing our stores to the internet,” he said. “Photo was a logical first entry point, just with the sheer popularity [of it].”
Kaufman compared Walgreens’ open API to the pharmacy chains inclusion of on-premise photo processing. She said that it was innovative at the time for a pharmacy to become a one-stop shop for birthday cards, groceries and photos, and added that this is no different.
“It puts Walgreens in a very innovative position, as opposed to closing up shop and saying this business of producing photographs isn’t so lucrative anymore,” she said.