4 retail trends worth considering

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4 retail trends worth considering

By Tess MacGibbon, The Lacek Group - 08/26/2020

Drug stores have long been savvy about customer loyalty, and pharmacy reward programs bear that out. Traditionally, customers have earned points for filling prescriptions and then can redeem those points for discounts. But drug stores can no longer rely on this basic system to draw in loyal customers. Healthcare consumers are evolving and demanding much more to earn a share of their wallets and loyalty.

In May, Rexall Drug Stores, for example, introduced “a new kind of rewards program,” which combines health, wellness and rewards. Be Well members still earn points on purchases, but now, using the Be Well app, they also receive personalized offers and incentives; can connect with their preferred pharmacy; can access their medication histories; and can add, manage and refill their medications. They can even track health metrics by linking their wearable activity trackers to the app. It’s likely too soon to gauge consumer response to the new program, but it seems to be on the right track — particularly in terms of offering consumers greater personalization and control.

How else can drug stores respond to what’s been called the retailification of health care? Here are four trends we’re watching:

1. Healthcare viewpoints may be changing. The coronavirus has laid bare numerous challenges within the U.S. health system — one that spends $3.65 trillion on health care yet ranks 27th in the world. While views haven’t changed yet according to a recent USA Today survey, they may still alter as underprepared health systems spark anxiety among citizens. Perhaps, more people will demand that health care not be tied to employment. Or maybe more people will support subsidizing health insurance for lower income individuals and families. Consider: Is there an opportunity via a partnership to support your customers in new ways in light of their healthcare views? Or perhaps, wellness initiatives could be offered to a segment of your best customers, e.g., awarding more points for participating in healthy activities and/or getting vaccines?

2. Experts are elevated. People are increasingly turning to experts for advice over peers or online reviews. For example, Business Insider conducted a survey in late April that found Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was among the most trusted U.S. leaders during the coronavirus pandemic. This trend toward trust in experts could become more widespread. Can your drug store brand leverage a voice of authority in wellness or health care in its marketing and customer engagement?

3. Consumers are accelerating their adoption of technology. Robotics is making it safer to take care of patients and give tests without human-to-human contact, anonymized cell phone data is used to monitor social distancing efforts, and drones are being tested to deliver prescriptions. These use cases have retail applications and consumers may expect implementation to mitigate shopping risks. What technologies might your drug store adopt to make consumers feel safer — perhaps contactless checkouts, automatic doors, and touchless soap and paper towels in restrooms? What other technologies might improve your customer experience?

4. Teleservices and distance learning are expanding. Roughly 20 years ago, rural areas pioneered telepharmacy services; increasingly, telepharmacies now reach underserved urban areas as well. Today, with the coronavirus pandemic and the discomfort many individuals feel about shopping in store, drug stores might consider adding telepharmacy services. Doing so could provide a new way to acquire and engage with customers. Additionally, a drug store might consider partnering with a local health system or a fitness company to offer online learning events on healthcare concerns (e.g, heart health or shingles) or wellness subjects (e.g., meditation or cooking).

Retail is constantly changing. This year, that’s become all the more obvious. But drug stores can weather these developments if they remain open to healthcare consumers’ evolving needs. 

Tess MacGibbon is director of thought leadership at The Lacek Group. 

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