Q&A: How Crossmark is making a mark

Crossmark’s Kristen Abreu discusses how the company invests in technology and tools to help retail brands understand shopper trends.
kristen abreu headshot

Established more than a century ago, Crossmark is a full-service agency that provides consumer packaged goods companies with sales, retail and marketing services to help them grow their businesses. Utilizing insights and analytics, the company continues to expand its capabilities to meet the challenges of retail brands today.

Drug Store News talked with Kristen Abreu, vice president customer development, drug channel, about what she sees for the future of the drug channel and the opportunities her company provides to help make sense of it all.

[Read more: How retailers can build trust with omnichannel offerings]

Drug Store News: How do you see the role of the drug channel in meeting consumer needs today?
Kristen Abreu: Retailers in the drug class of trade are positioned as healthcare providers. Given the high cost of health care and the need to improve accessibility, this should be welcomed by consumers. Sales data indicates that shoppers already think of the drug retailers first when looking to purchase healthcare items, as 47% of drug channel sales are from healthcare categories, compared to only 10% for total MULO.

That being said, as drug retailers expand on healthcare offerings, they will need to do so while being mindful that shoppers also enjoy their outlets for everyday needs. Almost $10 billion is spent in the drug channel annually in beauty categories and over $6 billion on consumables, including some not-so-healthy options. This balance of health care and fun will enable drug channel retailers to meet shoppers where they are, whether on starting a healthcare journey or just in need of a pick me up. 

DSN: What are some shopper trends in health care that you are seeing?
KA: A trend that is here to stay is the self-administered healthcare test. There were over $4 billion worth of home healthcare kits sold over the last 12 months, an increase of over 40%. Now that at-home COVID-19 testing has become the norm, it can be expected that consumers will demand the same convenience for other conditions as well. It is easy to envision a future where common ailments such as flu, strep throat and pink eye are all easily diagnosable at home.

DSN: How is Crossmark leveraging on-demand data to understand these trends? 
Crossmark has invested heavily in technology and tools. Even before the pandemic, we realized that having an advanced analytic platform is key to driving faster and better decisions. Crossmark’s Accelerator drives efficiency and speed to insights, allowing our sales teams to have the data and insights at their fingertips so they can implement or revise plans, make decisions and recommendations to our clients and retailers, without any time lag. Accelerator has on-demand performance dashboards, but also a machine learning/AI component that allows for better predictive promotional planning and execution. 

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DSN: What do you think pharmacies should be doing to attract customers, particularly the younger shoppers? 
KA: I will refer back to a study conducted by Drug Store News where young women were asked what they want from retail pharmacy. Their responses were insightful but not surprising. It comes down to convenience and making the shopping experience enjoyable for “me.” The challenge for retailers is that the definition of what looks good for “me” to Gen Z shoppers is as unique as the 65 million people who fall into that generation.

Generally speaking, Gen Z is likely to respond well to leveraging drug retailers for their healthcare offerings. Gen Z is quite self-sufficient and will be keen to try at-home health testing for more ailments as the tests become available. They will also appreciate the convenience of on-demand access to pharmacists, who are readily available for consultation at brick-and-mortar locations.

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