Retailers, wellness cos. smarten up marketing with mobile phone apps

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. —Convincing the consumer to toss one more item in the market basket—is there an app for that? The answer seems to be a resounding “yes,” as more health-and-wellness-oriented apps proliferate across iPhone, Droid and Palm’s webOS platforms. And with Apple announcing that its iPad reached 1 million units sold after less than one month on the market, there soon may be another shopping/retailing tool added to the millions of iPhones and Droid phones already out there.

Last month, Drug Store News reported an agreement between Rite Aid and American Well that allows consumers to video conference with a Rite Aid pharmacist on their desktop computers, and an app enabling that patient-pharmacist dialogue is expected to launch later this year. “Mobile device supports for this system are pending,” reported Roy Schoenberg, president and CEO of American Well. “You will see it very soon,” he added, especially as more smartphones reach the marketplace that can utilize a 4G wireless network.

“4G technology differs from 3G service in that it handles all services—voice, Internet access, etc.—in the same way, as packets of data,” explained PCWorld reporter Mark Sullivan in a recent article. “4G also uses different, and better, wireless spectrum than 3G service does, and is capable of providing far better speeds to far more people at the same time.”

While videoconferencing a pharmacist on a smartphone at the shelf may not be considered commonplace for quite some time, tools to help consumers make better health-and-wellness product selections are either on the market today or being launched soon.

Evincii last fall launched such an application, called PICKKA, which provides the consumer with a “pharmacist in your pocket” functionality to better navigate the increasingly complex world of over-the-counter medicines. In March, Evincii broadened its health-and-wellness appeal with its “Shop to Lose,” an app that guides consumers to buy the right food products and prevents them from making unhealthy food choices.

And Aisle7, formerly Health-Notes, currently is working on expanding its Aisle7 Online offering so that it can be readily accessed on mobile phones. “We have a number of engagements that are currently in development and expect to be announcing our first rollout shortly,” Bill Schneider, senior product director for Aisle7, told Drug Store News. “We see mobile applications—including iPad — as a great opportunity for retailers to reach out to consumers as they are ‘on the go,’ as well as while they’re in the store.

While these apps are promising, the demographics of today’s app users doesn’t altogether match the typical drug store shopper. According to a January 2010 AdMob survey, 73% of Droid users are male, compared with 58% of webOS users and 57% of iPhone users.

And it’s not just a younger generation using those smartphones—32% of iPhone users are over the age of 45, while 25% of Droid users and 23% of webOS users are of baby boomer age.

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